Why Success Shouldn’t Matter to Writers


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It is easy when you are writing book to get focused on the bottom line. How many books am I selling? I’ll admit it – There have been times when I’ve clicked on my own book’s link multiple times in a day to watch the ranking and see if there are any new reviews.

When you hear success stories about someone you know hitting that # 1 spot on Amazon’s bestseller lists, or hitting the New York Times, it is easy to compare yourself to those writers. I’ve done it. I suspect anyone published has done it.

I’ve thrown money at advertising, tried book tours, and offered contests and giveaways in the pursuit of gaining new readers. And while these things are not bad in and of themselves, when you are spending as much on promotion as you are making then you might want to reconsider your focus.

That’s why I recently did a lot of soul searching about my fiction writing. I am lucky. I have a husband with amazing benefits through his job. This allows me to work for myself. I am also lucky in that I make an income from my nonfiction writing, editing, and web design business that I’ve built over the years. I spend about 2/3rds of my time ont hat and 1/3 on my fiction.

Still, fiction always has been and always will be my first love. My dream is to one day just write fiction. But, that dream seems pretty far off and it is easy to get discouraged that I might never reach that goal. I have a dual-sided perspective. I’ve been published with a bigger publisher (Thorndike), I have been with a small press (Amber Quill), and I am now indie publishing my books. I’ve sold foreign rights (Japanese so far). You see, I’ve gotten the advances, earned out on them, gotten smaller checks here and there and still not made enough to write fiction full time. I suspect I am in a big group of published writers. Part of the reason I decided to take control of my own books was because there were sales that never showed up that I know for a fact were made because I bought them myself to “gift” to readers during a book tour and to see if they would show up.

One thing with that complete control, though is that I can also track sales daily. This can really put one’s focus on sales. Sales are not why I started writing. At first, I was writing for myself. I was writing because I loved it. It was so much fun.

During my soul searching, I realized that writing is still fun but that I need to get back to the reason I sent that first book to a publisher so many years ago (it was rejected, by the way). My goal is to write a story, to have fun doing it, and to hopefully touch just one person’s heart or make them look at things in a different way. If I accomplish that, what an amazing thing. How many chances in life do we get to impact another person in that way?

So, if you are writing to get rich or focused on how “successful” you are, it is time for you to do some soul searching as well. There’s nothing wrong with making money off your books, but what is the core reason you are writing? What drew you to writing in the first place? If you can recapture that, you can recapture your passion. Isn’t living a life doing something you are passionate about the true definition of success?