Measurable Success

May 6, 2019 | Authors, Books, Business, Technology

You can’t argue with results. So if you want to always win, just be “the results”.


Well, it comes down to a few reasons.

What Success Looks like for an Unpublished Author

For a published author, success can take the form of many metrics: copies sold, money made, review scores, deals brokered, and more.

The advantage of being in this situation is that all these metrics are easily measured, meaning that the author can tell whether their success is expanding or contracting over time. It therefore becomes easy to chart a proper course and leverage your past successes into whatever direction you desire.

But for an unpublished author, success is not a plottable chart. Mostly, it’s just a binary up or down evaluation. The only consideration is “Have I been published yet?”

Other metrics can help, such as the author’s daily rate of words or pages written. Except the author does not know if those words or pages will ever reach his intended audience. These kinds of metrics measure effort, not success. And it would be wrong to equate the two.

Building Metrics of Success for the Unpublished

A true measuring stick for the success of the undiscovered author remains elusive. And I did not write this post with the idea that I was going to solve the problem here.

But there is at least one candidate for evaluating an undiscovered author’s success rather than effort. Because one metric that is undeniably measurable is the number of people who already owe some kind of loyalty to the unpublished author.

For example, if the author is already a celebrity—say, a famous actor, scientist, or politician—then one can reasonably assume that the author already has an audience baked-in, and when he finally releases his book, people will already be eager to buy it. This success was determined long before the author even wrote a book (or, more likely, had one written for them).

It is for this reason that many industry professionals now recommend that authors make a name for themselves online before they attempt publication. You could argue that these professionals are merely trying to outsource their own responsibility of discovering talent to the faceless masses, but even if that argument were true, it would be stupid. Publishers, agents, and editors are not omnipotent. As business owners and operators, they have a Darwinian imperative to leverage every situation to their advantage. Authors, too, must learn this lesson.

And this is why, in 2019, I have set my sights on exactly these kinds of metrics. My objective is to get professionals to know my name before they even know I have a book for sale. It’s a daunting task, but the structures needed to make it happen already exist.

The Internet is the Great Equalizer

Name recognition, as an asset, has come down in price recently, thanks to technology. By comparison, the traditional ways of gaining notoriety are slow, inefficient, and crude. It is all too easy, now, to make your mark, gain a following, and build a recognizable brand.

Deceptively easy,” you might respond. And with good reason. From the outside, the process still appears to be completely random. Everyone else is getting famous while you’re not. From the inside, you realize that it is a fairly predictable process that operates on easily understood rules, but it still requires a commitment of thousands of hours.

But if you have thousands of hours to spare (and if you’re still waiting for responses from agents/editors, time is something you have in abundance), then you might as well commit yourself. It’s one of the few ways that an unknown can translate his level of effort to a level of success.

And that is what I have decided to do. I’m not ready, yet, to pull back the cover on my process. That will have to wait until after I accomplish what I set out to do. But I don’t mind saying that this is my strategy in 2019 to finally break through the dreaded gate of publication.

If it works, I’ll let you know.