Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Are you a successful writer? Prove it!

Success. Such a peculiar word. It means something different to everybody. For some, it means overcoming an obstacle, reaching a goal, or...getting paid.

I enjoyed a brief visit with +Robb Olson, co-host of +Booked Podcast with +Livius Nedin. We shared some food (Voodoo Doughnuts and bacon wrapped dates) and conversation. WHen I first met the Booked gang, I was in the early stages of my endeavor as a writer and editor. They took notice of one of our anthologies (Midnight Movie Creature Feature) because of a brilliant story titled "Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters"--and don't knock it until you read it...I almost passed on it based on the title alone. Had I done so, I would have never met Robb, Livius, or become aware of the amazing Booked Podcast.

During the visit, I was able to share with Robb how my fortunes have changed so drastically in the past two years. He was able to share a very cool podcast endeavor that will be coming soon to the Booked faithful. It was a nice visit. But it got me to thinking about the idea of success.

As a writer, how do I judge my success? By sales? How do YOU judge your success? (And since I am tossing questions to writers, I will toss one to readers--How do you determine a writer's success?)

I have done a lot over the years, from tracking Soviet submarines during the height of the Cold War, to playing in a band (I had to teach myself guitar along the way), to run in these "extreme" runs. Each one of them has ways to measure your success. But as a writer, I find that measuring stick to be based on very different factors.

When I saw my first book in my hand, there was a very special feeling. But I knew then that it was only a start. For me, my success had a few layers. I wanted to be a writer...not just somebody who writes. That meant one thing--SALES.

I have never made any claims that I am trying to leave a legacy or create a piece of work for the ages. I write zombie fiction for crying out loud. I wanted to earn enough as a writer to support my family. Those first years, I made barely enough to call it a hobby with monetary benefits. However, things started to pick up...word spread...readers began to grow in number. In April of 2012, I quit my "day job" (delivering newspapers in the wee hours and phone books during the day) to write and edit full time.

Looking down into the backyard of my new home!
I have had hills and valleys since then, but next month I am moving in to a house in the hills with a three-tiered backyard that has ponds, waterfalls, and about a hundred different exotic plants. The kicker is that it is ME buying the house! This house is the culmination of my dreams. I made it. SUCCESS!

However, none of this would happen if the stories were not good...if the readers did not see something of value. So then I had to think about those other layers a bit more. I have often said that the biggest thrill for me is to think that I provoke REAL human emotion based solely on words I put in sequence. When I get emails from people who say that I made them actually laugh out loud, I wear that like a badge of honor. (As opposed to LOL, which we often type...but did you? Did you really just LOL? Yeah...I didn't think so.) Guess what? SUCCESS!

So, what do you feel makes you a success as a writer? For some, it may simply be the act of completing a book. A lot of people SAY they are going to write one, but eventually discover that it really is a lot of work. For some, it may be getting that first reader that is not a friend or family member to crack the spine. The fact is, it will be different for each of us. It may have nothing to do with sales figures at all.


  1. how about cringe, you make me feel a bit sick sometimes too! do they count!! and I expect a BBQ fit for a Brit Girl when I visit you at your new home xxx

  2. Honestly, I don't think I'll ever feel really 'successful.' Each time I meet a new self-imposed milestone, I see the next destination in the distance and, after a short reprieve, I begin to walk again. It's not that I don't desire fortune and fame and a large readership- it's that I'm never going to be happy with where I'm at as a writer, I want to keep improving, keep writing, find that one story in my brain that is the one I'm meant to write. I guess I can only measure success in the moment for now and success overall- if I keep with my writing, throughout my life, until I pass, then that will be the ultimate success I guess.