Success: Is It Happening To You, Only You Don't Realize It?

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Success. It’s the star in every writer’s eye, yet hard to define. What is success? When does it happen? How will we recognize it?

We all know the big indicators of success, like the NYT Bestseller’s list. Or achieving Amazon’s 100 Bestselling Books List. A novel-to-film adaptation, multiple print runs, selling foreign rights, high profile awards and book sales in the 100,000’s...these are all well known markers. Other indicators might include Indies being courted by agents or being offered a traditional deal (both of which the author may or may not want), and we can’t forget the boon of having a publisher invest in a book tour or other large marketing campaign.

Each of these takes time, a lot of effort, and some luck to happen. Most of us will never experience any of these, which is why it can sometimes feel that success lies beyond a glass ceiling impossible to break through. And for those who do hit one of these achievements, it seems as if success suddenly happened overnight.

The truth is, there are many indicators of EMERGING success, not just these biggies. They are smaller, more subtle. Many of us don’t realize what they mean when they happen. Here’s seven you might recognize:

7 Signs of Emerging Success 

1) A tweet, letter or email thanking the author for writing a book 

It is no small thing when a complete stranger takes time out of their busy day to write to the author, letting them know how much they enjoyed their book. For most of us, these small, genuine connections are why we write! Hearing how a book touched someone or helped them in a significant way...this is rewarding music to a writer’s soul.

2) Selling books every day

I think as authors, we get caught up in the benchmarks: 100 sales, 1000 sales. 10,000 or 100,000. The fact is, slow and steady is victory in itself. While Indies have access to their true numbers, it can be difficult for those with a traditional publisher to access sale information. However, the Amazon Bestseller Rank is a good way for both types of authors to get an idea of how their book is doing. If your book sells consistently, even when it’s not on sale, you are holding your own in a clogged market!

3) Requests for interviews, guest posts and/or invites to lead workshops or join collaborative projects

 Yes, as in people approach you, rather than the other way around. This means you and your book are gaining the notice of others. When people want to learn from (or work with) you, it means they recognize you and your book are carving out a solid path.

4) A nomination (or win) of a book award 

It’s an honor to be considered for an award, whether we win or not. If a book of ours is nominated, is a great marker that we are on the right path. Awards sometimes get a bad rap because they can devolve into a popularity contest. We’ve all seen authors rally their friends, family and online connections to vote for their book, regardless if they’ve actually read it, just so they have a chance at winning. (I personally don’t get why someone would want to “win” this way—books should stand on their own merit, or what’s the point?) So, I’ll add the qualifier that nominations/wins should be the result of true reader appreciation, not achieved via author manipulation.

5) Requests to review or profile your book on a website or in a newsletter geared to your audience

Again, when people approach you because they like your book and want to share it with others, this is a great indicator you’re not only reaching your audience, but creating fans of your work!

6) Word of Mouth Hits 

Savvy authors create Google Alerts for their name & book title, and create twitter search terms for both as well. Then, when people talk about their book, they’ll see what is being said. Word of Mouth is the highest currency in our world, and personal recommendations are the jewel of the day. If people are talking about you (assuming its good of course!) it’s a great thing.

7) Placing in Amazon’s top 100 Bestsellers in a specific category 

 This is worth a nod—making the top 100 (paid) in one of Amazon’s bestselling categories is a good sign. Of course, some are easier to make than others. A mainstream category may have stiff competition, and new releases to contend with every week, while other niche categories have less books & fewer new releases vying for the top 100 spots. So, achieving and keeping a spot (especially when a book isn’t on sale) is definitely noteworthy!

Seven signs. Seven things that, when they happen, bring us a flush of satisfaction. These are all great indications of emerging success, so when they happen, enjoy them, because you worked hard to make them happen.

(Then, get back to it. More success will come…with a little elbow grease!)

YOUR TURN: What other markers indicate emerging success?


33 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, I like this. Emerging success. That's a great description and so much more realistic a view. Thanks!

Miranda Hardy said...

Those are all great indicators you're doing well. Thanks for the reminder.

Johanna Garth said...

It's so important to appreciate those little signs. Those are the things that keep us writing!

middle grade ninja said...

Great post. I need to create a google alert! Thanks for the tip:)

Mirka Breen said...

You reminded me that I have hit (or almost hit) some of those bench marks. Hug to you for it!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great ways to measure success. I'll have to remember to be savy and set up Google alerts if I sell a book.

Angela Ackerman said...

Google Alerts are great, even before a book. Use one for your name and your blog! Every time someone is chatting about you, it makes it easy to find the post so you can share it online! If your blog has a special showcase, like for example, your Agent Spotlights, Nat, then set a google alert for that as well. The more you share other people's content and sites (especially when they are talking about you, your blog or your book) the more traffic will come back to you. You make yourself more discoverable in this way! :)

Becca Puglisi said...

LOVE this post, Ange. So often, we have this one silvery, shiny, happy milestone that we tend to use to define success, when in actuality, success is gradual. Thanks for the reminder!

Laura Pauling said...

This is all so true. Steady sales add up, day by day, month by month. Even if a book doesn't ever go big, I've seen authors with several books out, make enough to be full time writers. It happens. To a lot more authors than we realize because they aren't one of the big ones.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Love this post. I'm going to keep this for the after part of getting my book out there.
I love the first one . . .I've written a few of those to authors.

