• Chris OBrien

And then it sold a million copies

I'm not a fan of any story or social media post that goes like this:

I quit my job, started writing my book. I had to sell the house. I was down to five dollars in my bank account. Credit card maxed out. About ready to declare bankruptcy...
But I kept going. I published my book and then it sold a million copies. Now it's a major motion picture.
Never forget where you came from! #Motivation #TheGrind #DreamBig

And it's weird, because I love a good rags to riches story. For example, the Rocky movies are my favorite film series.

But when it comes to the world of writing books, I don't have the same warm and fuzzy reaction to these types of stories. Comes down to three main issues.


To be fair, part of the issue probably comes down to a little bit of jealousy. I think because I have never had the "and then it sold a million copies" part of my story, I'm annoyed to hear it.


Selling a million copies or making a million dollars is very rare in the world of book publishing. But it doesn't feel that way, because all we see are the "and then it sold a million copies" stories. We see the article about how you can make $5,000 a month by self-publishing. We see how someone quit their job and makes six figures doing this.

What we don't see is the raw data from 2017 that the average author makes $3,100 from their book sales. That's not a very inspiring story to tell...

By only highlighting the super successful outliers, vanity publishers can take advantage of authors by jacking their prices up to $10,000 - $15,000. If the story they're telling is how you can become a millionaire, then $15k is nothing. It's really a smart investment.

At Long Overdue, we don't want to see people get hurt. We don't want to see people write $10,000 checks. Or dip into retirement savings. Or quit jobs and go into debt. That's not what writing should ever be about.

"The journey is the reward."

This was one of Steve Jobs' most famous quotes. I love it as a motto for writing a book.

Starting in grade school all the way through college, writing was always graded. And a good story, a good essay was largely determined by what grade it received.

If you continued on with writing in college, the grade metrics were still there + the annoying nagging question: Well, what are you going to do with an English major?

If you still kept going, survive all the years of A's, B's, C's, survive the English major question, you write a book, now you're met with the grown up version of these questions: Well, how many copies did it sell? How many views?

Why is this the case with writing? If you get into yoga, start playing golf, start training for a marathon, nobody asks what you plan to do with these pursuits. Nobody asks how much money you plan to make or how many people come to watch you do a Warrior 2. People encourage those hobbies. "That's great! I want to do that too."

It's more than okay to write a book as a hobby. It doesn't need to sell a million copies. It doesn't even need to sell 100. The journey is the reward.

I'll leave you with this. In my opinion, one of the best writers in America is Chuck Klosterman. He writes full-time and he has experienced a good deal of success in his career. But this is his mindset going into the release of his latest book:

"Obviously, for many reasons, I am not like Beyoncé. And, one of those reasons is that I don’t need 2 million people to like my work for it to be a success. I mean, if this book sells 50,000 copies, it would be a huge deal. And honestly, it wouldn’t shock me if this book comes out and doesn’t sell at all."

So keep going. Not for a grade. Not for a magical number of book sales. Not to prove that you're a writer or it was all "worth" your time. If the story is meaningful to you, then it's always worth telling.

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