How will you measure the success of your book?

Nov 30, 2022 | Writing A Book

“Can you guarantee that we’ll write a bestseller?”

I’m a book writing coach, so I get that question a lot. I think it’s because most of the people who contact me think the only way to measure a book’s success is whether it’s a bestseller. That’s true even though most of them are mid-career business folks writing business books.

By “bestseller” people usually mean a book that makes a bestseller list like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. What are the odds of that happening?

What are the odds of writing a bestseller?

Steve Piersanti’s post, “The 10 Awful Truths about Publishing,” describes the lay of the land. “By 2019, the total number of books published in the U.S. exceeded 4 million in that year alone.” There’s lots of competition.

The top bestseller lists only consider books sold through standard outlets. That boils down to physical and digital bookstores. Not all of them, either. The top lists are very selective about which outlets they use. And guess what, your book “has far less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.”

Niche bestsellers are more common than top-list bestsellers. Plus, your book can be a bestseller and still not be a success for you.

How will your life be different if your book is a success?

If you’re going to put in the time and energy to write a book, it should make a difference in your life. It turns out that you can have a successful book that doesn’t even tickle the needle on the top bestseller lists.

Most of the people who come to me for help writing their books are mid-career folks looking to enhance their life and career. They don’t need their name on a prestigious list as much as an improved reputation and more income.

One way they measure success is how much the book drives other business. Usually, that means an increase in speaking and consulting fees. Sometimes it’s a promotion in their company.

Many of them make good money on sales through outlets where sales don’t affect bestseller lists. They make bulk sales to speaking and consulting clients. They make their book part of their training programs.

Take the time and make the effort to determine what kind of success is best for you. Then, set about making it happen.

What kind of book must you write for that to happen?

Two of my clients write books for the same niche market. One of them writes 300-page books. The other writes 100-page books. Both have written bestsellers in their Amazon niche.

Each of them writes books that support the business they want to have. That’s what your book should do.

Think about the length of the book. Think about the ways you’ll use the book. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this. You must think about your goals and what you want your life and business to be like.

Here’s another important truth. There’s a lot more to having a successful book than just writing a good one.

What must you do besides writing the book?

Most new authors wait far too long to consider how they will make their book a success. Don’t wait.

Establish your authority before your book is published. Long before. A client of mine recently signed a contract with a major publisher. It wasn’t a difficult sell. The publisher was impressed with his standing in the industry, his writing and articles, and the substance of his podcasts. All of that was in place before the first attempt to find a publisher.

Establish your network. Think about your business network and your social media networks. You may not make real friends on social media, but you can build name recognition and inspire supporters.

Establish a mailing list. A mailing list lets you reach people directly. People who sign up for your list already know who you are.

Launch your book effectively. Then relaunch it. Keep promoting it.

Fortunately, there’s a great book to help you with this part of things. The book is, Reach: Create the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause by Becky Robinson.

This is all simple, but it’s not easy. Decide what success means for you. Then write the perfect book to achieve that success and do the hard work of promoting it.


Achieving bestseller status may not be the best way to measure success.

Niche bestsellers are more common than top-list bestsellers.

Your book can be successful without being a bestseller.

Your book can drive increases in fees.

You can sell lots of books in channels that don’t move any bestseller needle.

You can use your book to support training programs.

You should build reputation before you publish.

You should develop a mailing list to reach people directly.

Launch your book effectively. Then do it again. And again.

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