Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Do You Measure Success?

For the sake of argument, let's agree that our personal lives and family fall into a different category from our writing life. Okay? So, with that out of the way, how do you measure success in your writing life? Many of us are published, most of us are at least writing something, and some certain number probably considers themselves successful.

So, exactly what is your definition of success?
You might consider these categories of success:
A NUMBER of books published.
A CATEGORY that has sold a nice amount.
A SERIES in which readers ask, "What will happen to...so-and-so?"
A SERIES that has taken off and hit best seller lists on Amazon.
A CONTRACT for the manuscript of your dreams.

I'm sure we can name other situations in which we say to ourselves, "Wow. I am now successful! I feel so good about myself and my writing!"

For me, I find I can't even answer my own question. In truth, I don't feel successful, but I feel very good about myself...at certain times...and always, always look ahead and think...What if? Suppose? Imagine?

As of this week, my biggest selling story is a 99 cent Dime Novel from Victory Tales Press, titled Addie and the Gunslinger.
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,887 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store) #27 in Books > Romance > Western
#58 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & Adventure
#72 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Action & Adventure

For me, this is a thrill, a lovely moment, a wonderful event. But does it represent true SUCCESS? Not really. I'm certain there's something more to this thing called "success."

I watched the Academy Awards Sunday Night, and just loved the presentations and seeing the stars
all dressed up, and waiting in anticipation to learn the winners. Each person up for an award, in my  opinion, was already successful. But did you watch George Clooney's face?
This was really his big moment, his big chance for an academy award, and from what I read,
this movie was his shining glory. It was his turn!

 But a foreigner took the Oscar. I was sick for George Clooney. And from the look on his face, he felt like...a loser. Didn't he? His disappointment was written all over his face. Still, don't we see him as successful? Yes, of course! But...he did not see himself that way at all at that moment.

 Success. Such an elusive, emotional, gut-wrenching feeling.

How do you measure success?
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas  


  1. I felt sorry for George Clooney too - I thought he had a good chance of winning.

    I don't feel successful as a writer when I think about the number of books I've sold. I had such high hopes when I rec'd 3 contracts withine ONE month from Samhain back in 2006. I was sure I'd sell lots of books because I spent time and money on promoting myself and releases. Although I receive royalties from all my books, it's not a great amount.

    However, I do feel success when I receive great reviews for my books and readers email me telling me how much they have loved my books. That keeps me going in spite of the lack of money success.

  2. Diane--I think this is a common feeling among many, if not most, authors. Not everyone can make a lot of money, but if we believe in ourselves and our writing,we keep going.Success is both tangible and intangible, and both have a certain worth in our lives. Yes, oh, yes, I'd love to make a lot of money, but while I'm waiting..haha...I'll take pleasure in the intangible--those good reviews and comments.

  3. Sometimes I find myself measuring my success on a daily basis through the little things. I long ago learned I had to love my craft more than money and top ten lists because it is a rare thing to actually make a living in this business, and although that is the ultimate goal, there are a lot of "little" successes along the way. Reader reviews or fan mail rank among the highest form of success for me. If I pleased a reader that bothered to let me know, I succeeded. If I met my writing goal for the day or week, I succeeded. If I received comments on my blog post for the day, I succeeded. Through these things I reached someone that day or took a step in reaching someone. I succeeded if not for a day. Good post and thought provoking. :)

  4. Love the dime novels. My mom had bunches of them from her father and that is what I started out reading. As far as success - the moment I felt successful as a writer was the day I could pay the utility bill with my writing earnings. That was a defining moment. Great post, Celia!

  5. Celia, this is a wonderful post. On some days I feel successful, for instance when my Amazon royalties arrive. We can't measure ourselves by the same yardstick we use for others. Nora Roberts is my idea of successful, and I realize I will never get where she is. But I can't compare myself to her--I write as well and as much as I am able, and that is success for me. A fan emaio is just the pinnacle!

