Yes – you know that late last year I (Sue Liu via Zulu Communications) successfully self published and launched my adventure travel memoir Accidental Aid Worker.

Yes – the process of writing and producing my own story and work took enormous time, commitment, focus, creativity, trips to the Chiropractor, learning a new craft and industry and tenacity AND money. It was a mighty effort to push through without completely burning out (again) and I made it through with sanity intact. JUST!

People ask me (constantly) how many books I’ve sold, because in terms of the perception of success in authoring and publishing – the measure is the number of units sold. I always baulk at this question because I wonder if it’s giving away too much and quite honestly – it makes me feel like a failure. WHY? Because I’m being measured by a scale that does not really exist for first time authors and self publishers and doesn’t equate at all in the world of traditional publishing. This is not just new for me – it’s new for everybody.

I have to create my own context and terms. That’s not so easy. Having run my own consultancy ( Zulu) for over 14 years, you’d think that I could more easily work this out. No – this is not the same and if you think being a self employed consultant is easy (no one does) – then try entering a new field and writing a book! It’s a completely different kettle of balls.

Do I care what people think IS success when it comes to units sold or ROI? Isn’t it more important for me to consider the impact of my story and how it feels, helps and resonates with those who’ve taken a punt on me and have bought my book? When exactly will I be able to say to myself “Sue, you can relax. You have been successful” ?

Sure – all of that – but what about my dreams? When you do this – aren’t you supposed to shoot for the moon? Am I expecting too much to dream big – to be snapped up by a publisher, be widely supported, have a marketing and PR machine behind me, be on the best seller list, have  a movie made from my book (who would play me?) and have my book sitting next to Elizabeth Gilbert, Frank Lowy or Sophia Loren on the shelf?

It’s ok to dream you know – and to have lofty aspirations and goals, but how deeply grounded in reality are those dreams and expectations when one is:

  • A first time, unknown author, self published, self employed, single person;
  • Between contracts and seeking connections – to pay the mortgage and feed the cat;
  • On the way to writing a sequel to the first book and juggling;
  • Considering if this is a post-mid life crisis thing or a real chance and a career transition;
  • Trying….really HARD to stay balance and grounded.


Gauging and measuring success (in no particular order)

1. Resonance and response: My story is unique, yet resonates with many in so many ways (I don’t want to give the story away – so let’s just say many ways).  People tell me that I’ve helped them experience many different aspects to life and raise burning questions that no-one else dare to verbalise. Yes -I went there. Maybe that I’ve helped a few people come to terms with their own struggles is in itself a measure of success.  You can read comments from readers here.

2. Attention: Maybe getting myself onto the shelves of two of my local book stores and in my local library is a win too. I didn’t realise how much it may be a win until others told me that is a victory.  Perhaps being interviewed by fellow author and master broadcaster Kel Richards on radio 2GB ( yes he did read the book) should be a time to celebrate. I did – that was nerve wracking and exciting.  You can listen to the interview here.

3. ROI and sales: So back to that questions about how am I doing with book sales and does it matter? Yes, it matters to me, because as a self funded, self publisher and a business woman. I want to see my investment in putting myself on the line and also my financial investment bare fruit. Based on this (modest) success, I have to evaluate if, how and when I will publish again.  Since launching on November 1, 2015, purely on my own steam via hard slog, marketing and direct sales, I have over 200 hardcopies of the memento edition of Accidental Aid Worker out in the world throughout Australia, USA, Sri Lanka, UK, Canada and Europe. Buy a copy of Accidental Aid Worker – signed copy and ebook or look for me on Amazon.com if you’re outside of Australia.

4. How I feel: Being human and learning about all of this as I go, understanding how to keep my ego in check and balance out all of these complex variables is probably THE most important thing.  Sometimes I get a bit hyped up and excited, other times it’s just dull and hard slog. I can’t afford really to go too NUTS about anything – one way or the other.

I am constantly reminded by friends when I get a bit blue or impatient about the pace of things, that this creation – a book of my life (that took me a year and half to incubate and year to write and two months to deliver) is only two months old.  They tell me, to have achieved Accidental Aid Worker at ALL is a big deal and to compare my version of success to anyone else or have reached those levels of success is stuff of dreams. I need to be real –  I’ll give it another few months 🙂

And, on my bookshelf, I’m already next to Elizabeth Gilbert and in a book store, I’m right next to Sophia Loren – so I should be happy with that. 

AAW on shelf with Liz at home

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