How to Know When You’re a Successful Author?

How to know when you’re a successful author? I suppose almost every writer asks this at some point—and very likely at frequent points. There are multiple ways to define and measure the answer. For many of us, the answer seems come down to commercial success. And yet because commercial success is sometimes elusive, this metric often seems at least vaguely unsatisfactory.

Recently, Wordplayer Rhonda Denise Johnson emailed me the following thoughts on the topic:

If you haven’t already, would you be interested in doing an article on how to know when you’re a successful author? What is the sine qua non of a professional success? When you land a deal with a big publishing house? So, should indie authors count themselves out? When your aunt Harriet stops asking you when you’re going to get a job? To paraphrase a writer is not without honor except in his own house.

I sometimes feel discouraged because I’ve been disappointed by the quality of writing in one too many so-called best sellers. It leaves me feeling like excellence doesn’t matter in this industry as long as your books sell. What we do when we craft a novel seems too precious to be measured in dollars and cents like merchandise, vacuum cleaners, and cheeseburgers. How then should an author measure herself, and how does he know when he’s “made it” as an author?

Rhonda’s email reminded me that I did, in fact, write a post on this topic: How to Tell if Your Book Is a Success. I wrote it at a time when my own career was relatively young and when I was earnestly asking the same questions of myself. My personal take on the subject remains pretty much the same as when I wrote that post, but since it’s been ten years (!), I decided it might be worth revisiting the topic, for myself as much as anyone.

Why Do We Feel It’s So Important to Be a Successful Author?

Taken at face value, the question of “how to know when you’re a successful author?” offers some pretty basic and obvious answers:

  • When you’re published.
  • When you’re a bestseller.
  • When you make at least a comfortable amount of money.
  • When you’re famous.
  • When you achieve critical acclaim.

However, as soon as we drill down to any depth, what is also obvious is that all these answers speak to entirely different experiences within the publishing journey. For instance, just because you’re published does not mean your book will sell, provide you a living, or be widely read. And as Rhonda pointed out, just because you’re a widely-read millionaire does not mean you will necessarily achieve universal critical acclaim.

Right away, we can see that perhaps one of the reasons “how to know if you’re a successful author” is such an unceasing question for writers is that there really isn’t a solid answer. That said, the one thing that all these answers have in common is that they are pointing to the experience of writing something that finds external validation. At first glance, we might think this simply points to the need for ego gratification, but I think if we go down yet another layer, we find that what writers are really seeking from these forms of external validation is simply a sense that what we’re doing has meaning.

We all write for many different reasons. But mostly I’d venture that, under it all, we write for two reasons:

1. To share ourselves.

2. To impact others.

Both of these objectives, however unconsciously measured, are foundational to the human’s need to feel that who we are and what we do has meaning—that our time in this life matters in some way. But both of these are highly abstract and thus difficult to measure. You may write something that changes my entire life, but you’ll probably never know it. In fact, I may not even know it. I may read your words, internalize them unconsciously, and never realize they were the fulcrum on which my future just turned. But it doesn’t matter if either one of us fully realizes what just happened. What you wrote—who you are—just mattered. I’d say that makes you a successful author. And yet… you may never know it. Certainly, you can’t measure it.

And so, we usually turn to more concrete measures of success, as defined by whether others are willing to read our work, publish our work, pay us for our work, and praise us for our work.

These are all entirely legit metrics of success, particularly if our abstract motivations are also driving eminently practical goals such as making or supplementing a living. But if we focus our definitions of what it means to be a successful author entirely on practical metrics, it can be easy to discount our true and deeply personal definitions of success.

