Authors: What does success mean to you

One of the most interesting parts of being in such a vast blogging community with so many amazing authors, is that you get to listen to their personal stories of what goes on behind the writing. I always find it fascinating to hear people discuss their writing processes, goals, successes and occasional letdowns. I have been contemplating this as I am at somewhat of a crossroad in my own writing career. So, I have a question for all of you authors/writers/word artists out there.

 

How do you measure success?

 

Is it a finished novel? A contract with a publisher? The first royalty check from sales of your work? What do you think defines you as a successful author?

 

I see many different opinions on this out there in the blogosphere. Some people are just happy to have written something and had someone else read it. Others have much larger goals that will take a while to reach. Do you count the small successes along the way, such as reaching a certain number of sales or finding your author name in a place you had not expected, or is it only the larger goals you count?

Do you find that your initial goals change as you progress further with your work?

 

Is there an over all way to quantify success or failure in the world of the self-published author, or is it all relative to the individual expectation?

Thoughts please.

 

Look Chris, I did a post entirely devoid of swearing. Put away that soap.

 

Here are a couple of other articles that might catch your interest:

 

 

 

63 thoughts on “Authors: What does success mean to you”

  1. I’m about to head to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing, so that was my first “big” success for me. Getting a short story accepted for publication would be next and then *fingers crossed* hopefully getting a novel published within the next five years (or less!)
    Just getting published would be such a huge deal—obviously I would want my book to be selling well—but I ultimately would like to be “established” and have a solid reader base (even if it’s fairly small) and know that I can consistently churn out work and put it into people’s (hopefully) anxious little hands.

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    1. Thank you! I love hearing that authors are satisfied having an established group, even if it is smaller at first. I think where many people go wrong when beginning is setting their goals of audience too unreasonably and then feeling like they are failing when those goals are not reached.

      Love your blog and your always intelligent and helpful comments. Thank you:)

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      1. I love your blog! You always raise such great questions–and I’m always glad to contribute to the discussion.

        I’m young and admittedly naive, so maybe after shopping a novel for years with no takers, I’ll be bitter and cynical about it (but let’s hope not)! I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the blog community, that I already feel like I’ve won in so many ways. Going from having next to no one read your stuff to having a blog with consistent readers and comment-ers is a big step, too!

        I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever want my work to be on the NYT bestseller list or made into a movie—but I don’t consider it a failure if it never happens!

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      2. I’ll autograph every single one and then you can sell all except one for BILLIONS. And then we can take over the worl….er….sorry…power trip there.

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  2. First it was the idea for a book, then it was writing the book, the next success was self publishing, followed by a big wow for my first sale. That’s quite a biggie your first sale, but then you want more and on it goes!

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    1. Definitely. It is amazing how we look back and it seems so different than we thought it might be, but so wonderful and provides such excitement for the future.

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  3. Reader feedback for sure. When someone shares they’ve been genuinely moved/inspired by something I’ve written that means the world to me, mainly poems and short stories so far. Next would be to get a full length piece completed, I’m six chapters in so a long way to go…:-)

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  4. Good question. Personally, I change my definition of success as I hit milestones. I always want to be hungry for that next step, so I define it as the new level of success. The ultimate goal is being able to live off my books, which will be when I might finally say ‘I did it’ and mean it.

    Success and failure are in the eye of the beholder. I see failures where people say I succeeded and I see success where people say I failed. It’s entirely interpretive to your mindset and mood.

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    1. Great point. This is very true. Where one day something might make me feel on top of the world, the next day it is no big deal. Lets hope for success on the happy days so it can feel extra good!

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      1. Thanks. This rough patch is wearing me down, but I’m clinging to hope for dear life. Wishing you even more success than I get. That way I can still ask you questions like I’m the newbie and you’re the master. πŸ˜‰

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  5. It’s a combination of many things: Learning how to self-publish through KDP/CreatSpace (I wasn’t actually concerned about the sales. I’m still not.) was fun. I have more to learn in that arena and when I do, I’ll also consider that a success. Having my work published by a print journal is a success. That’s how I began. Finishing the 1st drafts of two novels was a good feeling. Revising them is equally cool. Finding kids to read my 1st draft of The Coyote Wars is a huge deal to me (In process on this one). When I get my first picture book published (traditionally – because I don’t want to self-pub. I have two finished. I’m picking one.) I’ll have a huge party! Hearing that someone likes something I wrote or it made them think or they hated it (and why) is pretty awesome stuff, too. All the little things leading up to the big things are successes for me.

