Monday, March 24, 2014

Am I Successful?

Good Morning. Ten years ago, I had the inkling of a story. Nine years ago, I started writing it down (pen and paper mind you.) Seven years ago I got my first computer. (Yes, only seven.) Five years ago, I finished writing my first book. Four years ago, I finished my second. Three years ago, I self-published my third book. Two weeks ago, I published my fourteenth.

(And yes, some of those books are novellas, some short stories, however, they are still mine, and were published by me. Written, formatted, and uploaded by me. I had help of course, by amazing critique partners, beta readers, and my fabulous cover designer.)

I'm a little stunned with that timeline. If you take out the short stuff, that's still six novels in three years. Two a year, with a couple of novellas thrown in for good measure. That's a lot. Well, for me anyway. I know a few writers who can bang out a novel in three months. (Personally, I think those people are aliens with super hand/mind/eye coordination, and a built in dictionary/thesaurus/encyclopedic brain.)

Having said all that, I have to wonder if I'm successful. I'm living the dream so many of us had. Read any interview with an author, and they always say, "I've been writing since I was a kid."

But what determines our success? Is it money? I've had good months, I've had not-so-good months.

Is it reviews? Some authors have thousands. I have several handfuls. Some fabulous, some not-so-much.

Is our success determined by how other people see us? I don't get out much, so my contact with the outside world is limited to mostly the Moms at Monster's school. Some of them are pretty impressed with my writing ability. Others, not-so-much (when you consider there are a couple of doctors, lawyers, a brain surgeon, an astro-phycisist.)

Is success determined by what we have? Cars, houses, vacations, shoes?

I can't go by what the outside world, or even other authors, think, do, have, or say. I am the only judge of my success. And I'd say I'm pretty damn successful. I'm doing what I want to do, living my own fantastic dream. Sure, I'm still struggling for footing in this ever changing publishing landscape, but for someone who's built some name recognition for herself, by herself, I'd say I'm doing okay.

But now what? What does the future hold? Yes, I will still write. I can't not write, it's like breathing for me. But there has to be more. The question is -- more of what? More money? More fame? More reviews? I don't know. What is it I'm missing, or THINK I'm missing? Or am I just delusional thinking there is MORE?

Do I continue to build my "platform"? Join other social media? Join writing groups? Find new followers, new readers, new ways to make myself known? Or do I keep on doing what I've been doing -- quiet promotion -- because it seems to work -- and if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Or do I take chances, step out of my comfort zone and find something else? I've been writing Regency for most of the last decade. I do have a contemporary romance out there too, and that has also been met with quiet success. Do I pursue that avenue as well, or just stick with what I know, and obviously love. Do I become the next Jane Austen? or the next Danielle Steele? Or both? Do I want to try for an agent now? Do I want to be a hybrid author?

Can I have it all? I don't know. Or, as I've been thinking lately, do I just leave it all, finish up this series of books and call it good? End on a high note. Walk away from writing as my work and get a job in the real world? Publish what I want in my own time as a hobby. This new publishing dynamic has a long tail, and as long as I don't un-publish, I'll still get paid for years to come. Instead of two novels a year, just one every two years or so.

Or do I measure my success by how I FEEL? If that's all it truly is, then by golly gumbo, I am at the top of the charts. I couldn't have asked for a better life. No, I don't have a new car, or groovy new shoes, but I can buy Monster what she wants for Christmas, and I can go to the beach this summer.

Tell me -- Are you successful? What determines your success?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014


Jo said...

Well done Anne. You have motivated me, as yet unpublished as an author, to work even harder at getting my book on Life as an Expat in Africa written!

Sarah Ahiers said...

I definitely think going by Feel needs to be a big part of it. You could sell all the books in the world, but if you're unhappy, you're not going to feel like a success.

I do think i'm successful. At least, i've hit all the goals i've set for myself. I'm going to have to make some new ones, it seems

Stacy McKitrick said...

