Whenever I talk to other writers, I can see that twinkle in their eye, that glimmer of hope that someday, maybe someday, they'll be a "successful writer". But that phrase is a trap, isn't it? It's like those Chinese finger traps we had as kids. Seems simple enough. Just a tube of folded paper. How hard could it be? Then the next thing you know you've got both pointer fingers inside and have to do some weird finger gymnastics to get them out.
Being a "successful" writer could mean anything from becoming crazy rich and famous to just finishing that one novel. It's most likely different for every one of us. I often joke that I'd just like to be successful enough to get a meal comped every now and then at restaurants I visit. But many truths are told in jest. That would be nice, especially when you see what it costs for a family of four to eat out lately.
I'd be lying if I said that I don't sometimes fantasize about being a New York Times Bestseller and going to fancy places to sign my books before hundreds of adoring fans. We all probably do at one time or another. I guess it's human nature.
But success, to me, looks a little different. When I go to shows and engage with new people, and especially when someone does recognize me, I genuinely enjoy it. When I'm describing the plot of one of my books and someone gushes over how good it sounds, my heart swells with joy. Those book signings are a lot of work and at the end of the day, I'm exhausted but fulfilled. If I travel two hours and sell five books, I'm happy. My genre isn't for everyone. I know that. But those five books I sold represent five potential new fans who may buy other books. Or tell their friends about it. It's a slow process, but it's rewarding.
I put in a lot of hours writing, editing, and getting the word out about my books. If you tally it all up, I probably make pennies an hour, if that. But, you know, everyone started somewhere. This is where I started, with you, and it's been a hell of a ride so far. I'm eight books in and still not rich, but that's okay too. Good reviews, people who tell me that they enjoyed my work, and those that buy my books, are all part of my story and I'm enjoying every second of it.
Already I've been told by someone that I was their favorite author. That's huge. Little ole me, someone's favorite author. As I write this, it's nearing midnight and I have to work tomorrow, but I just wanted to get this down. What is success to me? It's writing a good book that people enjoy. It's hearing people like my storylines. It's people coming up to me and saying that they read one of my books and loved it. I guess ultimately, success is being seen as a good writer. If you reach that point, everything else will take care of itself. At least I hope it does.