Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Success: Your Terms, Not Theirs

We start off with an important message from Dean Witter...

"We measure success one investor at a time."

I believe I've quoted this commercial before, but I think it's an important thing for writers (and heck, everyone) to keep in mind.

Note that Dean Witter didn't measure success by "another author's Amazon ranking" or "the seven-figure deal that erotic Twilight-inspired fan fiction book got." He didn't measure success by "the number of books J.A. Konrath sold" or "how many Twitter followers Amanda Hocking gained this week."

We have to stop comparing ourselves to other people. We have to stop being jealous of another writer because he or she hit on a new market trend, signed a huge advance, or won an award.

I write this as one of the guilty. I look at the Publishers Weekly "Deals" column and see three- and four-book deals in the six-figure range and lament how my small press deal came with no advance at all. A big-name author options a film deal, and I think, "that could've been me." Or, even worse, "that should've been me." It's natural to compare your accomplishments to those of others, but you have to be realistic about where you are.

Most importantly, you can't compare your accomplishments to their accomplishments, thus letting them define your definition of success. You will lose every time you do this. No matter how much hard work you put into it, you'll always feel like you aren't good enough. This is a vicious cycle...and writers must break free.

Last year, I wrote a blog post likening my writing career to that of a baseball player mired in the minors. At the time, I defined the "big leagues" as finding an agent and getting my book published.

At the time, I wasn't even considering a small press, but it's a route that's paid off for me. I've gotten an immense amount of satisfaction from going through the process--submission, acceptance, revision, etc. I've had input on cover design, aesthetics, promotion, and other things involved with launching a book.

By the time I, Crimsonstreak is released in May, it's going to feel like my book. I'm sure that sense of accomplishment would come along with having something published by the Big Six, but the book is something intrinsically valuable to me. Candlemark & Gleam has given it so much care and attention! When this superhero book launches, it may not set the world on fire, but I will know how much work has gone into it.

So it's not a $100,000 advance or a seven-picture deal. So it's not a Top 100 Amazon seller or the new indie book craze.

It's my book. The first, I hope, of many.

For that, I am proud...and measuring success on my own terms, not theirs.