Lani Wendt Young said...

Great blogpost - I appreciate the reminder to take note of the "small" things in this journey because youre so right, it is very easy to get caught up in the chasing of the BIG goals/dream that I can brush off other markers that are an indicator of success and progress. Also I think its a good reminder to enjoy the journey. I have an email folder where I put all my rejection letters. And another for reader emails of awesome feedback. the day I logged more reader letters then rejections was fabulous. Now my reader letter file is jam packed and on days when I get discouraged on this journey, I get that boost by reading thru them.

ED Martin said...

Thanks for the reminders that it's a long process measured in small steps.

Right now, my small measure of success is that I have more Twitter followers than people I follow - and from all appearances my Twitter followers are real people who don't unfollow because I don't follow them back. Yes, it's a small and slightly silly mark of success, but it's a start!

Theresa Milstein said...

Good points. There's no one sign of success.

shelly said...

How do create the Twitter thingie?

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The only time google alerts lets me when someone mentions my name is when the post is mine. And I already know that I've posted the post because I wrote the darn thing. :)

Thanks for the great list, ladies. :D

Kelly Polark said...

All wonderful things I look forward to! :)
Actually, someone I didn't know recently tweeted me that they enjoyed my digital picture book the other day. It really did make my night!
And I've been approached to speak at local SCBWI events and on blogs so that makes me feel good too.
Slow and steady!

Angela Brown said...

I think your term of emerging success is about right.

When Susan Kaye Quinn posed this question, my immediate response was that I had a two part way of looking at success. I'd achieved my giddy goal of holding my very own book in my hand, my precious Neverlove that looked so glossy and beautiful I cried.

But I then went on to identify the next level as one of being able to write self-sufficiently (as in no more corp worker by day/author by night). I suppose, for me, this is where the emerging is coming in. Just a matter of continuing to press forward.

Angela Brown said...

I think your term of emerging success is about right.

When Susan Kaye Quinn posed this question, my immediate response was that I had a two part way of looking at success. I'd achieved my giddy goal of holding my very own book in my hand, my precious Neverlove that looked so glossy and beautiful I cried.

But I then went on to identify the next level as one of being able to write self-sufficiently (as in no more corp worker by day/author by night). I suppose, for me, this is where the emerging is coming in. Just a matter of continuing to press forward.

Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. said...

Thank you so much for reminding us to savor these small wins. It's so easy to overlook them in our search for the huge ones, when in fact they are pebbles on the path of success, every bit as important as the destination.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a lovely list and important reminder to enjoy the journey.

Traci Kenworth said...

I think we need to remember the growth we see in our writing is a step to success too. Each word, each effort, each time we finish what we started is a step toward that hoped for success. Great post!!

Fiona Ingram said...

This is another indication: person you are speaking to narrows their eyes, stares hard (again) at you, shakes head/wags finger/some indication they are thinking about this, and then says, "You know, your name sounds so familiar. You say you're a writer? I think I've heard of you."
To which one should reply, "Great! Did you buy my book??????"

Vijaya said...

Excellent post. The journey is filled with many small milestones. It's good to celebrate. Heck, if you write today, give yourself a high-five!

Christie Wright Wild said...

I'm gonna have to learn how to use Google Alerts.

I agree that success is gradual. If we're living the dream by consistently improving ourselves, we are successful. Even the very first rejection letter is a stepping stone worth celebrating.

P.S. After coming back to writing in 2009, after a 10-yr. break, I (recently) finally got my first offer from a publisher to publish my first picture book!

Mark Noce said...

Some very good points to live by when writing. Neat post, cool blog:)

2unpublishedgirls said...

Thanks for the encouragement. It can be discouraging at times. Success should come from within, not be determined by others.

cidney swanson said...

I think the only one I would add would be a kind of "subcategory" of "landing a movie deal." I.e., few novels will be made into movies, but signs of emergent success might include: being contacted regarding availability of rights, having your story optioned, having a director/actor attached, and so on, even if movie is never actually made.

Love the ideas you brought to the table. I've hit all of the 7 you listed, which gives me some nice alternatives to tell the family about next time someone asks if I've made the NYT.

Janet K Brown said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I'd love to have all the signs. At least, I have some. Love this article. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Julie Musil said...

Love this! And for those of us who don't have books out (YET!), success could even be measured in progress. Like, progress with our skills, etc.

Angela Ackerman said...

Hi Shelly,

To keep track of mentions, you'll need Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. I use Tweetdeck (so wonderful & easy to use--love it!) and all you do is type in a search term, like your blog's name, book name, etc, and it will create a column for it. Then when people talk about your book by name, or mention your blog, the tweets will pop up in that column! :)

Katrina S. Forest said...

Hmm, everything on this list assumes you've sold a book. If authors don't see that as a success on its own, I don't know what to tell them. Dang it if I won't be bouncing off the walls when it happens to me. Until then, I'm counting my writing successes in manuscripts requests.

Tracy Campbell said...

What a great title--Emerging Success and equally great tips to remember.
Thanks,
Tracy

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Rock solid advice! Great post!

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