Monday, March 25, 2013

Defining Success

I've officially been an indie author since September 2011, so about a year and a half. When I put my first baby out into the world all by myself, my idea of success was simple. To sell enough books to pay for the cost of self-publishing.

I mean, I couldn't justify losing money on my venture, so if I could just break even... I'd be a success.

It's funny how my view of success has changed a million times in just a few months. Now with self-publishers hitting all kinds bestseller's lists and dominating Amazon's top 100, and doing it in record time, the definition of success, or at least our perception of what success is, can be all over the map.

-if I break even, I'll be a success
-if I make enough money to pay the heating...
-If I make enough money to pay the rent/mortgage...
-if I make enough money to quit my day job

At some point it moves from making money to survive to this:

-if I make the top 100 Amazon
-if I make NYT bestsellers list
-if agents start calling me
-if I get a publishing deal AND I get to keep my e-rights
-if I become a household name in the industry
-if I have a zillion fans
-if I get a movie deal

(Even Trad published authors get caught up in this. One well-known YA author actually tweeted about how HARD it was for her to keep getting asked when her book was going to be made into a movie. She felt like a barren woman who was always being asked when she was going to have kids. Yes, she REALLY said this!)

Let me tell you, this is a recipe for crazy making.

So, what is the definition of success?

I don't know. It's different for everyone. I actually have a hard time seeing myself as successful because I've placed a high bar in front of me that I haven't yet reached.

Sometimes you need to lower the bar.

I got this email recently. It made me smile. It helped me to lower my bar.

"... I've bought all of the clockwise series, Seaweed, Perception, and the Jars of Clay series, ... your writing is amazing, and I can only hope that one day I will be a success like you (:"

(emphasis mine)

Sometimes we don't see ourselves the way other people see us. I'd say, most of the time.

Are you a success? I bet you are. Just lower the bar and keep smiling.

~Elle Strauss
Author of paranormal young adult and new adult novels under the pseudonym Lee Strauss.


  1. It is hard not to get caught up in it, isn't it? You're right though, it's about the people we touch.

  2. Thank you for this. I needed that splash of water on my face. I've been dreaming and comparing myself to others far too much as of late. It's also good to remember some things are beyond our control (like a book being made into a movie) and to just let them go. Hugs! Congrats on your SUCCESS! :)

  3. Elle, I don't think we have to lower the bar, just create a better definition of success. I believe if we are doing what we love~ we are successful. I'm doing what I love, therefore I am successful.
    My bar is set high for the many goals I want to achieve. I will reach them with patience and perseverance. I know because I will not give up. But the goals don't make success... because I'm always making new ones when I reach the others. So... press on and know that you are a success in every sense of the word.

  4. I wonder if we can just focus less on others and the success we see them generating and more on ourselves...if we can find a better time of accepting the various milestones of success as we arrive. That can be pretty hard sometimes.

  5. Your post is spot on. I did an interview with recently and she asked me what advice I'd give aspiring writers. I told her that it's critical to remember why you're doing this. I've found that I constantly have to come back to that, as it's far too easy to get into the whirlwind of keeping up with the Joneses and forgetting what it's all about: the love of storytelling.

    I write stories. Some people have read them and enjoyed them. I'd call that success. :)