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    1. So happy to hear that you feel that way. I have run across so many blogs where authors are only worried about numbers and sales and it seems to defeat the original intent of them publishing their work in the first place. I love the mentality that success is anything that drives you forward to the next achievement!

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      1. A person could go crazy watching the numbers. When I self-published, there were people who asked how many sales I had or how much money I was making. They knew me, but apparently not well enough to know I don’t care about that. Successful authors are successful, in part, because they keep writing. That’s my take on it, anyway.

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  6. This is a very interesting question. Success is very much an individual perception especially when it comes to writing… Success is not measured in mere numbers alone, and it is not always results orientated, sometimes just putting in the effort is the qualifier for success. The bar I use is the personal satisfaction I have about producing a piece of writing… If I am satisfied then I am successful. On a personal level I would consider myself extremely successful were I to produce something that stands the test of time and is read long after I am gone, but I have little control over that and won’t be around to see if it does or does not happen so I don’t worry about it too much. As for public perception of my success as a writer, well I don’t even try to gauge that… it really doesn’t matter if my adoring throng thinks me a success if I myself don’t believe that, although I do believe I have been successful at expressing a few ideas, but more often than not I fail in my efforts… Yes I am a harsh critic when it comes to my own writing, though sometimes I will go soft on myself and let something slide just for the sake of producing something.

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    1. Absolutely. Could not agree more. I think in the very beginning I had really ridiculous expectations for myself and as time went on, the small successes began to register.

      I look back now and am just amazed by how much I have learned and how many different ideas I have about things and what success means than I did at that naive stage.

      If one person reads it and takes something valuable from it, then I feel it was not wasted effort.

      Thank you for the excellent viewpoint!

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  7. For me each chapter written is a success. My long term goal is to meet all my short term goals πŸ™‚

    I’m working to finish my YA Romance novel and finishing the first draft will be a major success for me.

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  8. I think that how you measure success has to change as you progress. Success surely consists of small victories. To achieve great success one must conquer many smaller obstacles that all make up the whole. I suppose it depends if you are only focused on the final goal, whatever that may be, or the journey. Sorry I may have started babbling a bit there.

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    1. You never babble. At least not in public. I agree. In the beginning our goals may be much larger or smaller than we first began with. This comment applies to so many areas of life.

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  9. At first I get at least a small measure of success every time I finish a project that I’ve started. This holds true for all projects, whether they be writing projects, art projects, or something as simple as cleaning my apartment. With writing projects I think I measure success first by how many people read it, then, since I mean for the majority of my writings to be funny, how many laughs were generated by the writing. Unfortunately there’s no way to measure this last thing for sure. Maybe there will eventually be some kind of laugh-meter that actually records how many times a person reading a blog laughs out loud and keeps track of it.

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    1. That would be so much fun. Though, I fear that I may get laughs where I did not intend them. I would then owe myself even more for the swear jar.

      You are so correct. Small victories are important. Thank you for commenting and visiting, hope to see you again soon.

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  10. I definitely count the successes along the way. It aids my self esteem to do so πŸ™‚ I feel accomplished as an author as soon as I have completed a first draft. With each subsequent step in the process to becoming published I feel a little more accomplished. Success is measured not in grandiosity, but in small pleasures. To say that I reached the pinnacle of my success…well, that’s different. When I get there I’ll let you know. I suppose it would be when I have accomplished becoming an entertainer with an indisputable image. Branding is a real challenge for fiction writers IMHO. To me, it has never been about the money. It would be nice to get back my investment, but even if that doesn’t happen, I am happy to be read. It is the story I wanted told and read! It is personally important to me and I am hearing from others that they appreciated how the story touched them or moved them. That makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that is a successful feeling. I guess I am like the underground hip hop artists that move from town through town in the homeless shelters and city parks putting their show on in whatever venues they can find. They have a message and want to be heard. They want to entertain. If they get “discovered” great, but if they don’t…life is still okay, it is about lifestyle choice, not money. I love writing and if I can write what others love reading, I will have reached the pinnacle of my success.

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    1. Then I would say you have already reached your first major goal. You definitely write things that others enjoy reading. i just can’t leave your book alone, as a matter of fact. Even when i tell myself I must.

      You are so right about branding. Marketing in general is a very confusing and difficult game for the author, whether independent or traditional. I do believe that we all approach it a bit differently based on what we feel the most comfortable with and what works for us.

      I, for one, am still not good with the two main forms of social media, but I try to make up for it with research and this blog.

