Do sales figures determine your self-esteem as a writer?

When I Wasnt Watching  Eyes Wide Open 30-11a

Last October, When I Wasn’t Watching went to number one in the UK, US and Australian Crime charts, and number 5 overall. It sold tens of thousands copies, and is still going. Obviously I was thrilled, and did and do feel incredibly grateful. It was a dream come true, something I’ve longed for since I was a small child. I was a bestselling author!!!

I’m not in any way negating how wonderful this is – but I have noticed something rather worrying. The sequel to WIWW, Eyes Wide Open, has just been released. While there’s no reason to expect it not to do at least reasonably well, given the success of the first, I find myself suddenly incredibly anxious. What if it doesn’t sell? What if it sells, but not as well as the first? What if I never get another bestseller? Will my career be over? Aren’t you ever only as good as your last book?

At first, I put this anxiety down to the fear that any full-time writer will know only too well – financial insecurity. Sooner or later, unless you keep churning out successful work, the money runs out. Even multi-million selling Paulo Coelho has admitted that if it was about the money, then he’d be doing something else. As soon as you start writing for profit and not just for pleasure, it provokes natural financial worry.

But then I realised that wasn’t it. Not all of it, anyway. Somewhere along the way over the past seven months, I’ve started thinking of myself not just as ‘a writer’ which has long felt like an integral part of my identity, but as ‘a bestselling author’. And I’ve started to let it define me in some way. So the thought of my latest novel not doing as well is hitting me right where it hurts – not just in my pocket, but my pride. All of a sudden, I’m letting my self-worth be dictated by my sales figures. My writing is no longer just about the writing itself, but how my writing is received. Whether other people think it’s ‘good.’ Whether it achieves a certain chart position. And I miss the days when I just wrote for the love of writing.

Do any other authors feel like this? I would love to know…


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