Friday, December 10, 2010

If At First...

How do you judge your success as a writer? I believe most writers who consider themselves professional hope to achieve publication someday. But even then, by what yard stick do you measure your success?

Accolades from family, friends, colleagues and even strangers in various venues pump up the satisfaction level for me. My family and friends have always been quite supportive. My peers at the day job and my students offer their congratulations and often wonder that I write books. Real feel good moments.
I’ve interacted with people who believe you must be published by one of the large New York houses to be deemed a successful author. Statements of distain about small presses usually anger me rather than discourage me. But for those people, they feel a person isn’t really successful until they’ve signed a contract with one of the ‘Big Boys.’
Some would have success based on how much money an author pulls in from their writing. I know a few writers who’ve published multiple books with small presses as eBooks. They don’t make huge earnings on individual books but added together, the quantity of releases adds up to decent amounts of money earned by royalties. Are POD and eBooks an equal measure of success compared to a traditional book sold on the shelves of the large chain stores?
Has an author reached a goal of recognition when they’re asked to guest at a library or perhaps a conference? Does it take a TV or newspaper interview to know ‘you’re a big name?’ Must you hold a book signing and run a highly active blog with thousands of followers?
It’s difficult to stay at something if you continually feel like you’ve failed to achieve your objectives. I believe in goal setting but one should also know what it means when the particular goal is reached. When I sold my first fantasy novel and then the series, I didn’t believe my books would soon push Terry Goodkind off the shelf. ( I use Terry as an example since our names are close and our books are shelved near each other) But I did feel like I’d taken a first important step upward to the ultimate level of success I hope to achieve. I’m proud of the fantasy romances I have with small presses and appreciative of the money I receive from their continued sales.
How do you measure your successes? Is it a matter of money, number of books published, the type of publisher or the accolades you receive from various sources?


  1. The question is actually more complex than it appears on the surface.

    For myself, I gauge success by how much I earn. The publisher doesn't matter as long as I'm earning an income. Awards mean nothing unless they put dinner on the table. Ego isn't a motivator for me. Earning a living is.

    The industry is in flux too. When you hear people like Konrath making six figures, you have to wonder what the appeal of the Big Six is any more.

    I'll have to think about this some more. You posed an interesting question.

  2. I know what you mean, Maria. I'm not sure the big guys in New York are the answer for everyone though not long ago most authors worked toward a contract with them.

  3. I guess success for me was just having a publisher accept my book and release it. It was more than I thought I'd achieve anyway!

  4. I felt the same way with my first one, Alex. Now I'm trying for the next thing on my dream list.

  5. Success is different for each person, but I've always thought basing it on the number of people we touch during our lifetime a good measurement.