Friday, May 6

Judging Success

By Ava Cuvay


So, my first book “His Precious Cargo” has been out there for nearly two months. And sales are ok.

Actually, to be honest, I think sales are great. But then again, I don't have anything to compare my $9.34 Amazon royalty check with.  While I haven’t yet recouped my production costs, I feel good that I might eventually break-even in that regard. Although it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the money I’ve spent which isn’t specifically tied to my book (swag, business cards, banners, RWA and other trade organization membership dues, and lots and lots of meals shared with fellow writers to talk about writing), it’s a move in the right direction.

Which begs the question: How do we judge our “success” as writers? Do we judge it by how much money we make? By the number of copies we’ve “sold” (even when we post it for free)? By whether we’ve made a Best Seller List? By the number of 4- and 5-star reviews? By the accolades of our peers? By something far more intangible and personal?

For me, the act of publishing my book was an end-goal. I wanted to craft a manuscript I enjoy and am proud to share (is it perfect? No. Is it the best of my abilities at this point? Yes.), and to see the culmination of my artistic vision in print. Goal accomplished (success!), and I’m thrilled with the outcome. Because of this, I didn’t really think to set any post-publishing goals. Considering I nearly fubar’d my release (see post on 3/4/16!), and the little bit of promotion I’ve managed since then has been a knee-jerk reaction, the fact that people are buying my book at all feels a lot like success.

I don’t bird-dog my sales (don’t even bother checking my rankings), mostly because I’m trying to get book number two finished but also because I think it’s an exercise in self-demoralization… like weighing yourself several times a day when you’re trying to diet. So when I do think to look, and I see that Amazon line graph spiking upward the equivalent of two or three purchases, I’m a little dumb-founded. It means someone(s) purchased my book… and the fact they chose to buy my book among the bazillions of books out there is both amazing humbling. It’s possible those purchases are by friends and friends of friends, which is no less amazing and humbling because it means I have a
much wider circle of supporters than I ever imagined (let’s be honest… they could lie and say they bought it, and I’d be none the wiser). And, again, there are so many books out there from which to choose, it sometimes feels like we’re asking readers “if you’re going to breathe, please breathe my air molecules.”

So am I a “success?” Well, I would love to turn this part-time venture into a full-time gig, even though my writing venture is currently a big hole I’m throwing money into. But hey, you sometimes gotta spend money to make money, right? Money aside, am I a successful writer because of the quality of my work? Well, my writing is vastly improved from when I started, that’s for sure (thanks to the support and help of my peeps!), but there is always room for growth in our craft. Am I a success because I’m just a really nice gal and everyone likes me? Well, I certainly hope people like me, but I’m no Miss Congeniality.

To answer my own question, I DO think I’m a success. I have attained my goal of publishing a book. The fringe benefits are that I have grown as a writer, strengthened my personal confidence, and cultivated friendships with some awesome, fascinating, wonderful gals. Regardless of how many books I sell, I’m going to continue this endeavor because it is too damn fulfilling in ways unrelated to my pocketbook. I’d still like to make money doing it, but I won’t ever let that play into my definition of “success.”

So, how do you define your “success?”

8 comments:

  1. I'm happy. I write every day. I have good family, good friends, and a good time. So, yeah, I'm successful by my definition. I loved your post, and I think you're successful, too.

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    1. I think we are ALL successful... though it seems a lot of writers get mired down and depressed because we judge ourselves by the money (and the great disparity of it going out versus coming in!) and not by the sheer accomplishment of what we've done!

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  2. Great post, Ava! You are a success by any standard--my god, woman, you wrote an entire book and it's published and people are paying to read it. Wow! We all have to remind ourselves that we aren't trying to be authors, we are authors. Good for you, baby, and I'm looking forward to the next book!

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    1. It's very humbling to know someone wants to spend their hard-earned money to purchase my book. I'm so thrilled to be a published author, I wish I could just "make it rain" free book :-)

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  3. Congratulations on your journey and success. Yes you are a success. You set a goal and achieved it! You are an inspiration for those of us who are still on the journey.

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  4. Lots of people tell me I'm successful because my books have touched lives, but by my own measure of success, I'm not even close. You've got a terrific attitude, Ava. Hang on to it!

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  5. Love your post. It's a good reminder that we all are "allowed" to define our success. I want to touch people and I want sales! Lately, I find I write for me. That's the bottom line, but I want those other things too.

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  6. I think you are looking at this in a great way. That's is similar to my goals. I know it will get better because what I am working on now I like even better. While I'm in the process of getting the first out there, I will be proud to complete the process. Congrats.

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