Marketing, writing

Writing And the Meaning of Success

41jeDmIOnrL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]So, I’m home again from yet another book fair, this time one in Lincoln City, a five hour drive north of my hometown on the Oregon coast. It was fun. It was interesting. I met lots of interesting people, some of them fellow writers. I networked. Unfortunately, I also caught a head cold, probably because I tend to try and live off of coffee and no sleep during these things. Whatever.

Summer is traditionally the big book promotion season. It’s when most people are taking their vacations and looking for some free-time reading. People are traveling, looking for things to do. It is a perfect time for outdoor fairs and markets, whether they’re farmer’s markets or author/book fairs. The weather makes it possible (book fairs do not do well in rainy or snowy weather.)

Between Deception Island’s release in late May and now, I’ve participated in two of these book/author fairs and two readings where I was the sole or featured author. These events have reached as far south as Healdsburg, California (just north of San Fransisco) and as far north as Portland, Oregon. It’s called the ground game. It’s called getting out there and pitching the book to people.

It’s a lot of work. It cost a bit of time and a good portion of my money. Which brings up a serious and difficult question every published author must sooner or later answer: is the book a success?

Is Deception Island a successful novel? Has the first three months promoting the novel been successful?

Let’s say the novel is not a bestseller and despite my promotional efforts, most people in the English speaking world have never heard of it. Altogether, I estimate I have sold a little less than a hundred copies so far. It’s safe to say I am not growing rich.

So Deception Island is not a success. Or is it?

It seems like a simple question—success, or not—but that is deceptive. It depends on what you—the author—considers success.

Lit Hum @Lit_Hum posted an interesting view on twitter the other day: “We practice art inside capitalism, so it’s difficult to divorce our sense of success from commerce.”

Success is more than numbers on a balance sheet. We are selling books, novels, poetry, not widgets. Financial gain is not the sole gauge of how well we’re doing.

There are many different forms of success.

The simple fact that you exhibited the discipline to write and publish a book is a success. The fact that people who read your book like it is success. The fact that people who read and like your new book go out and buy your previous books is success. The fact that your book wins awards is success. The fact that people within the literary community (bookstores, arts organizations, libraries, etc.) are approaching you now, as often as you’re approaching them, is success. The fact that fellow writers and poets acknowledge and respect your abilities is success. And, of course, selling lots of books, being on the top of the Amazon bestsellers list, and receiving four figure royalty checks, is success.

So, while Deception Island is not yet a financial success, I do consider it and the promotional tour a success because many of the other types of success are happening. Most important in my estimation are the facts that people are liking Deception Island, that fellow writers respect my work, and—for the first time in my writing career—the literary community is beginning to seek me out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to sell as many copies as I possibly can and I will continue to promote Deception Island as much as my budget will allow. Perhaps, sales will take off in the coming months. Anything is possible. And the Christmas buying season is rapidly approaching.

But the bottom line is that I already consider Deception Island a success. Now I’m working to build something lasting on that success.

That’s my plan anyway.

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