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Defining Writing Success

Defining Writing Success

Let’s face it, being a writer is tough. 

The stereotypical image of a writer on a tour paid for by the publisher and signing books for long lines of people just doesn’t happen that often anymore.  Extremely successful writers can still draw favor, but book signings are less frequented than they once were.

Advances have gone down as well, and fewer traditionally published books ‘earn out,’ meaning that the publisher makes back expenses and can pay the author royalties on future sales of a title.  I am still learning on the indie author front, but from some of the statuses I’ve read, sales statistics aren’t making very many jump for joy.

It follows that relying on fame and the making of copious amounts of money as motivators can discourage the best of us.  But what if we use a different measurement of success than sales, rankings, or popularity?

What if we allow ourselves the space to count success as lives touched for the better from what we write? Who can quantify such a thing? Whether our words give a few hours’ diversion in a life of drudgery, a new perspective on a problem, or the courage to step up to something intimidating, they have made a difference for someone else.

And that’s awesome.

Speaking for myself, I often can obsess about the readers I don’t have rather than celebrating those I do.  That changes today.

Attaining writing success lies largely in the definition.

What if we defined success on our own terms? What would that look like?  The compulsion to market would ease, but we’d still put the word out about our books because we’re so excited to share them with others.

We’d feel less driven and discover that there really is enough time in a day for the things that need doing. I’m-not-marketing-but-should-be guilt would vanish, along with the infamous I’m-not-writing-but-should-be syndrome.

Let it go.


Now write.

Defining Writing Success | Live Write Breathe
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©2014 by Janalyn Voigt

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Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

2 thoughts on “Defining Writing Success”

  1. Love the frank thoughts and advice, Janalyn.

    On self publishing, I’ve found Seth Godin’s advice insightful. See his Quora answers in addition to his daily blog. What Godin advises would seem to be applicable mostly to non-fiction books intended to share knowledge and directly useful insight, not (necessarily) creative fiction. Should be noted I haven’t self published yet. Plan is to keep my day job for a while longer.

    But it has to be said the best of the best, Mark Twain, drew huge crowds for his talks, and if you do that, you can always sell books at your talks, which is what Godin says boosts sales volume most for business book authors like him. Goes without saying Mark Twain’s advice on writing is of course both entertaining and perennially insightful.

    By the way, I’ve found that answering questions on Quora and citing our content and reposting our illustrations has helped boost page views and numbers of followers. Quora makes it easy to share answer links via social media.

    A tool called Buffer auto inserts illustrations it sees from the links you paste in the tweet block/calendaring tool into Twitter and LinkedIn and makes it possible to share via multiple channels.

    Q&A is just another content type. I like Quora because it’s well thought out and moderated.

    Success as a writer requires a multi-channel + multimedia approach these days for most as you point out, Michael Connelly and Nora Roberts and other incredibly skilled and prolific authors excepted.

    My Quora Answer examples at

    Other social media:

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