My Evolving Definitions of What It Means to Me to Be a Successful Author

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel (Amazon affiliate link)

When I wrote my original article, pondering what it meant to be a successful author, I was about four years into the biz of being an indie author. I’d published two novels, neither of which had gone gangbusters, and my first writing-craft book, Outlining Your Novel, which had done well. It was a time when I was beginning to find the culmination of some of the more practical definitions of success, while also coming to terms with areas in which my career was not looking like the poster version. I was just starting to make enough money to be able to write full-time, and yet indie authors were still largely viewed as “less than.” Particularly since I wanted to be a full-time novelist, not a full-time non-fic writer, I sometimes felt conflicted.

Time went on, and the website continued to grow. I published more novels that met with only moderate sales and more writing guides that continued to sell solidly and allow me to launch into being a full-time writer. By most practical metrics, I could view myself, at least as an entrepreneur and non-fiction writer, as successful.  I had accomplished many my goals, and yet the “success” finish line always seemed out of reach. I began to realize that continuing to measure my success by outside metrics was a never-ending treadmill. There were always better sales rankings to achieve, a higher income to chase, more awards to seek. Wherever “there” was, I’d never reach it. There was always more external validation to seek.

In short, my experience has been that defining success is a slippery thing. Even if you reach the baseline of what popular consensus agrees is “successful,” this doesn’t automatically mean you will have found either personal or perpetual success.

So how do I define a successful author—both for myself and others?

Certainly I factor in external metrics. By most commonly agreed-upon definitions, success does entail publication and decent sales. If I see an author who checks those boxes, there’s a little “success” light that goes on in the back of my brain. But the light also goes on when I read a little-known indie work or an unpublished novel and it’s awesome. And that light also goes on when I hear from writers who by their own definition have reached success, whether this means finishing a first draft, self-publishing, or even simply writing something for themselves that helped them find personal healing or happiness.

In short, I believe the single most important metric in knowing whether or not you’re a successful author is first and foremost getting super-clear on your definition of “success.”

How to Define Your Own Success as an Author

Why are you writing? It’s a question with a multiplicity of answers. But if you can dig down to the root, you’ll probably discover the essence of your own definition of success.

Most of us write primarily because it scratches a deep-down itch. But you are also likely writing because you want external validation.

For you, maybe it’s enough just hearing that a reader had fun reading your story or was moved by it. Or maybe, for any number of reasons, you want writing to be a lifestyle—and you need it to pay for itself. Or maybe you just want to feel your own joy and excitement about your story mirrored back to you in excited reviews.

Whatever the case, try to get as specific about your reasons as possible. Then create a personal metric that can act as both your mission statement and your measuring rod as you journey forth to seek success. Most likely, you will find that you have many layers of metrics, some of which will evolve with you as time passes. Examine not just your own goals (i.e., finish the first draft, get published, get 10 reviews, sell 1,000 copies), but also how you define other writers as successful. In your view, are only the super-famous such as Stephen King successful? Are only books about serious topics successful? Are only traditionally-published authors successful?

There are no wrong answers. There are only your answers. For instance, if you realize you need the stamp of a traditional publisher in order to feel successful, that’s probably a sign that, at least at this point, you should steer clear of publishing your book independently. If you realize you feel a certain dollar sign is your definition of success, then you can distill your goals to help you leverage your marketing. If your primary reason for writing is simply self-expression, this may help you feel successful even if external validation is lacking.

For me, two realizations are paramount in helping me define my own success.

One is that success is a moving target. At one point, selling 1,000 books seems like success, but after you’ve reached that, the definition may change into selling 10,000 books, 100,000, even 1,000,0000 or more.

Second, “success” is only the point insofar as it offers a reward. That reward may be simply the sheer practicality of keeping the electricity turned on. Or it may be the need to prove something to yourself—that you can write a book, publish a book, sell a book, share a book that matters to people. When whatever it is ceases to offer personal validation, it can no longer be used as a benchmark.

