What defines success? I think probably each person has an individual idea of success and what that means for them and their work.
Many put deadlines on success, like “by the time I’m 35, I’ll be a NYT bestselling author.”
But what happens when they turn 35 and they’re not even published yet?
They feel like a failure.
But the truth is, they’re not a failure. Emerging authors have a tendency to dream big and expect things to happen very quickly. After all, we’re so used to having so much information at our fingertips. Most anything you want to know or what to know how to do is just a Google search away. We fast forward through commercials now, too. Everything moves so fast in our lives, we, of course, expect our writing careers to move fast, too.
The reality is the opposite. Most writing careers take years to build before they tip. My friend Cherie Priest put it perfectly when talking about her great success with Boneshaker: “I was an overnight success,” she said. “It only took me 10 years and 7 books to get there.”
So we don’t drown at the bottom of a Vodka bottle, we must set realistic goals, and more importantly, set many goals. Benchmarks.
What’s true of other careers is doubly true of a writing career. You certainly must make goals and dream, but those goals should be based in reality and have clearly defined benchmarks. Even daily goals help.
Instead of “I’ll hit the NYT Best Seller list in a year,” which was one of my early goals, try daily and weekly goals, first.
“I’ll write 2,000 words a day.”
“I’ll finished one short story a month.”
“I will get 200 new followers on Twitter.”
When you reach a goal. Celebrate. It can be small, but reward yourself for making a goal and reaching it. You deserve it.
If you’re looking for an agent, set your benchmarks first at getting requests for partials, then up the ante to fulls before you call yourself a failure because you didn’t find an agent in a few months. The process can take years.
If you’re self-publishing, set small sales goals at first. When you reach them, celebrate and then increase them a little. Have a marketing plan. Learn how to best utilize social networking.
Some emerging authors look at me and they see a successful author who has sold over 5,000 books, has 4 published titles, and connects with fans often. I get fan mail sometimes from readers telling me they love my book (nothing is better, btw). Ethan and I are making a living almost exclusively by promoting and selling our books and art.
All this, there are days that I feel like a complete failure. I’m not where I had hoped I’d be at this point. Not by a long shot, but then my expectations were set way too high. I didn’t understand the realities of the marketplace and the publishing industry. I’ve learned. The hard way. That’s why I wrote a book on it, so you can have more realistic expectations and goals.
After all, we define what success means to us. So be good to yourself, and help yourself feel successful because this is a very long road. It doesn’t serve you or your reader to get burnt out and depressed after the first year.
How do you define success? Do you see the benefits of benchmarks?
How many books would you have to sell (to readers) to feel like a successful author.