Determining ROI–or Success Rate

by Tom Blubaugh

I was talking to an author client/friend the other day about return-on-investment (ROI). 100 % of most conversations about ROI involve money. The thought came to me that money is not the only ROI that can give an author satisfaction. If it is, then many authors would discontinue writing today since, on average, authors sell less than 350 copies of their book, which means they don’t really see 100% money back on what they spend to promote their books. There are many reasons for low book sales, but I’ll save that discussion, although it is crucial, for another day.

I know we talked about motivation last week. This week’s discussion has a little twist to it, and I’d love your input. So we need to go a little deeper.

Ask yourself this question: What is my motivation to write? Here’s another question: Why do I continue to write?
There is no wrong answer here, but if your answer is money, you need to ask – Am I treating my writing like a business or a hobby? There is an old saying — “You have to spend money to make money.” There is some truth in this, but it is not all-inclusive.

There is also sweat equity involved in ROI.

You can invest time and learn how to do everything yourself. But let’s consider the time you are investing in your writing, and let’s consider the return of investment is your satisfaction that you get from your investment. Consider what you feel deep inside is a successful return on your investment.

The truth about that old adage is that you must invest something to get a return. In other words, You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). What you reap is your ROI or you could say it is your Success Rate.

The big question to ask is: What gives me the greatest satisfaction?
Is it the joy of writing? Sharing my thoughts with others? Money? Gratitude? Enjoyment? Fulfillment? Purpose? Ministry (helping others)? There are probably more, but this is a good start.
Here’s an assignment that will help you determine what ROI motivates you and what your success rate is. List the items above on a sheet of paper or copy/paste them. This list is not all-inclusive. Feel free to add those things that are important to you.
  • Joy of writing
  • Sharing my thoughts
  • Money
  • Gratitude
  • Enjoyment
  • Fulfillment
  • Purpose
  • Ministry

Now, thoughtfully consider which of these is most important, next most important until you have placed them in priority order. You can do this by numbering them—the most important being number one. Now arrange them in priority order.

The next activity is a little tougher. Your challenge is to assign a percentage to each item. You’re looking for a total of 100% ROI on your investment. Be honest with yourself. If money is 100% then you are saying the other items are of no importance. Is that really the case?


Now. Take the number of words you’ve written today (or this week) and multiply it by your first priority’s percentage. Multiply each priority by total number of words. It would look something like this:
Ministry is at 50%,
Joy of writing is 40%
Fulfillment is 5%
Money is 5%
Total words written for the week — 10,000 multiplied by each percentage point of investment.
5,000 words fulfilled Ministry (these words did help others and were things God gave me to say).
4,000 words fulfilled Joy of Writing (the joy received was complete).
500 words gave Fulfillment (the sense of fulfillment came as I wrote and when I finished writing).
500 words gave Money (of course it could be all 10,000, but no money came in this week for writing)
10,000 words but 9,500 words fulfilled the priority — My success rate this week was 95%
If you are a math whiz, you’ve already guessed that if your priorities’ percentage points add up to 100% then the total number of words written this week gives you a 100% success rate. Your return on investment is very successful. Enjoy!

The most important rule is that you must be 100% honest with yourself otherwise you will be a divided person and satisfaction will elude you.

What is your top priority? And What percentage did you give it? I’d really like to know!

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28 thoughts on “Determining ROI–or Success Rate”

  1. Interesting perspective, one I have never thought of. A good way to gage success whether confirmed by outside sources or not. Encouraging in that the secular definition of success is frequently at odds with
    God’s definition of success, so I have a new positive way to view my productivity. Many thanks!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Betsy. Much appreciated. I’m glad you a new positive way to view your productivity. I believe God wants us to enjoy the process and learn from it.

  3. Broke even financially this year. In 1996 I got way too many printed copies of my first novel, wised up for the second one which I made a small profit on in 1998. The third novel is free (PDF ebook)..the first two I am re-typing for e-book purposes. At this point it’s not financial profit, but how many folks turn to Jesus Christ after reading the books, esp. the free one, which tells the whole story about a ficitional rock band on their journey to Christ.

    1. That sounds like a great book, Deborah. I read one similar by Creston Mapes. It is extraordinary how those kinds of perspectives touch people’s hearts. Super to have Christian authors who are sharing the Gospel in a way that isn’t in-your-face, but coming from a real-life perspective. That is success 🙂

  4. I have been telling my stoiries for over 50 years when someone suggested I should write them down and publish them. My first bok came out in print on February 14th and I was in a local school for World Book Day a few weeks later and sold 37 books. I have visited that school every year since and last year I was asked to cut the ribbon on the opening pf their refurbished library.
    I have now published 7 books,visited a viriety of schools around England, led story buiding classes, and now sold over 1,000 books. My books are now going to be produced on Braile for blind chidren to read.
    I bring pleasure to the children, reinforce school values, and now help blind and visually impaired chidren. Something I never envisaged when I sarted wrting my books. This means more to me than sale volues or profit.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Deborah. Breaking even is good. Glad your finding other rewards. There is nothing wrong with making a profit for sure. Chasing money and making it your number one thing doesn’t work. I hope our blog articles will help. If you would like to chat about book marketing–email me at Blessings.

  5. The “Joy” of writing is my first priority. Forget the money; I’ve spent thousands of dollars to produce my novels, with very little return on my investments to date.

    1. Thanks for your comment, mjenn2. I’m sorry to hear about your little ROI. This is one of the reasons we developed this community. Enjoying the journey is important. Over a lifetime we spend a huge amount of money on entertainment, recreations, and enjoyment. One of the ROIs is great memories. Sort of like reading a good book. It’s a good ROI on the time we invest. We also want authors to enjoy knowing that our target market is reading what they write. Not many enjoy talking to herself. Hopefully we can help you reach your intended audience.

  6. I think about this a great deal. I have published four books of history/biography. Two full biographies have sold about 1,000 copies and I’m now sold out of my first, now printing POD. My latest book which came out in May, has sold about 350 copies so far. I broke even on the first two, but will probably not sell out the last one. I don’t do it for the money, although scraping up the money is difficult for a full book. Publishing is fairly straightforward, marketing is the problem. I receive recognition in my community and regionally, but I really haven’t made any money at it. Gives me something useful to do in my retirement.

    1. Congratulations on selling so many books, Mark. I understand how it could look like too few sold to really make any money. It not only gives you something useful to do, it is also a legacy you are leaving to upcoming generations 😉

    2. Well done, Mark!

      Your Books and sales are an acheivement and I am sure there are many who have received knowledge and pleasure from your books. Plus probably, like me, fulfilment during retirement.

      Keep writing.


    3. Thanks for your comment, Mark. I hear what you’re saying. I’m 76 myself and meeting authors around the world is one of the ROIs I enjoy. Developing this community is another biggie. Congrats on what you’ve accomplished thus far. If you’d like to chat about book marketing–email me at

  7. It’s so important in the day-to-day routine of writing to ensure you are “gettings something out of it” for, inevitably, if not, you’ll get discouraged or have days when motivation is low. It’s at those times that you can draw on those times when you’ve felt the blood sweat and tears have been worth it to keep you going.
    Tom, a really important post.
    Thank you.

  8. I write history and biography so I don’t write all the time, just when I have a project. Some days I feel less motivation to write. When that happens, I just sit down and read a book associated with my project or just for pleasure. I find that I THINK about my project all the time, though, particularly t night in semi-sleep.

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