A few weeks ago, I put a message on Twitter, asking something like, "Aspiring writers: what is your goal, your personal definition of what would be success for you?"
Replies came back along the lines you'd expect, comments such as, "I want to move people with my words," "I want to see my books in print," "My dream is to go into a bookshop and be able to buy a copy of my own book." But one reply struck me:
"I want to hold my published book in my hands. Selling copies would be a bonus."Noooooo! Selling copies is not a bonus - the ability for your book to sell copies is utterly central to its chance of publication. If your book won't sell enough copies, a publisher will not publish it. End of. And how could we expect it to be otherwise?
Yes, we're artists, and the idea of selling, of commerciality, can be something that makes us uncomfortable. That's fine. We don't have to lose that passion for our art. That's why we write. But, if we want to be published, we must, unavoidably, aim to write a book which enough people will pay to read.
So, yes, hold onto your dream, but don't forget that your book must sell copies. It's not a bonus.