How do You Define Success?

Success

Writers are generally an insecure group of people. We have something we want to say and feel compelled to write, and yet fear lies beneath the surface every time we put our words out there for the world to read. Not every writer, maybe, but all I’ve spoken with. Even those I’ve read about, those who have “made it.”

Joanna Penn, in her book Successful Author Mindset, talks about comparisonitis. We compare our writing to other authors, we compare our sales to other authors, we even compare our writing life to other authors. Each of these things are individual and there is not one-size-fits-all, and yet we compare. Not only do we compare ourselves to our peers, but we compare ourselves to other authors who have completely different lifestyles and opportunities than we do. Those who are on a completely different level.

To help prevent comparisonitis, take some time to define what success means to you. If we as authors don’t know what success means to us, separate from how others view success, we will constantly be chasing our tails trying to achieve something we don’t even know we’re trying to achieve.

So, what is your definition of success? Is it:

  • Freedom?
  • Sales?
  • Control of your work?
  • Number of books sold?
  • A traditional publishing contract?

It’s all too easy for the fragile ego to get hung up on statistics, number of likes, reviews, etc. I’m happiest when I set my definition of success as simply writing on a regular basis, doing the best that I can do, comparing my writing only to writing I’ve done at an earlier time, to measure my growth.

I also try, hard as it can be, not to allow other’s opinions to determine whether I’m good at what I do or not. While it’s nice when others like what you write and give you a good review, a bad review doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad.

Opinions are purely subjective.

Really get to the bottom of what your definition is of success. Re-evaluate your definition at regular intervals. Don’t let others’ definitions define yours.

Happy writing!

I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. 
― Herbert Bayard Swope

If you must walk in someone’s shadow make sure it’s your own.
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

And in the Beginning…

Beginnings

For those who have read my bio, you know my writing years began at the tender age of four. I took my fat little crayons in my fat little fingers and decided to experiment with words on the knotty pine walls of the living room. My parents were not impressed! But even back then, I had something to say and writing was the natural way for me to say it.
As the years went by, that didn’t change. The only thing that did change is that I graduated from crayon on walls to pen on paper. For that, my parents were grateful.

In my teen years, it was writing that helped me work through the tumultuous teen emotions and heartbreak. Many summer days, I lay in our little fishing boat, tied up to the dock, rocking as waves rolled up against the shoreline and lapped the bottom of the boat. I clutched my pen and paper and wrote poetry like there was no tomorrow. The words flowed endlessly. When I wasn’t in the boat, I was perched on the end of the dock, my feet dangling in the water, or plopped on my bed in my basement bedroom, crafting more poetry.

Fishing Boat
Fast forward a few years. I was still writing when I got pregnant with my first son. I penned 2 ½ novels (yup, not just 2, but 2 ½), which are still in boxes in my home office. I took a few writing classes, too. Then came my second son. The writing stopped. There was no spare time.

When my second son was in high school, I got my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. While everyone else was impressed, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. My heart longed for the days when I was a writer.

When my second son graduated from high school, I followed my dream. I got back to writing and haven’t looked back. While I still maintain a day job in the legal field, my true calling, my avocation, is writing.

As I think about the journey to where I am now—five published books, two more in the works—there are three suggestions I have for beginning authors.

1.) Find a writing community, or even one or two other writers. Non-writers, family and friends included, think we just sit down, write and voila! A book appears. A non-writer can’t possibly know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a piece of creative fiction—or non-fiction. And if that’s the only mindset you’re subjected to and hearing on your writing journey, you’ll start believing it yourself. Eventually you’ll start to think of yourself a failure when you’re unable to just sit down and magically produce a novel.

Additionally, the non-writer can view writing as a waste of time unless the writer is making a lot of money. You may hear that you should be spending your time on something more worthwhile, something “important,” whatever that means. “Important” means different things to different people. Writing is hugely important to me. And if you’re a writer, it will be to you, too. It’s not about how much money we make (though, I imagine you wouldn’t catch any of us complaining if we made a dollar to two), it’s about a need to express the creative side that’s burning inside of us. And it’s work. Hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

That being said, not all non-writers think this way. And if you feel they are, it’s important to ask yourself if there’s any validity to your feelings or if it’s your own insecurity and self-doubt that makes it feel that way. We writers are frequently tormented with self-doubt. It’s what many of us do best. Either way, let it go. If you don’t already, you’ll soon have a writing community reminding you you’re not alone. 

