As we move into 2019 – the year where I will become a published author – I’ve been pondering the question of what author success looks like.
When I became serious about my writing and began focusing on it more as a life choice rather than just a hobby, my perception of success was very different to what it is now.
Back then success was a pie-in-the-sky thought. Visions of becoming a published author by one of the ‘big-5’, accompanied by media coverage and best-seller status, was what I thought success was. Anything less wasn’t worth its salt.
Seven years down the track and my vision – and understanding of author success- have changed from this heady, naive view.
Success is achieved on different levels
After finishing four complete manuscripts and with others still in various stages, I’ve realised success is achieved on many different levels. For one, success is finishing a manuscript. Not all wanna-be authors can say they’ve actually finished a manuscript right through to publication-ready. For me, that was my first success.
From there, seeking publication has been a long road. Enamoured by the ‘gate-keepers’ and feeling that success was only justified if my manuscript was accepted by the ‘important people’, was a trying period. Even though I’d had encouraging feedback from both publishers and agents, the lack of ‘success’ caused my self-doubt to skyrocket. I knew only a handful of manuscripts were taken on each year, and so I began to think that maybe my writing just wasn’t good enough.
Traditional publishing isn’t the only path to author success
It was only when I learned more about the publishing industry that I realised the opinions of these gatekeepers weren’t a mark of success and they are certainly not the only pathway to success as an author.
Just like we tell our high schoolers that a high tertiary entrance score isn’t the be all and end all, it’s the same for authors. There could be many reasons your manuscript doesn’t appeal or interest an agent or publisher, and the least likely scenario is that it isn’t worthy of publication. But reaching that point of realisation isn’t easy.
I now know that success has many different levels, and is very different for each author. I’ve also learned that self-publishing doesn’t mean inferior quality, and isn’t only a ‘back-up’ plan. Self-publishing is a choice and a viable option for many authors.
The stigma of self-publishing is gradually diminishing. There’s still a way to go, but more and more top quality novels are being let loose without the need for a publisher.
Many self-published novels are now indistinguishable from traditionally published books (as they should be!) so much so, that the reader wouldn’t even know the difference. And in the end, the reader doesn’t care who published the book, all they care about is that the book has top quality presentation (professionally edited, proofread designed eg. it looks good) and most importantly that the story is well-written, entertaining and engaging.
The people who matter are the readers
The next step towards author success for me is becoming an independent author and publishing my books. Getting them out into the world with the help of my own team of editors, designers and publishing experts. Getting them out to the people who matter; the readers. Receiving reviews and feedback will be both nerve-wracking and exciting, but what readers think is truly the most valuable opinion in my book.
From there, success will mean continually publishing novels, increasing sales, and growing a following of readers who enjoy my writing. Success means writing, being in control of my own publishing business, and making money from doing so. Now, and for the rest of my life (or at least the next twenty or so years!).
I don’t have grandiose dreams of making millions from my writing, but I’d like to make a small living. Enough to cover publishing costs and afford me a small profit along the way. And I think it is entirely possible and the ultimate success.
Every person’s vision of success is different
There are so many ways to gauge success as an author. For you, it may purely mean writing. Or it may mean a publishing deal, movie rights, and your name up in lights! Whatever your thoughts on success make sure they are just that – yours. Every person’s vision of success is different. And society’s view that money and notoriety are the only things which equal success is very much outdated.
So, get writing, set goals, work hard, learn, and celebrate each success as it comes your way.