Metrics and meaning: how do you measure success?

My giveaway closed on Sunday after one month with 676 people requesting A Deconstructed Heart. I did not have time to really promote the giveaway, so I’m very pleased with the results. I also saw a large increase in the number of people putting my title on their to-read shelf; if even a small number of them mosey on over to give my book a second look, I will be happy indeed.

I started to think about what constitutes success in the modest aspirations of a self-published author. I have not written a Dan Brown page-turner, or a dystopian novel that channels the zeitgeist of a generation, or a magical series that delights adults and children alike. There will be no tsunami of sales or selection to Oprah’s Book Club. There will only be small conversations about my book taking place in disparate places, a flowering and fading in different parts of the country (and sometimes, different parts of the world) as someone new bends back the cover of my book–or clicks on the title page in their Kindle–for the first time. That is a limited but gratifying marker of success.

Revenue from sales is a wonderful validation, but it does not necessarily quantify an author’s achievement–just ask Dave Eggers, who gave an honest and rather disheartening breakdown of his income from sales of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a New York Times bestseller, in the preface. Yet, his was definitely the “it” book for a while and launched him in the publishing world with a bang. 

Reviews, as I have mentioned before in previous posts, tell authors that they are doing something right. Personally, I am greedy for these, especially for the feedback that makes me feel as if the reader “got it,” and perhaps, even more, when she or he sheds new light on my writing for me. It is a gift to be read by a reader who is engaged, thoughtful and passionate. That reader is someone with whom I would love to share every book that means something to me. I am honored that A Deconstructed Heart has been chosen for three book clubs next month (two in Illinois and one in Canada), and I am very excited to attend one in person: the DesiLit Book Club at The Book Cellar in Chicago on June 3.

There is also quantifiable success evidenced in the metrics for my work–the numbers continue to grow at a modest rate: sales, reviews (Amazon & Goodreads), blog appearances, and selections to Goodreads shelves (380 to-date for A Deconstructed Heart).

I am delighted to be where I am today with my book and short stories, but I keep turning over the question of when it is that I will feel that I have achieved success with my work. Yet, I must realize that I am always moving the goal posts: by continually sharing my writing with more readers and reviewers in every way I can, there is no limit or end point to the life of my book. This, too, is success: a victory over the tendency in me to rest on my laurels (a wonderful euphemism, that).

I think Flaubert hit it on the head, when he noted that, above all, success is self-mastery : “The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.

Onward.

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A Deconstructed Heart is free for the Kindle, 2/27-3/31

A Deconstructed Heart cover

I’m sending my baby out into the wide world again, but this time with a new marketing strategy. The free promotion is over the next five days, which I plan to follow up with a placement as a Hot Title at the World Literary Cafe. On April 10, I go big with an ad at the Frugal EReader. I’m interested to see how this layered marketing approach works.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to see that A Deconstructed Heart has garnered some fantastic reviews from The Kindle Book Review and eBook Review Gal.

Here’s a choice excerpt from the latter’s website, which Susan Barton also kindly placed on my Amazon site:

“Let me start by saying that I loved A Deconstructed Heart! It was a sweetly poetic, easy read. Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed’s writing style has a soothing, melodic quality that invites readers to be drawn into her stories easily. I was hooked from the beginning and immediately found myself looking forward to what would happen next. I would highly recommend A Deconstructed Heart be put on anyone’s must read list.”

If you get a chance to read A Deconstructed Heart, please add your own reviews. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Having a cup of tea with my friends at Curious Book Fans…

Return of the Bee

A beneficial dialogue. Return of the Bee (Photo credit: MightyBoyBrian)

…well, figuratively speaking, at least, and in keeping with all things British for this UK book review site. I was interviewed by one of my favorite reviewers about The Purana Qila Stories and it was nice to be made to think deeply about my writing. So often, what we do as writers is to tell our stories and sit back and wait for people’s reactions in the form of stars and 25 word reviews on Amazon. Those reviews, while helpful, don’t often add to the conversations that I think every writer would love to have about their writing: what worked or did not work and why. What themes we deliberately constructed, and what is the sub-text that we ourselves may have missed? What rings true in someone else’s experience and where we may need to make a course correction. As a literature major, I loved sitting in a professor’s snug office and pulling out the thematic threads of a novel or play; it is an honor to have a reader take the time and care to give the same consideration to your own work.

The author-reader relationship is symbiotic. Someone who knows me and read A Deconstructed Heart is a psychology major, and she said she could not help reading my book, wondering what part of me or my psyche was woven into the story. I could have asked her too, what part of her was integral to her reading of the story. Perhaps I still will; I think we could both learn a lot about ourselves in the process.