Royalties: Writing success?

At the end of the day, everything comes back to ‘why do I write?’

I got my first royalty payment from my publisher this week. Royalties covered the five-month period from June to October. It is always very lovely receiving unexpected money but it didn’t seem … very much. 

Thanks to Sarah Agnew via Unsplash for use of the image.

The total number of my books distributed over five months is 129 copies.  To be honest, it is a bit demoralising. I suppose I thought because it is a great story, well told it would gain traction and be noticed. I have neither the skills or, frankly, the physical energy or interest in becoming a marketing whiz. I thought the book could go off into the ether and do its thing. I guess I imagined the quality of the story and its telling would equate to spread which was probably naïve.

One colleague writer told me I shouldn’t discuss book numbers – that for reputational reasons I should big up success and maintain a mystique about book distribution. A university colleague told me those were the kinds of numbers some academic book writers aspire to. Many academic texts are written in the hope of being listed as essential course books but if they don’t get that holy grail, sales numbers may never rise above the double digits.

I don’t feel any great concern about what others might or won’t make of the numbers but it did make me reflect, a little dolefully perhaps, on the huge effort I had put into the book and whether it was worth it.  Writer ‘success’ is so beguiling and its siren call can easily sway attention away from what matters. I have never written for success.  Yes, I love it when my writing is well received but I write for the fun of it, for the moment I find just the right word, for the joy of a script that is as true and complete as I can make it. I write because it is part of who I am, part of my well-being, and an important part of every breath I take. A five-star review certainly warms the heart and I hope I have many more of them. Sales are very lovely indeed and I am grateful to everyone who chooses to spend their hard-earned cash on one of my books but numbers on a spreadsheet are not the important parts of my story.

I have started my next book and am also doing NaNoWriMo again this year – just for the fun of the challenge because writing is my story.

Thanks to John Jennings via Unsplash for use of the image

*I have subsequently had feedback that the manuscript needed further proof editing and it does – so that is currently being attended to and the book will be revised for its second edition.


‘Success’ revisited: I was out with friends and a reader recognised me from having seen me at a book reading event. He came over to tell me how much he loved my book.  It was honestly a lovely, lovely thing to have happened to me and I was thrilled. Just for a moment, I felt like a ‘proper author’ and starry. That little moment was worth a zillion book sales 🙂

Thanks to Towfiqu Barbhuly via Unsplash for the use of the image

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