Success is not measured by sales. It’s measured by people you impact.
Updated: Jun 19
Myth 1: Never put a cartoon on a book cover.
Eight years ago, I wrote a book on how to become an opinion former. At that time, I was running a thriving spokesperson training centre in Belgium. I choose the topic because no one ever in Belgium wrote a book about the art of opinion forming. I published the book in Dutch in December 2012. My publisher didn't like the idea to put a cartoon on the cover that says: "I don't have an opinion on what this book is about". It seems comics on covers don't sell. That made me even more convinced to put a cartoon on the cover. I guess, somewhere deep down, I felt this book was not about selling copies.
Myth 2: People buy books - a lot.
One year later, I sold almost half of my copies. That means I had to store about 20 boxes in my garage with a total of 500 books. My back was grateful; I didn't go for the hardcover version. Are publishing companies aware of the traumas they cause by dropping tons of unsold copies of books at the doorsteps of book authors? And then it happened. I spoke with a former book publisher, and he told me his secret. "You are in the top 20% of best-selling authors in Belgium. Last year, 80% of the authors sold less than 300 copies." From one moment to another, I was a best-selling author. By the end of 2014, I sold (and gave away) all my 1,000 copies of the book without having one single review in newspapers or on Amazon. By that time, I only did three speaking gigs on the subject. I refused to sell the book after my presentations. The fact that people showed up to listen to my story was rewarding enough. (I will never become a great salesperson, though). I remember, for one keynote, I drove my car from Antwerp to Amsterdam in the snow. It was my best performance ever.
Myth 3: You need to sell a lot to make an impact.
The last lesson learned was the most important one. It changed my life. Most of my readers didn't become opinion formers. Neither, I could stop working and make a living from writing books. The impact came from the people I met. I made a rough calculation. It must be around one hundred amazing people I met thanks to my book. Some of them became friends; others became clients. Today, more than eight years after publishing The Great Belgian Novel "How to become an opinion former", I realised the impact of my book was overwhelming. New friends, new client-friends, thank you messages from unknown people that published their opinions for the first time. I guarantee: to impact one person with your book is worth more than selling one thousand copies!
By the time you are reading this article, I will be writing my second book. To learn more, subscribe at the bottom of this page.
Note: To the famous Belgian opinion maker, that told - the week after my book was published - to a journalist, it's ridiculous to think you can learn to become an opinion former. You were wrong. Not about expressing your opinion, neither about back-stabbing me on my book after you read the proofread with a lot of enthusiasm. You were wrong about my book being ridiculous. It changed my life. How ridiculous is that?