How Do You Measure Success as an Author?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about today’s topic: What does it mean to be a successful author?

I think we all tend to measure success in terms of monetary gain. Let’s face it, our society is all about the mulah, so it’s instinctive to use this as the indicator of success. But I honestly believe that for most of us authors, there’s a lot more to it than that. We write to make a connection, to inspire others. To know that we’ve made a difference.

So, even if you haven’t made a lot of money as an author, who’s to say you’re not successful? An email from a fan, a conversation with an excited reader, a glowing review: in many ways those things last longer and mean more than money.

While it’s somewhat necessary to focus on money because, let’s face it, smiles and good will don’t pay the bills or put food on the table, money is not the only thing an author should think about. It’s those connections we make that really make a difference, and that’s what we’ll ultimately remember when we come to the end of the road and reflect back on our lives.

For you writers, I’d like to know, how do you measure success as an author?

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28 thoughts on “How Do You Measure Success as an Author?

    J. Paulette said:
    June 6, 2011 at 7:49 am

    This weekend it was when a total stranger noticed my name on my name tag at a writers conference and said, “I know you. I’ve read both your books and liked them.” My response was to gush, “Oh, wow, thank you.”

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Yup, personal recognition would be pretty darn exciting!

    Steven Konkoly said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:05 am

    I relish knowing that readers have enjoyed my story. Reviews on Amazon, emails…any kind of positive feedback can make my day. Personally, I’d like to increase the percentage of readers that either contact me directly, or post a review. At this point, over 5K readers have poured through my novel, but I’m always amazed that only about 2-3% have taken some form of action after reading. Improving this percentage would be my true measure of success. Does any one else have a rough percentage?

    Looks like you’ve been busy, Rosalie…must be excited for your release.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:26 am

      Thanks, Steven. A lot of good things going on.

      You know, I’m one of those culprits who reads voraciously but rarely posts reviews about it. I never considered how much an author might like to receive reviews or a fan letter until I became one myself. 🙂

    kayspringsteen said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

    For me, it’s kind of measured in increments. My first fan letter, each new person to like my fan page, and especially the connection when someone tells me they can relate to something I wrote.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Kay, I think it’s really smart to focus on each little connection there. They’re all steps to greater recognition as an author, and in an industry filled with such doubt, we need to focus on every little bit of hope.

    Mary George said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

    When the story in my head plays out just as lively on paper and still makes sense.

    Mary G.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:56 am

      That rarely happens for me, Mary, LOL. Usually I’m frustrated because the words don’t perfectly match my vision, and I have to spend a lot of time trying to finess the scene.

    Mary George said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Not sure why a grimace showed up, but it was a happy comment.:-))

    Mary G.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:57 am

      Heh. 🙂 I guess it’s the wordpress bot assigning random scowls to avatars.

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    June 6, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I don’t know how I measure success. Sales are only a small, albeit welcome, part. I guess I measure personal success by the quality of my work. If I like the book and my husband likes the book, and a few readers like it, I’m pleased.
    The close connections I’ve made via writing matter a great deal to me. In the end, it’s friends that may be the most important aspect of writing.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

      I agree, Julia. There’s no greater feeling than knowing someone read and loved my story!

    Viki S. said:
    June 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Not an author but I enjoyed your post. I measure success by how happy I am with what I accomplish. If I were an author I think I’d be on the moon with joy! What you are able to do with words is incredible.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      You hit it right on the head, Viki. It’s all about enjoying your accomplishment! In this industry it’s so easy to get caught up in the money and in kick-ass publishing contracts, but there’s so much more to it. Do you enjoy what you do? Does it make you happy?

      I feel so blessed to love what I’m doing, especially after so many years of having a career where I dreaded to go to work every day. To me, that is true success. 🙂

    Jenna Storm said:
    June 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    For me, success is knowing that readers have enjoyed my book. That my characters touched them and my plot and voice kept them reading. Those are all personal successes. As for the financial…you said it, money does put food on the table and keeps us clothed and cared for. And being able to pay my bills with my sales would be another amazing success. Best of luck and success for all!!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Jenna, and same to you. We’re all looking to pay the bills, but the other stuff is really, really nice too.

    Cathy Yardley said:
    June 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I’ve gone back & forth over the years, but I figure every day I get to write “for a living” (even with other stuff to supplement) goes in the “win” column. 😀

    Marie Andreas said:
    June 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Not there yet ;). But I’d say when a total stranger, someone who has no connection to me AT ALL- says they loved my book. I’ll be dancing in the stars when that happens 🙂

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Yeah, I must say that’s a pretty awesome day. 🙂

    Todd Stone said:
    June 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    In Novelist’s Boot Camp we discuss three measures of success, Commercial success (sales, contracts), Critical success (reviews, reader appreciation), and Personal success. The most valuable is, I think, the third.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      I think personal success has to receive the highest level of focus, Todd, because ultimately it’s the only one we can fully control.

    Janice Seagraves said:
    June 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I’m still a relatively new author with one book published. So my success as a writer come in small doses.

    If my book sells enough so I get a (small) check each month, when I received my first fan letter, a favorable (my only) review, getting asked when the next book comes out.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      Those are all pretty great successes, Janice!

    Kinley Baker said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    My book isn’t out yet, so I don’t know about the sales aspect. But right now I measure success by going through the whole process of getting a book ready for publication and realizing I want to do it again. Lol!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm

      That’s a success, Kinley! LOL. It’s nice to realize that you can actually do it, and that’s something you don’t really know until you go through the whole revision/publication-prep process.

    Shelley Munro said:
    June 11, 2011 at 6:14 am

    This is a hard question and made me really think. For me success is doing something I enjoy and receiving both fan mail and royalties. Success is being able to write author as my occupation on official forms. I still get a real kick out of calling myself a writer/author.

    Good post, Rosalie.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      June 11, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Writing author as occupation: love that, Shelley! That’s a pretty exciting thing when you can claim author as your primary career. 🙂

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