Thursday, July 19, 2012

How does a Writer Measure Success?

AP says: This week we are soo, soo stoked to have JL Bryan on the blog. He is the author of Jenny Pox (a disturbingly brilliant paranormal tale that we absolutely loved!) and the Songs of Magic series (fairy rockstars, uhhh HELLO ... awesome!) He's here, talking about measuring success as a writer--which isn't an easy thing. And, of course, we wouldn't leave you hanging without a giveaway. Read on....

JL says: If you’ve read the title of this blog post, then you know we’re talking about how to measure success as a writer. The most accurate answer is the shortest: you can really measure it however you like. Success depends entirely on your goals as a writer. I’m going to focus on being an indie author, because that’s all I really know about.

If you just want to share your work with the world and find readers who enjoy it, ebook publishing has made that simple for everyone.  If you want to make a living as an author, then success becomes more complex and challenging.  If you want to be the next bestselling Kindle millionaire, then there’s just one thing you need to do, which I’ll explain in a bit.

There are two main kinds of goals: those you can control and those you can’t.  It’s important to have some goals you can control.  Regardless of your ultimate motivation, you definitely should have the goal of putting out a quality book that’s been through plenty of revision, editing, and proofing.  Good cover art and good formatting for ebook and paperback are other examples of goals under your control.

Promotional goals might include getting active with blogging and social media, or setting up specific promotional events such as a guest blogs.  Your goal might be to contact a certain number of new bloggers each week (first, make sure their About Me and Review Policy pages indicate that they like your kind of book and are taking requests!).

Now, for the less controllable but more interesting goals, like making a living as an author.

When I started hanging out on Kindleboards back in summer of 2010, the indie author community was very small, not much bigger than, say, the chess club at any high school.  Already some people were making hundreds of dollars a month, and a few made more than a thousand dollars a month.  So I thought I could manage a thousand a month if I worked at it, enough to lift the burden of the household bills.  I self-published a novel called Jenny Pox, which nobody in the publishing industry had been interested in reading, but I believed in it.

Months later, I did pass that goal, and my next “uncontrollable” goal was to become a full-time writer.  That took another year, once I felt secure that the good sales weren’t a temporary fluke, and I kept hearing from fans excited about my books.

Now that I’ve reached the only major career goal I’ve ever had, it’s time for a new “uncontrollable” goal.  I’m still a working-class writer, I still have to hustle to write and promote and stay on top of things.  From here, I can only hope for greater and greater financial security, and maybe some interesting twists involving film or television.

I have a number of writer friends who are at that next level, who pull in large six-figure and seven-figure incomes from their books, so I have some idea of what it’s like up there.  They keep working—nobody sits back and watches the money roll in.  People who would do that usually don’t make it to the top in the first place.  Here’s what they all have in common: they’ve written multiple series of books with strong storytelling, attractive covers, and consistent branding.  That’s probably the closest thing there is to a magic formula for making a secure living as a writer.

So, that’s what I know about success.  You want to have concrete goals that you can attain yourself.  You also want to have a broader idea of what you want out of all this.  And remember to celebrate when you reach either kind of goal!  That’s important, because there will be rough days, too.

And what’s the one thing you need to do to be the next Kindle millionaire?  Be lucky.  That’s it. Trying for runaway success is like standing in an open field on a clear day and trying to get struck by lightning.  That’s the most uncontrollable goal of all.  Don’t expect it to happen—but if you’re serious about your craft, you’ve invested the years to develop it, and you’re prolific enough, then at least you’re standing in that empty field with a lightning rod in your hands.

More importantly, remember that there are plenty of highs and lows along the way.  There are days you will want to yell and tear your hair out, and days you’ll want to go to the local bar and buy everyone a drink. Be sure to enjoy the journey, because nobody knows where it ends.

AP says: And now on to the giveaway! Check out JL's covers, because they will totally rock your face off. Seriously, don't stare too long. You will feel your face start to slide toward the floor. (That's your jaw dropping.) The contest runs for as long as it runs (A week or so) and is open international. Just go stalk JL everywhere and you're in there like swimwear. Thanks for stopping by JL! 

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