Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.


So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.


27 thoughts on “Measuring success as an author

  1. Reblogged this on Jackie Ladbury and commented:
    So true, Jo. The publishing world has changed so much recently that one or all of the above points are valid. But ultimately if it makes you happy, it’s a success in my eyes. The day I start to see writing as a chore is the day I will stop.

    • I agree, Jackie. Just recently, I think I’ve got too caught up in trying to write to order for a certain type of publisher and market, which definitely made it feel like I was losing that joy. I’ve just started my third book for Accent Press, though, and I immediately feel that joy is being restored because I’m back to writing the sort of books I want to both write and read. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Measuring success as an author | Jackie Ladbury

    • Hi Merryn. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I think that instinctive desire to write is what drives us through the more difficult times and actually having some measure of success can put pressure on to keep achieving more and more. I’m finding the joy in my new WIP and I’m determined to see that as a success come what may! Jo

  3. Great post, it made me think that for me having good reviews on Amazon is totally where its all at for me, I just love the thought that people I’ve never met like my works so much!! If I’m honest I’m chuffed to bits and thrilled to be just about to publish my 2nd!! 🙂

    • Hi Lynne. Really excited to hear that your next book is nearly ready for publication 🙂 I know how passionate you are about the subjects you write about and that definitely shines through to your stories. Really looking forward to the next one. Jo

  4. Good post! We were talking about this on a crime writing group on FB last week too. For me success is two things. Most importantly, completing a book and being happy about what I’ve created. Then there’s the whole mundane money aspect – it’s nice when your book makes enough to pay for all its editing costs etc too!

    • Hi Linda. Thanks so much for stopping by and posting a comment. I completely agree with that bit about being happy with what you’ve produced and that’s sometimes easier when you aren’t writing to please a particular publisher or for a very specific market. As for the money aspect, it’s definitely a bonus when writing can reap financial rewards too! Jo

  5. Lovely post, Jo. Success is definitely measured differently from person to person… I see it as a huge success to be enjoying what I’m doing and I think all The Write Romantics should be proud of how far they’ve come!
    Helen J Rolfe x

    • Hi Helen. I completely agree. Doing things you are passionate about is a way of feeding the soul and doing that absolutely has to be seen as a success, surely? The WRs have every reason to feel successful as a result and we’ve all come a long way 🙂 xx

  6. I’ve always been a sucker for goals. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop reaching for the stars. I’m super excited at where I am with my writing and in many ways gobsmacked as well. But… something inside is asking me what would happen if I tried this or if I could achieve that…? However, if I didn’t love writing so much none of this would make sense – and I’m not sure it does now!!

    • Hi Elaine. Thanks so much for dropping by and posting 🙂 I think goals are a positive thing, as long as they are a good fit. Sometimes trying to force yourself to fit a certain genre or style in an attempt to achieve a particular goal can just end up making writers miserable. I guess what I am saying is that I want to make myself take time to stop and smell the roses from time-to-time and just enjoy what I’m doing. It’s something I sometimes forget to do! Congratulations on all your writing success and long may it continue. Jo

  7. Ah yes I couldn’t do this if I didn’t love it. The more I write, the more I find that what I write makes a kind of sense of my world, which may sound pretentious nonsense, but true nevertheless. I have, though, learned to take a more hard-headed approach than I did when I began. So, for one of the most important things is royalties. Well, we are in business whether we see it that way or not.

    • I like the idea of writing as a kind of therapy, Deirdre, which offers another form of success to measure it by. Royalties are important, but I have to admit I’m past the stage where I expect to make any significant amount of money from it. However, I can see how for lots of writers that absolutely has to be the bottom line. If I can ever measure my success in those terms, I’ll be very happy indeed!

  8. I’ve been writing for over 30 years and the joy I find in it is even greater now than when I started. Researching for my historicals takes me to times and places I would otherwise never have known about which is fascinating. Reviews from people who have enjoyed what I’ve written and want more (!) is an incredible thrill. Once I made a lot of money from my writing. Massive changes in the industry mean I don’t any longer. But I’ll never stop because there’s always another story waiting and it’s my pleasure and privilege to tell it.

    • Hi Jane. Thanks so much for taking the time to post a comment 🙂 I can imagine how writing historical novels really does create whole other worlds and I agree that reviews like that can lift the spirits on even the darkest day. Wishing you lots of success and joy with your latest story. Jo

  9. Great post, Jo. I’m sorry I’ve only just seen it, but I’ve been in my editing cave all day and, the truth is, I didn’t want to come out! I’ve not been outside all weekend as I’ve been engrossed in the novel. My choice. I love it, and being in my fictional world makes me so happy. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t be able to stick at it. It’s a lot of hard work that’s for sure. But my life is so much better since I started writing again, and I’m a happier, more positive person as a result. That’s success to me. X

    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed your weekend in the editing cave, Sharon, and we’re all waiting with great anticipation for Kearton Bay book 3. If your writing makes you happier and more positive then that’s more important than any of those other thing on the list above and is a huge success in itself x

    • Thanks Rachael, I think we all need to take a moment to stop and remember how far we’ve come sometimes. Seeing your books appearing in so many different languages and sitting on the shelves of stores all over the world most be an amazing feeling. You have done brilliantly and I really hope you stop and take the time to drink that in, when you have a chance between frantic deadlines of course! xx

  10. Brilliant post, Jo. I often wonder about this. I think we push our goals out as we go along and sometimes forget to celebrate when we’ve reached something that, say, five years ago, would have been the best thing ever! Amazon reviews from strangers are the best! My next goal is seeing my books in shops.

    • Hi Rhoda. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and post a comment, that means a lot too! You are so right, the constant pushing of our goals means that we (well, at least I do) sometimes forget to sit back and think about all the dreams and goals we’ve already achieved. Good luck with seeing those books in shops, I’m sure it won’t be long before you achieve that next goal 🙂 Jo

  11. Fabulous post. It’s so easy to keep pushing and pushing and not appreciate the journey. It’s like that phrase: Remember to stop and look at the flowers along the way. We get 10 reviews, we want 50. We get 50, we want 100. And so on and so on. We have to remember why we did this in the first place: the love of writing. My measure of success of reviews and people telling me they’ve loved my books. I try not to worry too much about chart positions because I’m not that high. Top 100 would be an absolute dream.
    Jessica xx

    • Hi Jessica. You are so right about the pushing and pushing, so I suspect that with that approach enough will never be enough and we do need to stop and smell those flowers every now and again. I’m sure you’ll hit that top 100 chart position before too long, but in the meantime keep on enjoying those fabulous reviews 🙂 Jo xx

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