The pitfall to be avoided is identifying ourselves with any one definition of success—and especially if that definition comes from someone other than ourselves. Success, in the end, doesn’t matter. It comes and it goes. Only a few of the authors you now see ranking on Amazon will be remembered past their own lifetimes. To use metrics such as sales, reviews, etc., to calibrate our goals is one thing, but to define our identities as “successful” or “unsuccessful” based on these things misses the true heart of what it means to live a meaningful life as an author.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What is your metric for how to know when you’re a successful author? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Lea B Morris says

    Fantastic, meaningful discussion. it’s a valid question across the board, not just in writing. Thank you!

  2. Michael Morris says

    I’m a retired pastor; seven years ago I self-published a non-fiction on prophecy. My wife was the sole proofer. Well read friends commented they saw very few typos’s and found the content readable, engaging and understandable. We gave away and sold 500 copies. Most importantly, I felt good about our book, I— we felt successful with that book.

    Fast forward, I’m now working on a trilogy fiction series; resurrecting a character from an unpublished story of 40 years ago. Two books are drafted, one just about ready for self-publishing. This time, due to internet education we have used beta readers. Tools like ProWriter have helped us tremendously. What will be success this time? My goal isn’t to sell books; we have a story to tell about one man’s journey of discovery and finding love horizontally and vertically.

    We intend to self-publish. We are working on an audio book and will post a chapter by chapter video/audio to YouTube of our recording the audio. We will also publish the book in serial form on our web-site. Our goal isn’t to sell books; our goal is to get the journey of discovery in the hands of as many as possible. We’re hoping for 500 readers, and listeners. Even if we don’t hit that goal, we’re pleased with the book, dare I say proud? Yes we’re please and proud of our joint project. As we celebrate our 50th this April we’ve also had a lot of fun and laughs in our writing and life journey.
    Peace and Hope,
    Michael

  3. I crave growth, more than any finish line. First of all, let’s acknowledge that there are so many stories of best-selling authors who were miserable—Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf. These are writers who will be remembered for their works forever, and yet I don’t envy them; I rather pity them. Clearly that blissful feeling of success we think will come (and last) from finishing a wonderful novel is a pipe dream at best, a damning lie at worst.

    For me, success is being able to support myself and my craft, so that I can constantly grow as a person and as a writer. If the money is coming from a day job, that’s fine. In fact, it makes it easier for me to write the truth as I see it, and make it less likely that I’ll be paralyzed by writer’s block. When I think “Oh, maybe this story will make some money!” I become incapable of writing. But when I know that I have the ability to make money working whatever and whenever I need to work, I write freely.

    You say, “I had accomplished many my goals, and yet the ‘success’ finish line always seemed out of reach.”

    Yes! Isn’t that the point of a finish line? To help us grow, and run the next race, then we celebrate and get our mangos and water bottles, and then we sign up to run another. Growth is success. Never-ending, continuous improvement. That first time I hit “The End” on a story—what a feeling! Then pursuing the next goal, a larger piece of work, and hitting that finish line again. What a feeling! Writing an outline and following it—yes! I have grown again! Writing by the seat of my pants and finishing! Wonderful success! That next incremental goal is a delight to me: to choose, to pursue, to meet, to choose again. There are so many things to work on: diction, structure, characters. Can I write a piece of fiction that will make my husband laugh? Can I write a piece of fiction that will make my sister cry? I choose my challenge and go my merry way.

    While many writers dream of being full time novelists, I think what we really want is flexibility of schedule. That’s what I wanted at least! So for me, in finding a way to support myself that offers ultimate flexibility, and then creating a writing habit that enables me to write every single day, I have created my dream life before ever successfully publishing a single word.

    Yes, I write for others, but first, I write for myself. I write fiction to heal deep wounds that I can’t face head on. Often, it isn’t until the story is well underway that I realize why I wrote it in the first place. Writing is my way of becoming a better person every day.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “For me, success is being able to support myself and my craft, so that I can constantly grow as a person and as a writer.”

      I LOVE this!

