Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Success for A Writer

What Is #Success for a #Writer?

What Is #Success for a #Writer? I’ve considered this question before—check out these posts on various aspects of “success” (after scrolling down one of the pages, click on the “Older posts” link…)

Now to add to those considerations with an article by author, editor, writing coach, writing workshop leader, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne, entitled, What Is Writing Success?

As usual, I’ll share some excerpts and urge you to read the full article…

First, the “usual” expectations:

“All of us writers know what writing success is: A call from the big agent, a sale to the big publisher, a big big advance, big-promoted publication, big sales figures, big royalties, movie rights, sitcom rights, audio book rights, serialization rights, spinoffs, foreign translations, talk show appearances, multiple awards, weeks and weeks on the Times bestseller list, and even getting asked for an autograph at the supermarket.”

Then, a bit of the truth:

“Many writers (and others) who attain fame react less than positively when they become successful in these terms. After the first thrilling flush, as Internet headlines and tabloids attest, the newly famous often turn to alcohol, drugs, food, uncontrollable spending, mansion collecting, or relentless sexual conquests. A few even commit suicide.”

Noelle then talks about what she experienced after one of her books did better than usual:

“I felt special and important, reveling in all the busyness and attention. But after a while, an inexplicable itchiness seeped in, like a creeping rash. I ate too much, slept too long, and snapped at everyone within mouthshot.”

“This response, I’ve since learned, is common to many writers who reach a longed-for goal. In a letter to a beginning writer, the novelist and short story writer B. J. Chute speaks of the ‘so-called rewards of success’:

“‘Curiously enough, when they do come, you may find that they are not as rewarding as you thought they would be. You may find yourself eager only to get on with the next ivory-tower job.’ (Outside the Ivory Tower: A Letter to a Young Writer, The Writer, January 1983, p. 12).”

And, even though I’m now going to excerpt her summation, I still urge you to go read the full article:

“Let us see each of our writing achievements as another turn upward on our evolving spiral of creative discovery and mastery. This is how we’ll become better and happier writers. We won’t yield to the temptations of externals alone and will probably be surprised when they appear. But mostly, we’ll know with calm certainty, even joy, that true writing success is our writing itself.”


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The Successful Writer

Becoming a successful writer depends, completely, on your definition of “success”. Success for Writers

Success As Money is the most uncontrollable goal you can set.

Sure, there are things that can be done to enhance a writer’s chance of making money; but, none of them is a sure bet.

Success As Readership is a goal that’s easier to reach if you’re willing to give away lots of copies of your work.

Combining success goals is probably the most reliable way to find “success” but, if you never define the word, you may never know if you’ve reached it… 

So, what’s a writer to do if they honestly can’t seem to define the kind of success they want to pursue?

Perhaps, reading a book by an author who was successful with traditional publishing then went on to become more successful with self-publishing?

An author who loves the money he makes but has other goals wrapped up in his success-strategy?

An author who has a highly developed sense of humor?

An author who wrote the book that’s over 350,000 words long and is called The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (Everything A Writer Needs To Know)?

An author who’s name is Joe Konrath?

The guy I talked about and shared a video of in the past post, The Best Book On How To Be Successful As A Writer?

Yeah, that guy

So, this is a very long book but it’s only $2.99 on Amazon.

And, because it’s a compilation of four years of Joe’s blog, it’s in handy blog-sized chunks.

Plus, it covers nearly any aspect of working toward nearly any success goal you can imagine.

It does have typos in it; but, do check out my past post concerning typos—A Book Review That Teaches The Author Something About Typos . . .

And anyway, even though I’m always brought up short when I notice a typo, it somehow just doesn’t seem to matter all that much when reading Joe.

He’s a very personable writer.

And, even though I have no interest in genre-writing and Joe is a genre-writer, he still “Speaks” to me.

So, if you’re just not sure what “success” should mean to you as a writer (or, if you’re someone who thinks they may want to be a writer) this is the best book I’ve yet found to help you massage your mind and figure out your own personal path toward “success”

Here are some of Joe’s ideas from the book:

“Luck Is Important

“I say this all the time. In fact, I think it’s the #1 factor in determining success in this business. But I’ve never specifically identified what luck is. In essence: Getting someone within the industry with enough power and money to recognize they can make money from your work. That’s luck. It involves having the right book, in the right place, at the right time. Too soon, too late, wrong person, not good enough — these all can minimize your luck. But hard work, paying attention, and being willing to roll with the punches and accept criticism can maximize your luck. Still, at the end of the day, it always comes down to a roll of the dice. No one said it would be fair, easy, or fun. But if this is your dream, it is worthwhile to pursue it.

“Why do I pursue it?

“First, because I love to tell stories. I think it’s a fundamental part of the human experience.

“Second, because making a living doing something I love is the whole point of life.

“Third, because I’m ensuring my little place in history.

“The most important thing I can do as a human being is be a good husband and father. And yet, who remembers husbands and fathers? How many can you name that you don’t personally know? But writers — everyone can name a dozen writers. That I’m able to reach people, and at the same time become immortal through my work; that speaks to to the essence of what I believe humanity is. As a species, we love to create things. I’m doing my part and making my mark, in a way that makes me thrilled to be alive.

“Understand The Industry

“The publishing industry is broken. No doubt about it. Any business that allows returns, where a 50% sell-through is considered successful, where no one can figure out why things succeed or fail, is fundamentally flawed. But the more you know about how things work, the better you can manipulate the system. Good decision-making comes down to facts. The better informed you are, the likelier your decisions will be correct. Listen. Ask questions. Follow examples. Experiment. Take chances. Stay alert.

“The Harder You Try, The More Books You’ll Sell

“You will not become a bestseller by doing all the things I tell you to do, no matter how logical or well-informed I appear. You will not become a bestseller through your blog, your touring, your speaking efforts, your internet efforts, or you social networks. The only way you will become a bestseller is to have your books available, at a discount, in as many places as possible. And that’s beyond your control. That said, every little thing you do to sell your books can help your career. Books sell one at a time. If you’re the one that sells them, one at a time, its one more that probably would not have sold without your efforts.

“The Race Is With Yourself

“You can’t ever compare yourself to any other writer. EVER. This isn’t like the business world, where certain positions have a salary range. You can make $100 a year, or $5,000,000 a year, with no discernible difference in your output or your quality. If you want to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to yourself. Monitor your successes. Learn from your failures (and if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough.) Try different things, make mistakes, grow, adapt, evolve. Your peers are a tool you can use to better yourself. But they are NEVER something to aspire to. Your only aspirations should be within your control. Which brings us to:

“Set Achievable Goals

“Goals should be within your power. In other words, anything that involves a yes or no from another human being isn’t a goal, it’s a dream. You can and should dream, and dream big. But ‘I want to be a bestseller’ isn’t a goal. ‘I want to attend three writing conferences this year, polish my novel, and send queries to ten agents by November’ is a goal. Learn the difference. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach those goals.

“Love It

“The term ‘tortured artist’ is an oxymoron. Art is not food, clothing, or shelter. Art is what we do to express and entertain ourselves…”
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