  6. To me, success is being read and making a difference in some way to those who read my books. I have more of the second half of that than the first, so the trick is to get more of the first. ;-)

    Would I love to make an actual living with my writing? Sure! Who wouldn't want to make a living at what they most love doing? But most of us don't. Most people have to make a living doing something they can stand to do for enough hours per week to pay the bills. Those people are still a success because they're paying their bills, and especially if they can also fit in doing some things they love along with it.

    So.. how I measure my own success? *shrug* I guess I don't. I don't track sales much. I don't keep up with where I am on what list except on a rare occasion if I happen to notice. I most want comments by readers saying they read one of my books and it made some difference to them.

    On the other hand, when I do see my name at the top of some list or one of my books doing well on some site, oh yes, that does feel... okay, successful. ;-)

  7. Lila--yes, the "little successes" are often the most important--or perhaps THE most important. How many of us will experience that HUGE success--not many, but every one of us has our own way of measuring. Thanks for your thoughful response!

  8. L--the publisher, Rebecca Vickery, thought of using the old term Dime Novel for our 99cent 22,000 Word Western romances. It's been a big hit, a great attention-getter, and has earned some nice cash for me.

    I've said from the beginning I'd feel successful when I could buy a Mercedes with my royalties. But had to give up on that--it's not going to happen!
    Thanks for visiting!

  9. Caroline--that's the key, I think. Don't measure yourself against someone else's success. That's a great little lesson for all of us--thank you!

  10. LK--I agree that the best feeling is hearing a reader say something very nice about one of my books. It keeps me on a little high for a good while.
    I wonder, though, if we really would like to make a living writing. You maybe, and some others who are younger. But many of us don't want to make a living--or already have our living made--and so this is icing on the cake.
    This has a good and bad side--does my attitude demean the entire writing world? No, I hope not. It just puts us in different categories.
    Thank you--I always appreciate your comments.

  11. First of all, Celia, congratulations on hitting the big time list at Amazon!!! You're cookin' with bacon grease now, girl.

    The ultimate measure of success--when your work is the subject of fanfiction. :) That means your story world has really made an impression on your readers. I don't see anyone writing fanfic about my story worlds yet. But maybe...

    Truth is, I don't feel successful, either, but when I get a 5-star review (MAAM just got a new one a few minutes ago), then that gives me momentum to keep going.

    In fact, sometimes success could be defined as whether or not I do keep going. A few weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel, but Caroline said something on a blog that gave me enough enthusiasm to write two chapters. LOL. So I guess I live for praise, shallow as that may be. And praise coming from someone so talented is a double bonus.

    I'll never forget how shocked I was when someone who wasn't related to me and had never met me wrote a 5-star review on Amazon for my first book. I had one review and the reader actually liked the book. Amazing. Still makes me feel good. :)

  12. Excellent post, Ceila. Yes you are successful. Enjoy your moment. For me success is when I receive a nice email from a fan. That's my wow moment.

  13. Jacquie--oh, never quit! You have such a unique wit and manner of speaking--even in comments! Haha.
    There's an expression I never heard.
    We can always find someone who is more talented than we are...and we can also learn that we can write better than many others, too. So, you know you're not on the top, and you're not on the bottom,but since I've always been a middle of the road kind of gal, I suppose this is where I'm happiest.
    Yes, to make these lists is a great deal of fun--like others things, I'll roll with it until it's over, and hope for something else....Thanks for your witty comment!

  14. MONA--any nice said to me, yes, is a real plus. I feel more successful when someone's jaw drops and says, "Wow. You're an author? That's just awesome!"
    Like Jacquie said, I guess I'm that shallow--in other words, I don't need much.

  15. Nice post, Celia. I consider my success in different ways, but the support from my friends makes me feel successful. When we went through the worst thing possible, the death of our daughter, it was friends who held us up and now with me being offered a publishing contract after 22 years, the outpouring of love and happiness from my friends was there again. It made me feel validated and like I could spin around the moon. Yes, being published was a dream and I hope I can be a successful author, but I already know my friends have taken me there.