  4. annegreening7365 says

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article. It brought on a severe attack of eheu fugaces, and philosophising on the impermanence of fame. I came late in life to the joys of writing fiction, and the achievement of authorship. Perhaps it was because of my age; or the absence of the necessity of earning my living (my modest pension meets my creature needs) that I have never chased the chimera of “success” – however it is measured. I write because I love playing with words, and because I am at heart a raconteur

  5. annegreening7365 says

    apologies – I inadvertently posted in mid-sentence. To continue… I have come to the conclusion that my AIM in writing is to have an enjoyable activity to fill my days, as my physical boundaries shrink with age, and incidentally to exercise my brain to protect it from fossilisation.. My motivation, and my yardstick of SUCCESS is attaining the apex of Mazlow’s pyramid, and the achievement of self-actualisation. Yes, I don’t deny that I get a buzz from a sale, and from a good review; from calling myself an Author; and a major – albeit brief – high for typing “the end” on a manuscript.

  6. I’m fascinated that you were successful and were unsatisfied with that success. I’m reminded that McKee and some other screenwriting instructors barely have one onscreen credit. But like an iceberg, below the surface they have many more screenplays that were sold that weren’t produced.

    Success means the vicious inner critic I have loses all their credibility.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Unsatisfied” is perhaps the wrong word. It was more a realization that true success is much more encompassing than I had originally realized.

  7. Great post! Though I wanted to write a book from the time I was 11 or 12, I actually started writing (at 38) to help put our kids through college. All four of our kids are now college grads with no student loans so I’m going to call that a success. When I first started writing, traditional publishing was the only goal I would have considered a success. Now that I’ve had a few dozen books traditionally published and have the rights back to some of those, I’m happily reissuing them independently (and actually making more on them than I did with the original versions.) The target has definitely moved and there’s freedom in having achieved early goals that now allows me to take some risks.

    One thing you mentioned only briefly but that was a very big part of me considering myself successful was awards. I’ve never seen myself as super competitive (and still don’t) but winning awards for my writing, or even merely being a finalist in contests, really helped me feel validated as a “real” author.

  8. John Archer says

    K.M.
    How do get your writings in print?

  9. John Archer says

    I would like to purchase Outlining Your Novel, along with the workbook, but in print format. Is this possible?

  10. Eric Troyer says

    Nice post, Katie. I had my doubts when I read the blog title, but you dealt with it well. Now, what does it mean to be successful in life? Or maybe you already answered that. 😉

  11. Carolyn Rae Williamson says

    Thanks for a thought provoking article. Now, I will ponder for myself what success should mean for me. Like Anne Greening, I am older, have an income, and do not have time to achieve bigger goals. I am proud to be a hybrid publisher with ten novels in print and a published cookbook. However, I am hot at work, trying to prepare a submission for Hallmark.

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful post. Blindly focusing on external success as the only metric vs. understanding my goals & recalibrating them over time makes sense.

    I love word crafting as I imagine architects love designing buildings. One day, I hope my writing will invite readers to explore my worlds, learn something new, even about themselves, and feel more joy & perhaps wisdom. Quite the pursuit!

    After publication, I’ll likely set some new goals.

  13. Excellent post and food for thought, Katie! As a 100% Indie novelist now (5 years in), I have my own list of “success goals.” And because I primarily consider myself a “packager of information and entertainment,” one target of “success” for me is having a TV/movie adaptation made of my content. And I’m in negotiations for that right now with one of my novel titles. Whether or not this project actually makes it to a large or small screen is unknown, but as I see it, I’ve already succeeded in that one area.

  14. I haven’t sold many books, but when I run into a child in my hometown who asks me when the next book in the series is coming out, then I feel successful.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s definitely a cool feeling. 😀

    • Colleen F. Janik says

      Sandralena Hanley, that would be the most wonderful feeling ever to write books that children love to read. I have such fond memories of many of the books I read as a child and have gone back and purchased copies of them for my grandchildren. And I have reread them myself. Still wonderful.

