It seems like anytime I meet a new group of people and tell them I’m a writer, I get questions like this at least once.
“How many books have you sold?”
“Are you able to make a living at that?”
“Are you successful?”
Or some variations thereof.
I hate these questions. I never have the right answers at hand, because the fact is, the answer is: If you knew me well enough for me to tell you the answers, you’d know already. If you don’t already know, you don’t know me well enough to ask.
Think about it. Essentially what these questions come down to is the age-old-taboo question: “How much money do you make?”
Sure, you might not know how much I make from the sale of each book. But if I told you I’ve sold 1,000 books, you’d make an estimate in your head. Same if I told you I’ve sold 1,000,000,000 books.
(For the record, it’s more than 1,000; less than 1,000,000,000.)
Look, I get it. People are curious. Behind the question are some other questions. People might be looking for inspiration (“I’ve always wanted to write a book … if she tells me she’s doing well, maybe I’ll pursue the dream, too!”). People might be looking for affirmation (“I’ve always been too afraid to follow my own dreams, so I just want to know it’s not worth it, it’s too hard, and you can’t make a living at it anyway”). The questions aren’t really about me. They’re about the person’s own dreams. I get that.
But every time someone asks me, I want to turn the question around: “Hm. Interesting question. Tell me, are you any good at what you do? Do you make a living at it? Would you consider yourself successful? Would your colleagues agree? Relative to other people in your field, where do you stand?” And so on.
Or I could go for the jugular:
“Tell me, do you like what you do? Have you followed your dreams?” Because usually, I know the answer to that one.
So here, once and for all, is what I’ll tell you.
Unless you’re already in the process of publishing a book and are in the game with me, I won’t tell you how many books I’ve sold (and then, only maybe). Yes, I am able to survive. I have a roof over my head, and I get by just fine. In my opinion, my books are great; each one is better than the last, which is the goal, always to be improving. Am I successful? Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Making the decision to try writing that first book was without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s not easy, but it’s fantastic and I love it and I think I’ll keep doing it for a while (regardless of how many books I sell). I am happier with my career and my goals and my future than I’ve ever been.
That may not be the answer people want, but that’s what I’m giving.
P.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!
Check out Pam’s books!
- The Universes Inside the Lighthouse—YA sci-fi adventure / first in the Balky Point Adventures
- The Wishing Rock series—women’s fiction / wit, wisdom, and recipes
- The Pam on the Map series—travelogues / wit and wanderlust