I started writing my first book 5 years ago and discovered my passion. I'd been looking for it everywhere, too. I'd finally succeeded! And I'm happy. That to me means I'm successful.

Maria Zannini said...

I base my criteria of success on how happy I am with myself and my circumstances.

Money and popularity can be cyclical or fleeting at best. Better to base my self-worth and success on my level of contentment.

I'm not sure success can be measured anyway. No one's bar is the same as another's.

J.B. Chicoine said...

I've successfully published 4 books and working on a 5th. Like you, sales and reviews fluctuate. I feel successful in my own little world.

And when I look at you, I definitely see success. Your writing does indeed allow you to look after what's important to you. The value of material stuff becomes very relative when measured beside that feeling of satisfaction and contentment. said...

For me, success is how I define it. If I fall into the comparison trap I'm always going to find an author who has more whatever than me. But if I'm doing what I love, what could be better than that?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I ask myself some of the same questions you write about. Somedays I feel like walking away and other days I know I don't want to stop. Like you, I'm doing okay. Will this career ever make me rich and famous? Doubt it, but I'm doing okay.

Jamie Burch said...

Basing success on how you feel sounds brilliant to me! If you measure it by things and numbers it may never be enough. Great post! :)

Judith Mercado said...

The thing is, the measurement of success faces a moving target. When we think we're there, something else vies to claim ownership of what success is. When I was much younger, I worked on the White House staff. I remember sitting on the front lawn with other WH staffers during 4th of July fireworks, feeling pretty "successful" as I looked around at those who surrounded me. Then I looked behind me and saw others watching the fireworks from the Truman balcony. That's when I realized there would always be another balcony in my quest to define success.

A lot has changed in my life since, including serious illness, which really made me adjust my model for defining success. It often now includes those tiny steps forward that occur after giant leaps backward. It even includes accepting that no steps forward, tiny or otherwise, may occur. Instead, I have had to find a path to serenity and integration which could even include that I might never reach such a goal.

So, I remind myself, when I am pulled by the magnet again, that the definition of success ultimately comes from within. But, honestly? Sometimes I do well with that, sometimes not. I have, however, allowed myself to recognize when the magnet pulls and to compensate for it if the destination is not in my best interest. It helps, if I am pulled by the "success" magnet, to think of that 4th of July.

Through it all, I think of myself as a work in progress aiming to live my life with joy, praise, gratitude, and compassion.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Congratulations on all your success! There is only more if you want there to be more.

You asked a good question: am I successful? That's so hard to answer. Stepping outside of myself, I would say yes, but deep down, the best I can answer is, "Not yet." :)

Linda G. said...

You ARE at the top of the success charts. How you feel about what you're doing is the only good measure of success in life, as far as I'm concerned. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Everyone -- Thanks so much for responding to this post. I'm sorry I can't get to leave a comment for each of you at this moment, I am flat out crazy nuts busy, but I want to tell you how much your comments mean to me.

Truly, the definition of success to me is at the end of the day I ask, "Did I give 100% to whatever I did..." And if the answer is yes, I am a resounding success.

Like tonight for example. I have been working on the reconciliation for the program I run at school. I thought it was going to be a nightmare of math and numbers that didn't add up. Guess what? I sat down in a quiet spot, gave it my all, and have now finished what I thought would take four days, in a little over 4 hours. So I can sleep happy tonight, knowing I was successful in my endeavor.

Tomorrow, however, is another day.

Davin Malasarn said...

I think unless you have a really defined goal, like selling 500 books, then success is internal. My own happiness has had little to do with reaching actual goals and more to do with how I feel about what I've done. I figure being happy is what's important!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Anne! Haven't been by for absolute ages, but liked your title. I remember when you taught yourself how to publish an ebook. Well, you've learned and learned and learned, so of course you are successful. I love how upbeat you are! A pretty successful publishing timeline. Good for you. You are immersed in the writing world and there's no way out, is there?

I have not gone the epub route yet, but I finiially finished a novel and am now getting it assessed.

Cheers for even more success Anne.