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  11. I find success in the smallest details. When I finish a piece that I know is good, I get a big thrill out of the comments of readers who were pleased as well. I guess that’s what keeps me at this laptop continually pounding out stories. Great question and thanks for the opportunity to sound off on it.

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  12. I awoke this morning to find myself still breathing and capable of turning on the computer and typing…
    Oh look! Some folks visited my blog and some writer’s were kind enough to respond to my comments….
    Look at all the interesting reads this morning….

    SUCCESS!!

    Anything else accomplished each day is just icing on the cake!

    LOL
    πŸ˜€

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  13. My definition of success as an author is deceptively simple. To me, it means that someone, somewhere, has read my work and enjoyed it. That, to me, is the number one objective,and I like to think I might have even already pulled it off, too. πŸ™‚

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  14. I think success is so difficult to quantify because it is, exactly as you say, different for anyone. For me, I measure success in terms of goals and when I attain each one then I have achieved success – I then move the goal posts and try to go on to greater success and so on. However you deem success to be, you have to make it achievable otherwise you will constantly fail and give up before you’ve given yourself a chance. There. Lecture over.!! πŸ™‚

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  15. Wow, no cursing? I’m impressed! πŸ™‚ (I bet you spent a minute swearing in the closet just to get it out of your system.)

    I believe that the definition of success changes with time. When you start out, just getting your book in print (or successfully formatted and available digitally) equals success. Then your definition of success has to change to accommodate higher expectations. The adaptive success program provides rewards in steps and makes attaining each level of success more plausible.

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    1. I most certainly did not curse in the closet. It was in my office, just as I began my studies for the morning on quantum field theory. That tends to make me swear.

      I agree that there is a shift in perception from when we first begin a project to when we have completed it. My primary goal in the beginning was just writing something that made sense. Everything else came later.

      Do you think that a hugely successful author looks back and still remembers their humble beginnings?

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      1. So I had to ask…

        QFT. Do you always read this as quantum field theory? I bet you have a better acronym for it.

        We had evil names for all the tough courses. I’d give an example, but i don’t like the taste of bases. πŸ™‚

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  16. For me, success is 5,000 readers who enjoy my books and look forward to my next one with excitement. I would rather have zero money from writing and ten thousand fans than $20,000 and five fans. I write so people will enjoy my stories.

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  17. This is a great question–and one that I think about a lot. I don’t know that I have any definitive answers at this point. As others have commented, each step along the way–through the writing itself to self-publishing both the e-books and the paperbacks–have felt like success. I get bogged done when I get caught up in the sales numbers–and find myself falling into a sense of failure instead of success. If I can put my ego aside, I think success really is living a life that allows me to write and do what I love. And when people tell me they loved my book or they couldn’t put it down, that’s bonus.

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  18. Good luck with your crossroads. I just experienced something similar. It’s been bittersweet, and I can tell already it will change my life dramatically, but it also plays into what I see as success…which is, mostly, that I enjoy the writing process, that I can help someone every day (hopefully through writing), and that, after all this time, I have at least a thread of sanity left. πŸ™‚

    I hope, whatever those crossroads are, you keep blogging. You’re too much fun to disappear on us. πŸ˜€

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  19. For me, I think that I will consider myself to be a true-really-real author when I get my first royalty check from my publisher. But it might happen when I get to hold my book for the first time. I guess I’m making this up as I go. To begin with, it was writing a complete book. Then it was finding and agent/publisher. So who knows! I will probably change my mind later. I’m notorious for doing that. πŸ˜‰

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  20. Well, one obvious success for me was getting Freshly Pressed on The Community Storyboard! That was very cool and exciting and meaningful. But true success came when my husband started to encourage me to focus on my writing. I’ve never had support from my immediate family (to them, writing was a hobby that they always thought I would grow out of). Writing was often a very lonely pursuit. It’s only been in the last few years that my husband has been this supportive, but his support was worth waiting for πŸ™‚ Other successes: maintain a blog; having more than one follower of my blog; being a member of an awesome blogging community; posting my writing bits to The Community Storyboard; and continuing to survive NaNoWriMo writing challenges. These are my current successes, each one building on the previous one, forming a kind of ladder to (hopefully) publication of a book. I will get there, but I hope to never lose sight of these small but critical successes that carry through me through every day.

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  21. Self publishing is not an option for the genre I write in so the ultimate success for me is securing a contract for my 2nd book. That way, I’ll know it wasn’t a fluke the first time around.

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