Friday, April 12, 2013

What is Success? The Best-Seller's Numbers Game…

Neal Pollack
It’s not often you get to find out exactly how many books you have to sell before you can call yourself a “best-selling author.” Take a guess. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

How about 10,000.

In a revealing interview on the A.V. club, best-selling author Neal Pollack not only gives us the inside skinny on his own numbers, but the inside skinny on what it means to be a “success.” Big publisher, six-figure advance, media hype?  It turns out it’s all relative.

This is what Pollack had to say about those mysterious numbers:
Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature: ”despite all the attention it was getting, sold maybe 10,000 copies.” 
Never Mind The Pollacks: “I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but I got a six-figure advance for Never Mind The Pollacks. Low, low, low six figures, but it was there … It is for a book that has sold, to this day, maybe 4,000 copies.” 
Alternadad “… got more publicity than two-dozen books combined. I was on Nightline, and they did a piece on my family life. That book was everywhere and did a ton of press. But, again, it sold only 10,000 copies.” 
JewBall (Pollack’s self-published book): “500 copies Kindle and paperback. Which is pretty normal for a self-published book … [Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint] republished it and quickly, very quickly, published it online and, a few months later, as a paperback. It sold 10,000-plus copies since they did that. And it’s never appeared, as far as I know, in a bookstore.”
Downward-Facing Death: “I wrote a yoga novel about that, again sold 10,000 copies. Ten thousand copies appears to be my threshold.”
If 10,000 copies is a measurement of success, then I can pat myself on the back. But, in spite of what you may hear, numbers aren't everything. Like Pollack, I’d like to see my book on a shelf somewhere, someday ... before I die.

Incidentally, I would also like to be proud of what was between the covers. And, if I were Neal Pollack, I would be.

In Allen Toussaint's immortal words:
"How does one decide
That the methods he's using,
They just don't jive
To truly believe and keep trying
Over and over again
Living in hopes,
That someday you'll be in with the winners
When should one change his mind
And jump the fence
For the dollar sign
It’s a sad thing, it's a bad thing
But so necessary
That this cold world forces
Your values to become monetary.
(It ain't necessary)"

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