  15. Grace Dvorachek says

    At a time in my life when what I formerly viewed as “success” seems far out of reach, this post encouraged me to keep moving ahead. Not only that, but it caused me to remember why I really write—to glorify my Creator, perhaps changing a life or two in the process. And if I truly am fulfilling my reason for writing, then that is “success” enough for me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In so many ways, writing is really about the process. At least, that’s what keeps me coming back to the page time after time.

  16. Colleen F. Janik says

    What a thought-provoking subject! I see my current or future success as a writer on two different levels.
    On the one level, it would be nice if my husband could feel confident telling people that he’s married to a writer. He doesn’t do that yet. It’s like Ann Lamott said in her book, “Bird by Bird.” When she was already a well published author, she was traveling some where and someone asked her what she does for a living. She was reluctant to tell the woman that she’s a writer, but eventually did so. The woman was at first excited and asked her, “Oh, what’s your name? I’ve read everything that anybody has written!” Again Ann was fearful in sharing her name, but again, eventually told her, “Ann Lamott.” The woman looked at her blankly and then asked her, “Oh…I guess I’ve never heard of you.” I’m paraphrasing that a bit.
    No one wants to go through that!!!
    On the other level, there is the part of me who is satisfied with the articles I’ve gotten published and even letters to the editor, because, you know what? Those touch lives, too. To me that’s what it’s what it’s all about.
    I have a few books I’m working on and one of them I would love to see made into a movie because I feel so strongly about how the subject matter can truly speak to women in particular.
    In any case I will a sense of ‘completion’ when these books are off to a publisher.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sometimes it’s the “small” things we write that end up making a bigger impact than those we think will be our “big” projects.

  17. My ultimate marker of success is something I’ll never know if I’ve achieved: being read/shared over a thousand years after my death. So it’s not useful for making day-to-day decisions, or even broader strategic decisions. However, keeping that in mind helps me keep perspective on my ‘minor’ success goals. Well, it does affect my decisions in one way: when I’m on the fence between something that’s good in the short term and something that is good in the long term, having ‘being read/shared in a thousand years’ as my ultimate success marker pushes me to err on the long-term side.

    Having ‘minor’ markers of success is useful for motivation, planning, and figuring out what is working. For example, a minor success I had was to get five readers to read my manuscript from beginning to end even though I sent it to them in chunks and, before I sent them the next chunk, I reminded them they could drop out no justification necessary. My goal was to only get three out of five beta readers to completion, so five out of five felt really good (I was also lucky in that none of them had life circumstances which forced them to quit, something I have no control over).

    I’m glad you pointed out that defining what we count as ‘success’ in other authors is also helpful. For example, I don’t consider getting traditionally published to be especially successful it itself. Between an indie author who has sold 10,000 copies and a traditionally-published author who has sold 8,000 copies, and all else being equal (let’s say their books are equally well-written), I’d consider the indie author to be more successful.

    I also want money for mundane reasons.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “a minor success I had was to get five readers to read my manuscript from beginning to end even though I sent it to them in chunks and, before I sent them the next chunk, I reminded them they could drop out no justification necessary.”

      A clever goal! So often writers get frustrated with beta readers who quit or are slow, but making it a challenge for ourselves to hook them is a great way to flip the script into something useful.

    • @Sara K.: I thought I was thinking long-term at 500 years, but you’ve got me beat!

  18. I have self-published two books and am perfectly fine with never being on the Best-Seller list anywhere. I felt I had reached some form of success when I had several people tell me I made them cry with my writing. They connected with a character I created from thin air and they were invested in the story. I was able to touch someone with my words. I call that a win. Being able to write on an almost daily basis, see a story fleshed out and shared in some manner… someone looking for a story based on a particular interest/genre/time period can now find it out in the world… all success in my world. I never set out to be a writer to be rich. I am a writer because there are stories to tell.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I had several people tell me I made them cry with my writing.”

