Did you ever see, read, or hear about something and immediately think I want that for myself?
It happened to me this week.
Writing fiction is, for me, a joy and a privilege. I feel very lucky to have the resources to pursue my passion, and the time to build a successful indie author business on my own terms. The key word here being successful 🙂 .
Joanna Penn, in her book Business for Authors (How to be an Author Entrepreneur), suggests that it’s important to identify your personal definition of success, and to know how you will track and measure that success.
She offers some possible options:
- I want to create something I’m proud of
- I want to see my book on the shelves of a bookstore
- I want to reach readers with my words
- I want to sell x copies of my books
- I want to win a prize and win literary/critical acclaim
- I want to make a full-time living from my writing
- I want to create a body of work that I’m proud of over my lifetime
The most important definition for me is the last one—to create a body of work that I’m proud of. I will feel I am on the way to achieving it when I have published my remaining Elan Intrigues prequel book and the five-book fantasy series that succeeds it. I guesstimate that may take me another five years or so.
I have an ambitious writing/publishing plan, but I never set myself an ambitious financial goal. I treat what I do as a business, and over time I intend to make it profitable, but that’s always been about being able to afford quality professional services to make my books as good as they can be. Necessities, if I’m to create a body of work I’m proud of. Not luxuries.
Until last Wednesday, when I saw this post on Ilona Andrews’ blog.
The authors commissioned a family portrait of the Baylor sisters, the heroines of their bestselling Hidden Legacy series, and it is absolutely gorgeous. It captures the sisters and the tone of the books perfectly, and it includes lots of small details that make it extra special. I love it.
So now I have an extra benchmark of writerly success. I still want all the things I listed above, but I also want to make enough extra money from my writing to commission an artist whose work I really admire to create a portrait (portraits?) of my favorite characters. How cool would that be?
So how about you? Is there something you’d really, really like, not because it’s necessary or useful, but because it would feel amazing?
My definition of success is also to create a body of work I’m proud of, or at least, not embarrassed about. That always opens the question of whether I should take down my weakest book. And I always decide no, because it reflects where I was at the time that I wrote it and nothing’s wrong with it except it’s my weakest story. Everyone who writes has a weakest book. And after I just finished one of the Bridgerton books that I hadn’t read—well! Julia Quinn should rethink that one, and Avon should do at least one more editing pass, preferably two. My weakest book beats that one, so there.
Speaking to your desire for beautiful artwork, which I completely understand (lovely Illona Andrews portrait!) I’ve never been motivated to have my characters drawn or photographed, or have any realistic imaginings at all. I barely know what these people look like myself. To me, they aren’t what they look like. They’re what they feel like, what their personalities are and how they act. What tone they set when they walk into a room. So I know that Phoebe usually wears her brown hair in a ponytail, and I think I said her eyes are blue, but I’m not sure about that. If someone imagines her as a blonde or a brunette with a pixie cut and brown eyes, that’s fine by me. I would hate to disillusion any reader by having a portrait done that conflicts with their imagination.
And I already had my amazing moment—several years ago Smart Bitches, Trashy Books favorably reviewed one of my books, and in that moment, I knew that whatever happened afterward, I had made it.