Underlying everything you’ve read about how to measure success as an emerging indie author is one truth that often goes unspoken.
You’ll find heaps of practical “How to be Successful” lists when you perform an internet search. Many sites replicate the same information. However, many don’t highlight that one factor exists without which indie author success would not be possible.
And I’m not talking about Amazon’s publishing platform.
The First Question You Need to Ask
“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.” – Florence Nightingale
Stick with me, here. I’m not being facetious.
Ask yourself this one question if you want to attain and measure success as an emerging writer or indie author: Am I the secret to success?
If you answer, “No,” then you need to rethink your strategy. There’s no two ways about it.
Without you, there’s no marketable story, or readers who purchase your book. You are the force behind the business of indie publishing. If you believe that success only hinges upon readers, a good marketing program, signing with a well-known publisher or agent, then you’re selling yourself short.
You are the foundation upon which everything else in your publishing career builds. I don’t mean be an egotistical jackass and tell everyone how great you are, and to buy your book.
Honour your intrinsic value, and the skills and talent you bring to the process. When you do this, you influence the kind of success that follows.
If you’re the pivotal factor in your success, that also means that you are responsible for attaining success. Your readers aren’t going to wake you up early so you can punch out a steady word sprint before your day job. Your publicist isn’t going to make your deadlines for you. Some retailers don’t care if you skip hiring professionals such as editors or cover designers, even though doing so may negatively impact your sales and reputation.
You are the secret to your success, and the most responsible person for getting you there.
Define Success to Measure Success
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
People often ask me how I survived my son’s premature birth, including nearly losing him in the NICU. It’s been 9 years now, and I still have the same answer. I had to get out of bed every day. You see, if my goal was for him to grow strong and healthy enough for me to take him home, hoping against hope for no complications, then I’d be overwhelmed with emotion. For several weeks I didn’t know if he would live or die, and that didn’t include the long term impact of his hydrocephalus.
I set myself a daily goal that I believed I could manage, and that was to get out of bed. After my feet hit the floor, I had to move, to get dressed, to do all the things that were required of me to function in a wholly undesirable situation. But if I didn’t get out of bed, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the even the smallest problem, much less the choice of removing life support.
As an author, I began the same way, with small, manageable goals, like writing for a few minutes each day. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about setting goals for writers as an integral part of staying motivated to write. Why set goals? Because success is rewarding and infectious.
When I reach my goal or deadline, I felt great. I have the impetus to crank out more words and raise the bar for my next writing feat. If I had defined the measure of success as landing my first manuscript with a major publishing house, I guarantee that I would have left my writing career behind long ago because that “Hail Mary” goal is no easy feat for anyone.
Just as you are the secret to your success, you define what success means to you.
If all you can do is get out of bed, then celebrate when you do! Let it motivate you unlock your next achievement. Begin with writing and marketing goals that are realistic for your personal circumstances.
Amazon ranking is not the sole measure of success, especially if you’re an emerging writer. Online metrics are concrete, and very addicting, but they don’t tell the full story of who you are as a creative artist. Would you rather have a small audience with a high level of engagement, or a large audience who downloaded your free book but hasn’t read it yet?
In order for you to feel the thrill of success, give yourself at least one measure of success which you can reasonably attain (even if it takes hard work).
Moderate Failure & Change the Game When You Win
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
Success is temporary. Failure creates opportunity. I can’t afford to lose my direction to either one.
It’s essential for an indie author to disrupt the status quo. No one wants to be a one hit wonder, or a failure to launch. I punch through what has been working for me, or setting me back, with new directions for short and long term goals.
After every book I write, or promotion I run, I analyze the nuts and bolts to see what worked and what didn’t work. I build upon this information with my next project or marketing venture, from the craft of writing, to business of launching. I tinker with every part of my indie publishing process, from improving my learning curve on software related to publishing, to optimizing how and when I write.
For instance, I paid for a blog tour last year and didn’t see much return on my investment. Lesson learned: only pay money to reach my target audience. On the other hand, my weekend at Ad Astra 2017, as a panelist and as vendor, definitely qualifies as a success. I engaged a wonderful audience in person, and welcomed several more to my newsletter (where readers escape with free fiction every week). At the same time, The Queen’s Viper reached #1 in a target market on Amazon UK as a free download, and hit #2 in the Canadian Bestseller list for a target category.
Days later, I’m evaluating how to capitalize on, and replicate that successful weekend. More importantly, I look for opportunities to better engage with my audience and improve upon myself as a creator.
Re-evaluation is just as important to measure success as the actions taken to get there. Didn’t sell as many books as you wanted? Seek a mentor with sage advice and proven techniques. Finding yourself short on financial targets? Dissect your expenditures to uncover ways to balance out costs against sales. Reached your desired outcome? That’s great! Celebrate – you worked hard! Take a breath, then get back to it.
Success is tangible only in so much as you define how you measure success. Start small, be inspired by success, and always set new targets. Success relies on one thing: you.
I’d love to hear how your definition of success carried you along in your journey! Share in the comments below.