      That’s the best! 😀

  19. Thanks for this post. I love all of it! You are so right about success not being a fixed point. And neither are we. We grow and change as writers, so of course our idea of success will grow and change with us. I needed this reminder today.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “And neither are we.”

      To me, that’s the key point right there. “Success” is an ever-moving target, simply because we are constantly surpassing or at least evolving our own ideas of success.

  20. A thoughtful post. My definition of success, besides sales, is validation of my writing, especially by other authors. I don’t have many reviews, but those I do have are generally positive. And from writers I respect.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, there are certainly different layers of validation to be had from different kinds of reviews.

  21. As always, thoughtfully written. I began writing twenty years ago (when did that happen?). My day job was steadily shifting from being a software developer to being more of a project manager, and while I didn’t think of it this way, I think writing was a way of bringing more creativity into my life. Coding is not as creative is writing fiction, but it’s more creative than writing status reports! For several years, I’ve been working toward being a novelist with the thought that one day I’ll retire and a little extra income will help me do things like travel. Well, one day is now something less than four years away, and I’m not sure I’ll have knocked down the novel writing process by then. I’m going to keep chasing it, but mainly because I’m blessed to be in a position where I can allow myself to enjoy the chase.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever thought that much about whether or not I was a successful author. It would be different if my family depended on my writing, but for me the main thing is to be a contented writing. For the most part, I enjoy the writing process, and feel that I eventually come up with pretty decent stories, it just takes me a while, but I have no delusions of genius. Most of all, it’s important to me that my writing be fair to my family and consistent with my faith (not trivial when you believe you are called be an overflowing vessel of love). So far no one above or beside me has asked me to stop, so I think I’m ok in that way.

    Well this has meandered. I think my point here is that for some of us, contentment is a better goal than success. At this point, I do not see myself as a successful writer, but I am a happy one, and that’s not such a bad deal.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “A contented writer.”

      I like that, and I think it provides the perfect counterpoint to the quandaries of “a successful writer.” Mic drop.

      • I hate to cut in on a mic drop, but I have a story you might like. Years ago, I worked in Europe for a few months, and had a couple of meals with a Belgian family. One of the things they pointed out is that while in America, people ask “are you full?” after dinner, but in Belgium it was “are you contented?” It struck me that that was such a sane approach to eating, though it didn’t stop me from continuing to struggle with my weight. It also struck me that aiming for contentment rather than gluttony can apply to many areas of life. It’s not the road to fame and fortune, just happiness.

  22. Colleen F Janik says

    It’s the end of the day, and I’ve just reread this post and a lot of the comments. It’s so good, it was worth rereading! Very inspiring and uplifting. Thank you again!

  23. I think I have different ideas of success for myself and for my books. Success for me means continuing to produce good books.
    Success for the books – well, going out into the world as a good book is something, but I think deep down my measure of success for a book is that it earns more money than I spent to produce it. Something which so far only one of my books has done. That doesn’t mean my other two books are failures, just that they haven’t met that criterion of success yet.

  24. Tom Youngjohn says

    Best to get validation from Jesus, from God.

  25. Victoria Leo says

    One of the great joys of age is that you stop looking for validation. If it comes from external as well as internal sources, it’s nice – but it’s dessert, not the main course. Can’t live on dessert. I wrote non-fiction as part of my entrepreneurship, and both clients and bookstore buyers gave it the accolade of buying it and telling me how valuable it was.

    Then I started reading Katie’s books on fiction writing and did my first successful novel, a lifelong dream, in 2019. Pandemic, lots of time to write (and retired now, so no distractions) and I conceived a 7 book series. Books 1-4 in print, #5 in progress, #6 outlined and #7 in draft. [I needed to know the endpoint in order to craft the leadup books.] My goal was to entertain my husband. Planned readership: 1.

