What Does Success Actually Mean to You?

What Does Success Actually Mean to You?

Three years ago, I pressed publish for the first time, releasing Island of Lost Forevers into the wild. I was alone in my living room in England at the time. I was nervous, excited and maybe a bit sick to my stomach. Sometimes I’m not certain how I found the courage to click the button; perhaps it was because I spent the months leading up to that weekend promising people I was going to do it.

Three years prior to that afternoon, I decided to make writing my full-time gig. My previous position had been outsourced and the company I worked for no longer needed my services. My husband had just graduated teacher’s college and accepted a position in Northern Quebec – where I didn’t speak the primary language. We were capable of surviving off one income, so I told myself the time had come. I was finally going to publish a novel, no matter what it took.

In case you’re wondering; it takes a lot.

When I started writing full time, most of the people I knew scoffed at self-published authors. Most of the snide remarks amounted to they self-publish because they can’t make it in the publishing industry and they aren’t real authors. But Amanda Hocking was in the news; she beat the odds and secured a tidy living self-publishing.

I got my kindle that year and filled it with the work of self-published authors. I learned there are about as many mistakes in traditionally published books as there are in self-published books (sometimes more if you count plot holes and inconsistencies). There are also some severely underappreciated authors out there, writing fantastic stories that deserve to be read.

The more I hung out with other authors online, the more I realized that self-publishing is not the minor leagues. Self-publishing is not a back-up plan. Self-publishing is like running your own business; it requires perfecting every aspect of the craft from writing to marketing. It requires fortitude.

I’ve talked before about my reasons for self-publishing. Most of it boils down to control; I maintain full creative control of my work. I control my schedule. I decide what projects to prioritize and how to structure my day. But I haven’t talked much about what happened after I took the leap.

Self Publishing Motivated Me
I had a lot of insecurities about my work when I decided to set it free. I thought I had written something wonderful – but what if I hadn’t? I knew the only way to prove to myself that I was halfway decent at this writing thing was to get feedback from the great nebulous audience. I bit my nails waiting for the feedback, flinching every time I checked my reviews. I thought my first bad review would kill me.

But it didn’t. Instead, the positive feedback and encouragement I received from my readers motivated me to write faster than ever before. I gained enough writing and marketing knowledge to make my second book, and it’s release, superior to the first. It helped knowing that I had people waiting to read those words. Even if it was just a handful of people, they were as excited about my story as I was. I finished an entire trilogy, something that once seemed a daunting task. Then, without pausing for breath, I started a brand new series. Self-publishing can often be terrifying, but it’s also liberating.

Self Publishing Brought Me Out of My Shell
I’m shy. Many people don’t believe that anymore, but it’s still the truth. I hesitate before I email, message or even tweet someone. Afterward, I worry I sound foolish. While I’m content to live like a hermit, squirreled away with my keyboard, I don’t want my stories to fade into obscurity. They deserve to be read and appreciated. I learned pretty quickly that my books weren’t going to sell themselves; I had to get out there and make people aware they exist.

One of the best ways to get your work out there is to interact with other authors, to participate in events like this one. In order to do that I had to, you know, talk to other authors. I had to learn how to talk about my work without feeling like an arrogant jerk. I’m still surprised how excited people get when I tell them I’m a writer. I always expect them to lose interest when they ask what I write and I say science-fiction and fantasy stories, but most are delighted.

I wouldn’t trade the friendships and connections I’ve gained over the last three years for anything. Networking isn’t just about marketing; my author friends keep me going when the road gets tough. They dust me off when the obstacles seem too large and remind me we’re all in this together, all suffering the same demons of doubt. Best of all, I get to repay the favor by catching them when they stumble and helping them regain their momentum. My life would be emptier without the people self-publishing has brought into it.

Self Publishing Makes Me Happy
Recently, in one of my writing groups, someone asked that all important question; write for the market or write for yourself? It’s one we all have to answer, especially since self-published authors are constantly directed to be aware of the market. But if the last three years have taught me anything it’s that there are many paths to success and none of them are wrong.

We can all agree that writing is about the journey, about the things you learn and experience while you’re doing it. So how do we measure success? What does it look like?

Sometimes it’s a number; it might be the amount of money you bring home in royalty payments every month. It might be the number of books you sell or the amount of five star reviews you receive. It might be the number of books you’ve written or the cumulative number of words they contain.

But success doesn’t have to be a number. It can be an emotion. It can be the happiness you feel when someone leaves that five star review, or recommends your book to a friend. Success can be the satisfaction of writing the end or hitting the publish button, or that tiny gasp when you tell someone that you write science-fiction and fantasy novels. And self-published authors get to define their own success, because they do it all themselves, so you can have lots of little victories on the way to the big one. And I definitely recommend celebrating those small successes.

Three years after I hit the publish button for the first time, I’m a long way from regular paychecks. But I have written four books that I am proud of, four books that people have enjoyed. Every time I get a new review or see interest expressed about my work, it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I did what I set out to do. And if I never get farther than where I am today, I will still be happy with what I’ve experienced.

I wrote this post as part of Read Self Published Month! A group of indie authors have come together to remove the stigma surrounding self-publication and encourage people to read self-published novels. The bulk of the festivities are over on Facebook so please join our group!

If you’d like to start at the beginning of the tour, the chain starts here. The next stop is over here.

We’ve also put together 28 days worth of of giveaways, several read-along events and more!

Check out the featured giveaways for April 9th, April 10th, April 11th and April 12th (all the giveaways are open the entire month)!

3 Replies to “What Does Success Actually Mean to You?”

  1. Thanks for your post, Megan — I agree that the author friends and networking opportunities among indie writers are one of the best things about self publishing. :) That’s what’s made this blog tour so fun — I’m loving getting to know everyone!

  2. Great post. It seems that we have a lot in common. I’m also on the shy side, so putting myself out there was difficult at first. I’m becoming more comfortable with it these days.

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