2.)  Plan your week and schedule in writing time. When first starting out, set a timer and just write. Don’t get up under any circumstance. Not for anything. This exercises your butt-in-chair muscle, even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time. And don’t open the Internet to check anything. Your email will still be there when you’re done with your writing session, and your Facebook likes will still be there waiting. Even hard-core social media addicts can stay away for 15 minutes. If not, invest in Freedom. After you’ve created a habit of writing, play around to discover which method most accommodates your lifestyle—continue with timed writing sessions, decide on a set number of pages per day, word count goals, etc.

3.)  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the writing industry. We all have mentors and people we admire in the writing industry (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Joanna Penn) but don’t strive to be just like them. You are you. And you are fabulous. You have something unique to contribute to the reading world. And it would be a waste to deprive the world of that because you’re trying to be like someone else. As well, comparing yourself to other writers is the kiss of death. I struggle with comparisonitis as much as the next person, but I recognize it for what it is and kick it to the curb as soon as I realize that it’s trying to sink its fangs into my writing life.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

And now it’s back for week three of Camp NaNo and more virtual camping.

Bonfire-Brainerd

Carpe Diem

Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing

Book
Indie publishing used to hold a certain stigma, but that’s no longer so. It’s become more widely recognized as a legitimate publishing option, and rightly so, as there’s a lot of work that goes into it. An indie author doesn’t just throw words on the page and hit “publish.” Well, they shouldn’t anyway. Not if they want to truly respect the writing and reading community and want to attract a readership. Readers are smart and savvy. They will catch, in a heartbeat, a work of art that’s not art at all.

Writers who travel along either publishing road start out the same way—words on the page. After the initial draft, each must edit to make it the best they possibly can. It’s that simple and that hard. From there the road forks and each individual writer must decide which scenic drive they want to take.

Country Road
Below are some of the pros and cons of each. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so a little homework might be needed in order to make a fully informed decision.

Traditional Publishing Pros:

  • You won’t have to pay for editing or cover art. That being said, it’s still a splendid idea to pay someone to edit your piece before submitting it to an agent. At least if you want a positive response.
  • Validation—some writer’s may need (or simply want) someone to recognize their work and desire to represent them. Writers, in general, are an insecure group. We’re always looking at others’ successes and wonder if we will ever get there. “There” is something you will want to spend some time thinking about. Where is your “there” that you would like to eventually like to be? Search those authors who are at your “there” and find out how they got “there.”
  • Some help marketing. I say some because these days even traditionally published authors are held responsible for their own marketing.

Traditional Publishing Cons:

  • Much lower royalties—some authors get an advance and their royalties work against that advance. Once they’ve earned royalties that add up to the amount they received in said advance, they begin to earn additional royalties. If they reach that point. Many do not. It’s not uncommon for small presses not to pay their authors an advance.
  • No Control—authors have little to no control over their cover art or even the manuscript itself.
  • No rights—traditionally published authors sign away the rights to their work. It no longer belongs to the author, but to the publishing house.
  • Lengthy process—Once it’s been acquired by a publisher, it could take several months, sometimes even years, to finally see your book on the shelves.

Indie Publishing Pros

  • High royalties—by publishing your eBook on Amazon, you will net 70% royalties if your book is priced from $2.99 and up.
  • You maintain all rights. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with your books. You can price them to your liking, give them away in contests if you wish, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
  • Total control—your content and cover art are completely yours. You call the shots. It’s a great deal for those of us Type A’s who need control.
    Once you hit publish, (after you’ve gone through the necessary editing, that is) it only takes hours to a few days for your book to be out there for the world to read.

Indie Publishing Cons

  • Many contests will not accept indie submissions.
  • Solo marketing—Marketing is yours. It’s a learning curve, as is the indie process in general. And once you think you’ve mastered it, there is something new that comes out. The bonus, however, is there are numerous sites out there to help you. My absolute favorite is thecreativepenn.com.
  • You foot the cost for editing and cover art – Neither of these are things you want to skimp on. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, even if you aim for traditional publishing, you would do yourself a huge favor by paying for someone to edit your work before you submit to an agent.

If you’re on the fence about which road is right for you, take the time and make a list of the pros and cons. Not a mental list, but an actual written list. It helps to physically see it in front of you. Find as many pros and cons of each as you can. Then make a list of the top five of which are most appealing to you, those that define what success means to you. Still can’t decide? You don’t have to choose just one. There are many authors who have chosen the hybrid model, which is both traditional and indie.

I, personally, love the indie route. I love the team I work with, having control of my product, and maintaining my rights. Would I like the validation of being accepted by an agent and a publishing house? Of course. But that’s not at the top of my list. And at times when I do yearn for that validation, I remember a line from the movie Cool Runnings:

“Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” -Irv (Cool Runnings)