    I am successful, in any realm of life, when I can look at my ‘result’ and see quality, excellence. I know it when I see it. It feels right. The outside readers? Funny thing, because of the pandemic, I have just focused on writing and the heck with marketing. My reviewers ended up being some store/Amazon readers + the friends and family who asked for copies. The latter I knew just wanted the first book to put on their shelf to feel good about their loved one. Three of them have never read science fiction in their lives and were sure they’d hate it but wanted an author-copy freebie just cuz. One of them tells me how protagonist Kim has been guiding her through some major life stuff. [My novels are military-political and only in one book heavily family-drama, so the connection isn’t obvious.] Another one gets very emotional about the plot twists, the oh-so-satisfying ‘the characters are real to me” syndrome. One never-read-this-genre-before guy loves the biology and psychology of the aliens and the different planets. This crowd helps me stay on track by asking me every month, “How are you doing with the next book?” Aka “Dang, I gotta know what happens next.” And hubby has been vastly entertained and sane, a major victory as I will be in grave danger if I get COVID. Getting absorbed in the complex story has been sanity for us both.

    I taught a class at the local senior-college (OLLI) a couple of years back called How to Write for Non-Publication, to help folks to set aside our culture’s materialism for a bit, and explore all the types of writing that feed our souls, F and NF. In 2021, I expanded it to a big class on creativity of every imaginable kind, which also leaned on a NF book I had written in 2018. We all need $ to live, and if carefully crafting for an acquiring editor is how you do it, great. But I needed to remind people that every single aspect of their lives does not have to be driven by $.

    Best wishes to everyone on their journey!

  26. Thomas Walsh says

    Five thumbs up! Or is that five stars? In any case, wonderful insights. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Peter Moles says

    You are a successful author when:

    You write your first story.

    You have your first reader.

    What you have written is favourably reviewed.

    When more people read your work.

    Your work gets recommended as a read.

    You are published.

    You gain a reward from your effort.

    Perhaps there are other criteria not listed here.

    Peter

  28. When I published my first book, I got lucky, and in addition to the accolades it went into translation. Face to face I had several people say some version of this, and in a few instances almost these exact words: “This book changed my life and has improved my relationships—with myself, my family, everyone I meet now. Thank you. I feel happier.” There is NOTHING in the world that replaces that feeling, nothing—at least to me. And nothing can buy it. It felt like dragging myself across cut glass in a desert covered in ants to get that first book out, but those comments made it all worthwhile—forever. So, I keep going.

    🙂

  29. What an interesting topic. For me it’s about perspective and expectations. Funny, most of the responders that posted on this discussion are people I would considered to be successful writers. This, a perspective coming from a newbie who is currently in the “war room” plinking away and hashing out the first one.

    I am posting a little late and have no breathtaking proliferation to contribute other than to say that I believe my successes or failures are directly tied to my expectations. Since I am seeking to complete my first novel, my expectations weigh heavily toward the low end of the spectrum. Is my book good? I don’t know…some of it…maybe none of it. And the low end is exactly where expectations should be right now, even though I can feel myself getting better and my writing is improving the more I write…go figure.

    So what happens if once I complete this thing and others read it and actually like it? Validations! The reward of appreciation! For sure, my perspective would change (grow), and my expectations would naturally raise a degree or two. Still, I have to be careful. I have been a life-long and seasoned pipe dreamer who can tell the story of being discontent. Maturity has taught me that It usually means my perspective, or my expectations are out of whack.

    For now, keeping expectations on the low is vital to my sanity and keeps me looking forward to the “what if”. It helps to keep my perspective in check. To remain unassuming for as long as possible and not “seek” validation, but rather let it surprise and shock me if it wants to. I would never turn it away! But if none makes it my direction – I can tell you I won’t be damaged by the lack of it either.

    Katie, thank you for the great article and for spending your time helping us!

  30. Being published at all is good enough for me. For now.

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