How Do You Measure Your Success As A Writer?

How do you measure your success as a writerSuccess as an author comes in a number of ways

If you’re an author, there is no better dream than to have the word ‘bestselling’ affixed to your title.

Seeing your name at the top of a bestselling list, be it on Amazon, The New York Times or on Goodreads. The reality is, however, that there is only room for one book at any given time at the peak of what is a gigantic and ever-growing pyramid of published books.

For most, we have to accept that our books are probably going to reside towards the ‘fatter’ part of this bestselling pyramid.

But this doesn’t mean that a book is unsuccessful, though. Depending on your own goals and aspirations, success can come in many forms. If your own measure is based only on how much money you make from your book, perhaps you might stop reading here, because I won’t be mentioning in from here on in.

Without a doubt, my most successful book to date for me has been Louis. The reason is that I just had to write this story about a man who helped shape my understanding of the world around me as a young boy. That he had died forty years before I finally wrote it gave me a sense, in an abstract way, of saying thank you to him. But the success of this book for me was that his wife, who passed away only a few months ago at the age of ninety-nine, was able to read my story about her husband. If I sell not one more single copy, I’m more than satisfied. Maria, the most important reader in the world for me, read my story about her husband Louis.

In other ways too. One reader told me about how reading February The Fifth during a very difficult time for him brought a laugh while all around him was very grim. To know you have touched someone like this is worth more that any financial reward for a writer. Then there are wonderful little remarks such as, ‘you gave me such a good laugh’, or ‘I can really relate to your characters’. Sure, any praise is gladly accepted, but when words touch people and make them laugh, think or cry, then the effort has been worthwhile.

Yes, money is nice to have but so quickly disappears. There are more important ways in which to measure one’s success as a writer.

7 thoughts on “How Do You Measure Your Success As A Writer?”

  1. Here, here Derek. I got a comment on my “Turning Point Published” blog post yesterday, containing the blurb(description) for TP from a young lass called Pri. What she said made my day – take a look:

    “I like this. You see normally I’m NOT into sci-fi. Not even fantasy. Not my kind of genre. But! I like this blurb. Why? I think it has to do with the fact that you are dealing with something that we all think about. Where did we all come from? Well. I wish you well.”

    If I can make someone like her consider reading my tale, I am a happy bunny. :)

  2. I´ve been following your articles for a while, Derek. Thank you.

    “There are more important ways in which to measure one’s success as a writer.”
    I totally agree. For me it´s important to touch that one reader with my writing. Sales help pay the groceries, but I usually funnel that money back into books, etc.

    1. Thank you for your comment Sylvia, and especially for following my blog.

      Yes, book sales are good for converting into food, but luckily for me, I still have my teaching to save me from starvation. :)

  3. Wonderful post and I agree with you 100%. Although it would be nice to see something that I write end up on a best selling list of some sort and I would love to make enough money so that I could write full time, these aren’t the ultimate goals I set for myself. I long for the day that someone I’ve never met approaches me and says, “Hey, didn’t you write that book ________? It scared the hell out of me!” :)

  4. Hey Derek,

    Thank you for sharing… money and the prestige of being on the bestseller lists are wonderful if it happens. But if we can change someone’s life with our writings–even if it’s only one person–I think we’ve accomplished more than ninety nine percent of the people on this good earth.
    When I tell people that I’m having a free book weekend they tend to give me a look of incredulity and say: What! You’re giving your book away? Why are you doing that? And I have to explain to them that I want folk to read my books… it isn’t about selling them so much as it is just knowing someone has read my work and enjoyed it.
    And, too, when we are gone as all of us are only here a short while before going back to the dust from which we sprang, a little part of us will remain behind. Writing is a kind of immortality… a way of sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, and our loves with those yet to come.
    Thanks again,

    1. I couldn’t agree more Dan.

      In fact, even though ebooks have seemingly taken over now, I still like to publish my novels in paperback as well. Not just to sell, but to scatter around and hopefully have someone read my words when I’m long gone. You’re right. It is a little feeling of immortality.

  5. Derek, you are quite right! I’ve never been in this for the money (I also have other sources of income, fortunately). I really want people to discover that the books I write are both absorbing reads and evocative pieces of literature. I’ve been posting chapters of my new novel on my blog while I handle the vicissitudes of working with CreateSpace and so far I’ve received only favorable comments. My books are only as good as the characters and I’ve received comments like this: “Just finished reading chapters 6 and 7. I so admire the science, which must’ve cost you hours of research. But all that would be for naught were it not part and parcel of such a wonderfully engaging story that’s populated with all manner of interesting and entertaining characters. I’ll be back for installment 8.”

    That’s the reward we all want! Now if it only translates into sales!

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