Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Redefining Success

As writers, it's very easy to get swept away by the idea of The Big Deal. We've all dreamed of the day when a publishing house plucks us out of the rubble, hands us a big fat advance, and continues to pay us enough money so that we're able to quit our day jobs and write full-time. It's the ultimate goal. Writing full-time. Letting our imaginations run wild without the constraints of time and money to hold them back.

The reality, however, is that most writers will never reach that point. Even semi-successful writers find it necessary to keep their day jobs because...well...this whole writing gig is a fickle beeyotch. You may sell today, but that doesn't mean you'll sell tomorrow.

How many times have you heard a writer say that unless you love writing, don't? I've heard it more times than I can count. And despite that, I've pressed on. Why? Because I DO love it. But the reality is, I may never be a "success." At least not in a conventional way.

It's just shy of a full month since I published BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT. Sales are steady...but slow. I've found myself struggling to get my name out there in any way possible. I have about a dozen reviews set in motion, some interviews sprinkled in here and there, and I'm praying that I'm able to push past the "family/friends" sales and hit readers who have stumbled across my book due to word of mouth or what not. It's a scary time because I have no idea whether or not I'll be able to push past this point and keep selling. I have no idea what the actual threshold is--perhaps it's all conjecture on my part--but it feels like I'm hitting it. Hey, I'm a writer. I fret.

Despite this general level of worry surrounding this entire venture, I'm finding myself quite satisfied with the process. I'm my harshest critic, and I constantly worry about whether or not readers are going to be satisfied with the story I've put out. I don't ever want to upset someone or make them feel like they've wasted their time or money. I know it's inevitable--it's just the way things are--but I want to have readers walk away from reading my book with a feeling of satisfaction.

Having my book "out there" has freaked me out more than I can possibly say. Because all of my hard work...all of the struggle and love that I've put into my book...is now open to anyone who stumbles across it. And therefore, open to be judged. Yes, I knew this going in, but let me tell you, there is NOTHING scarier than sending out your book for that first book review--no matter how much you may love it. The only thing that may possibly rival that first review is the first time you place your book in the hands of a friend who has never sampled your work before. *nail biting commences* Hell, at work one day, a group of co-workers got a hold of my Kindle and had a little "reading circle." They read the first couple of pages aloud, while I quietly FREAKED out on the sidelines, trying desperately to keep my outward cool. To be blunt, I've been a mess.

All that aside, I've been rewarded with some very special moments over the past weeks. There was the review from the girl who was HIGHLY doubtful I had any talent whatsoever--the one where she gushed and gushed about how good the book was. :) There was the reviewer who downloaded and read the book in one afternoon, and followed it all up with an email saying I needed to hurry up with book 2. There is the EXTREMELY surreal experience of having people list me as their favorite author on Goodreads...

I've had many doubts since publication...followed quickly by many highs that have made me pause mid-fret and remind myself that Big Money isn't necessarily the end all/be all of success. Success is knowing you wrote a story that people love. Created characters that people care about. Characters that they want to follow into the next book.

I'm by no means knocking it out of the ballpark with this novel...yet, I am. In my own small way. For now, that's enough.

What about you? What would define success for you?


  1. Jen, at this stage, success for me would be finishing the dang novel. :P

    Your book has been out just a short while, and it seems to be gaining momentum - a sort of ripple-effect that is exciting to watch.

  2. For me, success is achieving goals I set down for myself. Finish my book. Get an agent. Get published. That is my success because I meet those goals.

    I find it easier to set these shorter-term goals and work toward them, rather than saying, "To be a NYTimes bestseller of total power."

    Of course, that would be nice. But setting incremental goals makes the journey far more enjoyable. :)

  3. Read your stuff out loud?? Eek, I would have run screaming.
    I'm with Kristen. Right now the goal is to polish the book and get an agent. I'll look at the rest after that. Of course, I want readers hanging on my every word and worrying intensely about the characters and having endless discussions about the story nuances and...
    Yea. Back to editing.