Alright, you’re getting a bunch of more musings in the work rather than direct post that are going to be helpful like data. I might get around to writing those, but for now, this is more philosophical.
What is Success?
I recently had a discussion with some interesting authors in different areas and times. And it, once again, drove the point in that many authors have different defintions of success. Those definitions sometimes have overlaps, but can often just be entirely different.
I wrote about this before about publishing goals, and it’s worth going back and considering what your own goals are.
Sometimes, these goals can be complementary – I want to make enough to pay for my basic needs and a little more and I want my books to be read by a lot of people – and often, we have different weightings for our goals.
-> One writer might want to write a literary masterpiece.
-> Another wants to get a Nebula or a Hugo or see their books in bookshops everywhere.
-> And a third might want to make a million dollars a year.
Theoretically, all three could happen with the same book.
But if you hit the third goal but never the first or second, would it matter to you? Would it be a success? What if you wrote a literary masterpiece – but it won’t be recognised for another 20 years. Would you be happy?
Weighting what is important to you as a writer is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself happy.
Multiple Mountains and Routes
Let’s say you wanted to make a million dollars a year. There are so many ways of doing that. You could, potentially, sell a book to trad pub and make it that way (okay, mostly if you’re Obama or Harry, but it’s possible). You could write a breakout hit.
Or you could write a series of stories, each of them selling well but never selling a lot individually. But you could, potentially, build a backlist such that you – eventually – manage to make that million dollars.
You could switch genres from horror, which is a small genre, to a bigger genre like romance or thriller; so that even a small portion of that market could generate you a nice income. Even if your passion isn’t in those books, you could make good money.
Or perhaps your intention is a TV show and adaptations, such that you build a decent English language income but sell your work to comics and anime and Hollywood.
Perhaps you just write decent work and translate them yourself to multiple languages, building your income that way.
All kinds of ways to get to the same route. But the same goal, just different timeframes and genres and, yes, expectations of success. If you’re a great writer, you might have a better chance with tradpub and Hollywood. If you write into easy adaptable genres, that certainly helps with TV (more romance and thrillers get optioned than scifi and fantasy I’ll tell you that!).
If you write fast, perhaps churning out a bunch of 40-60k books constantly that do decently well and support each other is the way to go.
But if you’re looking to be a literary giant, to have your prose praised or to just do something cool and earn enough to live a simple lifestyle; perhaps putting twenty books out a year is not the way to go.
Check Your Assumptions
This comment is just as much for me as anyone else. I (generally) assume people want to earn enough to write full-time, to be full-time authors. Or heck, just want to do this regularly.
But that’s not always the case.
And it’s not always the case that everyone’s writing style and speed will suit your own preferred method. I know I write fast, but I sometimes have to remember that just because I can write fast doesn’t meant that everyone else can (or wants to) write fast.
Sometimes, it’s best to ask what the other person’s definition of success is. And if they don’t have one… perhaps that’s the conversation to have. Rather than prescribing what you, personally, believe they should do.
Even if, sometimes, it’s frustrating they aren’t doing it ‘right’.
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