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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

The 4 Tiers of Self-Publishing Success

Self-publishing is a competitive industry. It offers many rewards but brings with it a lot of risk, and for many of us, the daunting question: "At what point can I consider myself a successful author?"

The boundaries are easier to see with traditional publishing. There's the benchmark of finding an agent, the benchmark of having your book accepted by a publisher, and--if you're lucky--the spectacular benchmark of being able to walk into any mainstream brick-and-mortar store and finding your book right there on the shelf.

But with self-publishing, it can be hard to know where the vanity project ends and the entrepreneurial endeavor begins.

Clearly some self-published authors have reached it. Regardless if you're publishing your first book or your twenty-first, you can always look at the authors who are doing so much better and get frustrated that you haven't found the same success.

Or have you?

Comparing yourself to others can play tricks on you and make you feel further behind than you might actually be.

To get a more accurate idea about where you stand as a self-published author, here are four major "success" benchmarks you can tick off or plan for the future.

Benchmark 1: You've written and published a book.

This is honestly further than the vast majority of aspiring writers ever get. Most people want to write a book at some time, but writing an entire book takes work.



Even reaching the end of a rough draft puts you ahead of the crowd. Hitting publish is something that sets you apart as being able to achieve goals and having the guts to see it through.

Don't beat yourself up over sales numbers when you've already come this far!

Benchmark 2: You sold a book to a stranger.

This is the most underrated benchmark of them all.

Not only did you write a book. Not only did you amass the skills to publish it and get it listed for sale.

You also sold it--and not to your mom or your writing partner. You sold it to a stranger who was so captivated by what you had to offer that he or she was willing to pay money for the privilege of reading it.

Your book has merit and a life outside your computer. As an author, this is one of the greatest compliments you can receive about something you wrote.

Benchmark 3: Your books pay for themselves.

Now we're getting into professional author territory.

When you start pulling in more than you're spending, you've reached a new tier of author living. Now you have more freedom in what to write. You can look at expanding your publication, upgrading covers and advertising to a broader audience.

Even if you aren't striking gold, at this point you have a dedicated fan base and are more actively competing against your traditionally published peers.

Note: The gap between this and the next benchmark is fuzzy. After all, there's no limit to how much you can spend on the production of your own book! Many writers are satisfied if they can simply afford to write and publish without extra cost.

Benchmark 4: Your writing is your primary source of income.

At this point, your books aren't just paying for themselves--they're paying for you as well.

This is the point where you can quit your job and focus on writing full-time if you want. You might not be a household name (or you might be) but you are selling well enough to be a respectable figure in the industry.

Some authors take this a step further and use their experience to help others, running courses or offering additional services as an extra leg of their businesses.

Others focus on more conventional growth tactics such as seeking an award or editorial reviews or making it onto mainstream bestseller lists.

Ultimately, it's up to you.

If this article helped you feel more confident about where you are as an author, please show your appreciation by donating a coffee at the link below so I can continue writing more about the self-publishing process.


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