  16. Celia, this was a very thought-provoking post, as usual and even more so. I keep reminding myself what a wise person said about the goal not being as important as the journey so I'm trying to enjoy every moment of it. I do set high standards for myself and I'm disappointed when I don't "measure up." And unfortunately, I think most of us, including me, feel that we are not really successful until we are paid well for what we do. And Congratulations on your success on Smashwords .99 books.

  17. Paisley--I had no idea. But yes, I understand your feelings. Friends, indeed, can make us feel so very wonderful and successful. I loved your term "spinning around the moon."
    Keep in touch with other authors, for when you're published they will become your world.
    Me, included. I'm here.

  18. Linda--isn't it odd that my financial "success" has come in the form of 99cent short novels?
    But like you, I still look for that monetary goal of success--money, money, money, makes the world go round. We do equate that with success in many cases.
    When we have a commodity to sell, then the amount must enter into the equation. Still, isn't the biggest thrill just seeing your words in print? Of course, it is!

  19. A very thought provoking post, Celia. And I agree with much of what others have said.
    I have five published books now, and thought I'd be jumping the moon - but no, it is the samll things, like reveiws from strangers, even the 'bad' reviews, if positively written give me pleasure because someone cared enough about my book to explain why I failed to satisfy them and thus I can take their words on board.
    One kind of success is what you make it, I think.

  20. Sherry--I like your saying "success is what you make it." That should be a slogan on your blog--or mine! Very good.
    In a way, all of us are traveling on the same path and have the same goals..with some variations, of course. It's nice to stop once in a while and think about where we're going. Thanks so much for stopping by...

  21. Hi Celia, Forgive me for being late. Sometimes I get caught in a time warp and forget to check in with the world. The things you mentioned that are the hallmarks of commercial success sound good to me.

    But I offer that there are two kinds of success, external and internal. All of us yearn for the external kind because it is a validation that we're not the conductor on the crazy train. The internal kind of success is a form of self-love. If we enjoy our work and feel productive, we achieve higher status in our own eyes.

    I fall into both camps. I long for the external hallmarks, that outside acceptance, but I know that opinions are subjective. I am often the most objective about my status of success. In publishing, it's all about what comes next. It irks me when I can't give a good answer to that question.

    Good, thought-provoking post!


  22. I don't feel successful as I am going along -- all I can see from day to day is what I *didn't* get done that day. But when I stop and look back, over the course of a year, a month, or even a week...that's when I feel successful.

  23. Great post, Celia. What is success in the writing realm? I would have to say success for me will be when my writing pulls in enough income to live on. Yes, writing is an art and I enjoy doing it, however, it takes work. Hard work. Do I write with only the goal of money in mind-no. But earning a decent wage for my effort would validate the time and skill I've put into storytelling.

  24. Maggie-I would never have thought of two kinds of successes..at least not these two kinds. You have a real insight into how people's psyche works, that's for sure. Of the two--external and internal-- the internal may in the end mean the most to us as humans. How many of us have "self-love?"I bet not many. We're usually harder on ourselves than anyone else.
    Thank you so much for this excellent answer.

  25. Liana--You should listen toyour own advice, that I took from you a couple of years ago. If I don't remember anything else about you I'll remember how you gave a simple method of keeping up with tasks for the day, for the week, so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. I still use this little method, and so I can feel a measure of success each day. Thanks for your comment.

  26. Zequetta--I applaud you for having a firm goal--writing as a career. I fear too many of do not see it that way, but if we did maybe we'd be not only better authors, we'd be more successful as far as income goes.I wish you much success in your writing!

  27. I guess I don't think about success connected to my writing. I have a goal and each time I meet that goal, I attain a measure of success. Each goal of course, becomes more and more challenging. I hope that each book I write is a bit better than the last.
    Writing makes me happy and brings me a feeling of accomplishment and that, in itself, is success.

  28. I thought I was "successful" when people would write and ask me about any upcoming releases...or when they wanted to know if a certain character would get his/her own story. Or when someone says "this goes on my keeper shelf." But my greatest success came from a personal letter a reader wrote me telling me how much one of my books with a child who has Down syndrome had touched her heart because she also has a Down syndrome child.