Indie Authors: How do you define success?

What does success mean for independent authors?

Robust sales? (this, of course, needs defined)

An eventual publishing contract?

A certain number of reviews on Amazon?

One great letter from a reader who enjoyed your book?

More sales this year than last?

A blog that has an increasing reach?

I’m starting to think that success for independent authors might be defined differently by every single independent author. I’m sure there are those authors who are waiting for the big day when a novel finally breaks through the noise and sells tens of thousands of copies. That would be one type of success – commercial success.

And perhaps that is the motivation of some authors – fame, money, a traditional publishing deal, a house at Cape Cod, summer vacations in Santorini, etc…

I’m not opposed to money and selling books. Actually, I wouldn’t mind selling some more and increasing my bank account a little.

But I’m determined that the amount of sales or the amount of royalties will not define me and absolutely will not define whether or not I am a successful author.

Success for me is not one specific achievement, but it is, and can be, any number of tangible and even intangible results from my writing.

I remember the day I received my first rave-review on Amazon from a reviewer I didn’t know. That was success.

I remember the day I received an email from a reader who was personally moved and affected by one of my stories. That was a humbling success.

I remember the first free promotion I offered and a huge number of readers downloaded it. That was a success.

I remember my first reading, where busy people decided to come hear what this no-name author had to say.

I remember the day I finished my first novel. Then my second novel. Then my third. I edited them, re-read them and felt satisfied with the story I told. That was a success.

I remember when one of my plays won an award.

I remember when an audience member came down and greeted me with tears in their eyes because of one of my productions.

I remember when an artist drew an amazing piece of fan art based on a piece I had written.

I remember pushing myself last year, trying to find the write ideas to develop into a new dramatic production, doubting what I had created, only to hear reviews beyond belief.

I remember when I finished my fourth novel, and when the ideas for novels 5 and 6 popped into my head.

Every little step, every little piece of writing I’m satisfied with, every single reader who reads my works, every single person who clicks on my author page, every single individual who joins my promotional campaigns or shares one of my links.

Success isn’t measured in dollars or reach. It’s measured, at least for me, in the incremental minutia of the business. Every single small achievement is a small victory, a minor success.

Everyday I have to pursue my passion for writing is in and of itself the definition for success.

That’s what it means for me.

What about you?


28 responses to “Indie Authors: How do you define success?”

  1. I’ll tell you what success means to me. I’ve written a novel to keep my grandkids spirit alive on the digital world. Many successes to you.

    • The journey – that to me is the key. It’s so fun to see where I’ve come from. I have no idea where I’m going, but that’s okay! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Every one of the above. I haven’t finished my novel yet, but I do post short stories and if any one of them gives anyone pleasure of any kind, I’m inspired to write more. ❤ Thank you for this post.

  3. omg this is so wonderful. I have no words to describe what I felt reading this… but you are so right and I completely agree with you. Thank you so much for posting this. I think sometimes we can get lost and forget what really matters and what true success means. I think most people believe that success is making X amount of money, and that everyone is talking about your book. Yes, I am sure this is success too… But it is a very different type of success. I am so glad I read this, and it reminded me of why I write and love writing! 🙂

  4. Yes all those you’re satisfied with – NOW – but did you not have to adjust your scale along the way to take into consideration the realities of how much your books netted you vs your original expectation? Did you not hope for the big payday and have to adjust your commercial $uccess expectations to be more realistic and then be satisfied with that and with the other measurements of success ?

    • The concept of success is perhaps something that keeps evolving. But for me, I try to live in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing. Of course, I won’t cast aside greater commercial success. 🙂

      • Mark,
        Yes, it does, hopefully! I was doing some calculations for those of us who have had to mute the sound of cash registers going off: If a writer earns $5./copy per book, he would have to sell 6,000 copies to earn $30,000. If he wants to earn that in one year, which wouldn’t even allow him to quit his day job, that would be 16 copies per day, or 115 copies per week. I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation for most writers! So always enjoy the writing! Like you do, and enjoy that others enjoy your writing, too. It’s fantastic to be able to do that!! It’s success!

        Like the developer of the really popular css template I use says to us, “Buy me a cup of coffee!” 🙂 I’m often inspired by him because everybody loves his template but with the price of a cup of coffee, he’s lucky to get even that! 🙂

      • Ha ha! I was doing some calculations for those of us who have had to mute the sound of cash registers going off: If a writer earns $5./copy per book, he would have to sell 6,000 copies to earn $30,000. If he wants to earn that in one year, which wouldn’t even allow him to quit his day job, that would be 16 copies per day, or 115 copies per week. I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation for most writers, given this highly competitive situation now. You’re so blessed to be able to enjoy what you’re doing, to enjoy the writing for its own sake. (And your writing is good!)

      • Yes, those are kind of staggering numbers to think about. It is a good thing I enjoy it or I would definitely need to find a new hobby!

  5. As an author who quit his full time job to write just over a month ago, I still have NO idea what success looks like to me. Matter of fact, right now I’m trapped vacillating between exhilaration and self doubt. But I guess I’d like to one day make a living as an author. Not an extravagant or wealthy living, just survival comfortably.
    Great post!

  6. These are all good questions, but, mwsasse, haven’t you had to struggle with all those questions through each stage? Your answer with your first book might not have been your answer after your 3rd.

    I think we struggle with this our whole lives. (e.g. Many people have to stop at some point and redefine success in their terms, not in their parents’ terms, and so on.)

    Many writers will have to ask this question in terms of whether they have to support a family or not: They might not have the luxury of writing. Or they might. (I do.) My uncle, may he rest in peace, was a successful artist. He was able to sculpt and express his love of life through his sculpture – but to be able to support his family, he also needed the income he made from his sculpture PLUS a commercial design job. I do believe that, despite a lot of recognition, he would have liked more recognition for his artistic genius – and to have been able to not do commercial design. I can tell you I love getting good reviews but would I like sales? Or more sales? You bet!!!

    I’m tyhrilled to be getting good reviews and that people who read my book love it. And I also ask the question, “Can I afford to continue marketing my book until the book gets the sales & recognition that I think it can garner? Do I need to move on with something new? If so, what will that be? And when?

    Thanks for the post.

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