I’ve spoken about this before, but I think it’s a topic that can never get enough attention. In the world of independent authors, when we think about success we generally think about being in the NY Times Top Ten, winning an award or money. Now, I’m not talking about Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or J.R. Ward kind of money. I’m talking about the kind of money that pays for writing. Maybe even pays for a bill or two.
Let me give you an example.
A couple of weeks ago I had a Mary Kay representative here for a facial party. One of the things she said, “When I joined Mary Kay, I just wanted to earn enough to pay my car note. Nothing else, just my car note.”
She was able to do that and more, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took time for her to build her business and make it profitable. Authors have to set out to do the same thing, except we want to take it a step further. We don’t just want to earn the money, we want to be known or recognized authors.
Some new authors do everything right and they become what seems like instant overnight success stories. Look at E.L. James. We all know the writing is horrendous, yet this author has sold millions of books and all three have been turned into movies (which in my opinion were ten times better than the books.) Seeing something like that happen makes an independent author wonder, how do I compete? How can I be successful in this business with authors like that?
Then you have the new authors who do everything right AND still cannot find “success.”
What if I told you “success” is NOT SIMPLE?
It’s a convoluted and complex idea that differs from author to author. Some authors want the fame and fortune, some just want the fame, some just want the fortune, and some don’t care for any of it. They write because they enjoy writing.
Overnight sensations are the one-offs and we cannot compare ourselves to them. As independent authors who do it all (writing, editing, marketing, socializing, building teams, reaching out to fans) it is impossible to become an overnight sensation. That doesn’t mean it is impossible to succeed.
First, start by defining what success means to you. Here are some questions to answer to figure that out.
- What is it that you get out of writing? Is it joy from great reviews? Is it satisfaction from completing a project?
- Why are you writing? Are you writing because you have a story to share that is just bursting to get out? Or are you writing because you want to make some money?
- What are your goals? Do you want to be well-renowned? Financially dependent on your writing?
- How much time are you willing to put into it? Are you aware that it can be a thankless and time-consuming job?
- Do you always plan to independently publish?
- How much money do you want to put into it?
Some of these questions may not make any sense, but I promise they are accurate.
Think about it like this. There are thousands of people who come up with what they call “get-rich-quick” schemes. And most people know there is no real way to “get-rich-quick.” However, there are those who would argue that you can “get-rich-quick” by winning the lottery or going onto a television game, like Family Feud or Jeopardy.
But how much money do you waste on lottery tickets before winning even a small fraction of that back? If you do happen to win big, how much of that is the government going to get in taxes? And how many tickets did you have to buy to get there? Those dollars add up. For example, the cheapest lottery ticket is $1.00. If you buy $10 worth every two weeks, by the end of the year you will have spent $260.00 in lottery tickets. If you won nothing, then you have nothing to show for it.
Let’s apply that same theory to a book. Say you took that $260.00 and invested it in publishing a book. At the end of the year if you have had no sales, would you consider yourself successful?
I would. Because publishing that book in the first place is no easy task.
What if the following year you took that same $260.00 and applied it to marketing that book? Would you still consider yourself successful if you had no sales at the end of the year?
Your answer should be yes. Because you spent that year learning what worked and what didn’t work. So the next year you can improve.
And THAT is what makes success simple.
Success is nothing more than working toward a new and better goal and meeting that goal day after day, month after month, and year after year.
Yes, the concept of success is complex, but we have the power to make it simple by continuously reaching small goals and setting new ones.