The first time I was asked when would I call myself a successful author, the answer was easy; if I was writing full time it meant people where buying enough of my book that I could do what I wanted.
That was when I started four years ago.
It doesn’t feel that long, but an aeon of time has passed, so much of my life has changed. Much of it not for the better. And now I know how incredibly wrong I was.
I read over and over on Twitter about people making it, they get agents, advances from publishers and all the while a host of “aspiring” authors sit in the wings, clutching their precious creation of fiction, and weep for the day it will be them too.
It started to make me sad, seeing so many of them, and knowing I was one among the throng.
How could I possibly hope to be a successful author if I couldn’t even publish my books. After 3 very hard years I still only had half of what I wanted out there for readers.
One full time self-published writer told me she released a book every three to four months.
I hadn’t done that, I spent years in a vacuum of tragedy, seeking to find definition in a life that wasn’t of my choosing, of potentially being barren, of everything that was wrong and everyone in it who laughed at my aspirations.
Worse still, I started to see other stories that didn’t have a magical happy ending.
About how people’s books were given that gold status; sold to a publisher.
But then the advances they got, what happened to them afterwards, it was rare anyone truly made it on one book alone. I started to question what “making it” really meant.
Then other stories came out, how the publisher didn’t want another book from that author, how the author lost their way, the golden moment, a brief passage. More and more you read how authors make on average less than ten thousand a year. It doesn’t matter the currency, only that it’s not enough to be a full time author.
Authors who’d won awards for books they’d written previously, but worked in mediocre jobs because a publishing contract isn’t a magic wand that changes your life.
My idea of success was dwindling with every tweet I read, every article on what it meant to finally make it, only to fall down when no one was interested in your stories anymore.
Even the so called full time authors lived in perpetual fear that they weren’t real. They called it imposter syndrome, and even the thousands of reassurances from fans, readers, and writers alike did little to abate it returning in a matter of days in another self-depreciating tweet.
If traditional publishing wasn’t the way then what was?
I self-published knowing I’d done it because I’d be rejected by a traditional publishing, but hoping after my 21 book novella series was bought up by the masses a golden contract would be handed to me too.
I wasn’t prepared.
I published a mediocre novella, followed it up with an OK one, and then published a reasonably good book.
It was a learning curve, but I felt like a failure.
And I wasn’t the only one. For every indie author I saw out there with a brilliant story, who thought to go alone and self-publishing was the key, many have done it unprepared.
Bad book covers. Bad editing. Bad stories read by betas who were friends or fellow authors and didn’t want to be honest about picking up parts of the story that were lacking. Learning that your work needs honesty of good editors and beta readers, that not even the first, second, or third draft is perfect is the hardest, most agonising lesson for new writers. Many don’t listen.
Writing the story is possibly the easiest part. Its polishing the script, waiting on it to mature, sitting with it and going over and over it again to make it as perfect as possible that is the hardest thing.
I have spent too long bent over my keyboard crying for what might have been to let myself do this anymore. To let someone else’s magical success crush the life out of a story I believe in heart and soul. A person I believe in with everything that I have that has given me strength through the darkest hours of my life.
It’s me, I have a purpose, and its being an author.
But I had to redefine what I wanted my success to be, in order to be successful.
THE DEFINITION OF AN AUTHOR IS A WRITER OF A BOOK.
I am NOT asking you, I’m telling you, look it the fuck up.
I haven’t written a book. I’ve written many. I will write many more.
To be successful at selling a book you have to be a salesperson.
To be successful at getting a wider audience you have to be in marketing.
To be successful at making money writing you have to be good in business.
Being a successful author doesn’t require any of those things.
Not all of us will ever be able to “make it” to what our inner hearts believe is success without working incredibly hard, every day, and to a large extent have an inordinate amount of luck.
Its become very important to me that I realise if I want to be at peace with the event of never “making it” I have to redefine my answer when someone asks when would I call myself a successful author.
I am one.
If you’ve ever written a book you aren’t “aspiring” to anything. You are successful at being an author. And if you’ve ever done it, you will have gone so much further than just about anyone you know. Sit back and think about it, how many people do you know had the tenacity to sit down and write a book?
In the greater scheme of things, very few.
And if you haven’t written a book yet I want to tell you something. Finally finishing that bastard isn’t going to magically make the world a golden, magical, fantasy. It will be the same world. But you, you, my beautiful, creative, magnificent, writer, will be a successful author.