Writer Life

Measuring Success

tape measureI was once asked what success meant.  I remember struggling for an answer because I’d never given the definition of success much thought before.  Back then, I was in customer support for a software company, so I equated success to a day of answered calls.  However, that wasn’t what the asker was looking for.  The person asking the question went on to explain that there was no right answer to the definition of success because what I define as success, another person might not.

His words have stayed with me through the years, and as I started my new career as an author, I found myself facing a similar question.  What is success to an author?  As an industry-collective thought, the answer seems to revolve around landing a traditional publishing deal.  By doing so, an author has “made it” as a published author.  But was that a definition of success which would satisfy me?

When I first started researching how to become published in 2012, the wheels of change had been slowly turning for years, thanks to the inception of Amazon’s self-publishing platform in 2007.  That change had opened doors for many aspiring authors, who had taken a self-publishing route.

I read how, with an upload of a file, an aspiring author could instantly reach readers.  I remember spending hours researching article after article about the pros and cons of self-publishing and just wishing someone would come out and say which was the right thing for me to do.  There was no article with the magic answer, and the more I researched, the more I began to understand that the answer lay in the reason why I wanted to publish my books.  I just wanted to share the stories that had so entertained me during their creation.

With the digital age in full swing and rising projections of readers switching to devices, I took the plunge and went the self-publishing route.  January 2013, I uploaded my first book, quickly followed by a second in March and a third in April.  Did I consider myself successful?  Let’s look at the numbers:

Jan Feb March April
Book 1 17 5 7 10
Book 2 27 23
Book 3 9

 

No, I wasn’t very successful, but I was persistent and kept researching and learning about the market, my target audience, and my options.  October 2013, everything changed when I altered my pricing strategy and my covers.  I suddenly had over 2,000 downloads of Hope(less), the first book in my Judgement Series (the second book I published).  I was finally reaching readers and sharing my stories.

Today, I write full-time, out earning what I’ve made in any of my previous careers.  Although I do consider that a level of success, my income still doesn’t define my success.  It didn’t in previous careers so why should it now?

The original reason I started writing and why I continue to write, remains my definition of success.  To share the stories in my head.  To give all my imaginary friends a voice.  To be read.  To date I’ve sold over 300,000 books and given away over 500,000 series starters.

Success can be measured in so many different ways.  What’s your measure of success?

Melissa Haagby: Melissa Haag

Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.  An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.

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