The measure of success

As I come to the final, crucial stages of my first indie-publishing adventure, I find myself struggling to switch off from thinking about work.

At the moment I am nervously awaiting my proof from the printer; hoping madly that I won’t spot any terrible errors; that the PDF settings were ok; the fonts were embedded properly; and all the images were bleeding correctly!

So far most choices and decisions have all been made from the safety of my desk

Then, once I have my proof, I will be taking it nervously to some lovely local book shops to see if one of them would be happy for me to do a book launch with them. Suddenly, this step feels the most scary to me. I think it is because so far, most choices and decisions have all been made from the safety of my desk – no one able to judge me or my work to my face. Now I have to go out into the world, with my book and see what actual, real people think.

Again, this is silly, and I know it is. I have been professionally designing books, magazines and educational content for children for nearly twelve years now. I wouldn’t be publishing Reynard the Fox if I didn’t believe it was any good. Feedback I have had from publishers and creative directors has always been positive – the ‘negative’ I have had received a couple of times is that isn’t very ‘mass market’. Even that comment in itself is nothing bad – it just means that it is an unusual, niche product.

So what am I worried about?

I am a little frightened that people will buy my book and be disappointed and not like it. Then I might feel that I had let them down somehow. But I am not going to force anyone to buy it, so that is not really a problem. Am I worried that no one will buy it? Weirdly no! That eventuality doesn’t really bother me at all.

My nervousness is more to do with the book’s success. My success. I have never actually sat down and thought how I might measure the success of this book that is so precious to me. With most of my work, I consider it successful not if I am pleased with the final product, but instead if my client wants to work with me again. If my client wants to work with me again, it means that they deemed the product a success, and the partnership a success, and they valued the work that I did.

Here, how will I measure my success? Will I be satisfied if I have a successful book launch and sell 30 copies? Will I feel successful if I sell the initial print-run of 150 copies in 6 months and have to order more? I believe the answer to both of these questions is no. As with how I view my client-work, I believe that I will view my beloved Reynard in the same way. If he leads me onto more books of my own, then I believe that I will consider him and me a successful team.

I know that my finally being able to invest in this story is a massive achievement on its own

I will admit that my standards are high. You may well be thinking that as you read this. But I will also say that if I don’t sell many copies, I at no stage will consider the book a failure. I know that my finally being able to invest in this story is a massive achievement on its own. I have been etching away at Reynard the Fox for so long, that to reach its conclusion is a great success, and for that I am truly proud.

Successfulness though, that is something different entirely. To feel successful. Do many people genuinely feel successful? My guess is probably not. Many of us are always looking to the next step, we have been trained to do this from very young ages. So here, I need to think about what success for Reynard and myself really look like. Success targets I can quantify. Publishing it is the first step. And the next step? Not sure yet, but whatever it is I will aim high and work hard.

As I read these words back I am mindful that many of us may operate in this way. We are often goal/target orientated, and so miss out on the feelings of success that we should feel, as we are too busy pushing for the next step. Perhaps then, let us think about it another way. The success is not in the quantifiable data we can measure, but in the effort and the passion that drives us forward. To be sure, that is a great success indeed.


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