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How do you measure success as an author?

I heard these two questions recently and I thought it would be interesting to write my thoughts on them. 

How do you measure success as an author? If somebody told me right now that I would never hit the heights I dreamed of, would I continue to do what I do?

Wow, those are pretty heady questions. I think of all the stories I've heard of artists and writers who have spent years trying to make it big and just when they are prepared to quit, then they say, "I'll try one more time and if it doesn't work, then I'll go get a real job." Or something similar to those words. Then during that last effort, something happens or a video goes viral or that social media influencer discovers them. Bam! They get noticed and their artistic stock goes up.

How do I measure success as an author? I don't expect to be the next Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, or George RR Martin. I can see that my writing isn't the same as theirs. For me, success is measured by each book sold. My blurb and covers get people to look at the book, but I haven't received the bump by a social media influencer. YET! 

Sell 5,000 copies of one of my books

When I sell 5,000 copies of one of my books, then I think I would consider myself a successful author. I'm not there at the moment, but I keep writing, learning the craft and marketing techniques, and I hope to reach a point where I find people who say to their friends, "You have to read this book, it's amazing." 

I haven't spent much money in marketing my books. The common belief at the moment is that you get the best results from your book marketing when you have published at least three books. Free and discounted books allow people to try your writing and if they like your style and characters, then they are more likely to spend money buying the rest of your novels or at least finishing that series. 

Working on Book Four

My third novel is complete and I'm working hard on book four, now at 43,000 words. I hope to have the first draft completed by the end of March. Maybe I'll start marketing The Mountain King series after book four is available or almost ready for publication. So there is plenty of time for you to begin reading book one, Eclipse of the Triple Moons

If somebody told me right now that I would never hit the heights I dreamed of, would I continue to write?

Yes, definitely. I get great satisfaction in writing. I ran a blog for a number of years, writing about programming, gardening, travel, and other ideas that popped into my head. The stories I write for publication bring me joy in researching the story, outlining, and writing. The characters and plot seem to change as I write and even though I think I know where the story is going, I'm always surprised by the character's divergence from the script I had planned to write. 

I'll be honest. I write the stories for myself, but I know others enjoy the same stories I enjoy, and someday I'll find a niche of readers who look forward to my next novel. If I keep writing. 

My Struggles as a Singer

What are you working on now? Do you have a great dream that you've imagined for yourself? I started singing in my church choir back in 2001. I was horrible back then, wondering if I should be standing with singers much better than myself. Many had taken lessons or had sung in high school or college. I only sang in church, but I loved singing. I have some genetic capability, as my father was a choir director and my mother had a lovely voice, but I never believed I was good enough to sing with others.

Sixteen years later, I resolved to try my hand at being a cantor. Which is a fancy name for leading the congregation in music. How did I do? I. Was. Horrible. Seriously. I sang once or twice a month and I sang wrong notes or started at the wrong time and pretty much sang poorly. My hands shook as I sang and once I even sang verse three before singing verse two. It was all because I was so nervous. The choir director even told me one time that she didn't think I was going to make it as a cantor. Yeah, I was that bad. 

It all changed when I found out that someone had recorded Youtube videos of the songs I was supposed to sing. Then I started to listen and practice. A lot. I would practice a minimum of four hours a week. This was while I was working, cutting grass, spending time with family and publishing my first novel. But, I gradually became more confident as I learned the songs well enough to break through the nervousness I felt each week. 

Have to Sing Acapella

My ability as a singer was tested this past year when a lady at the church asked me to sing for Mass each Wednesday night. Oh, by the way, there won't be any music. What? "You're singing by yourself and you have to sing acapella." Whoa! I felt adrenaline and fear rush through every inch of my body. Could I do this? I wondered if I'd have the ability to find the right starting note. 

I admit the first couple of weeks were dicey. But I soldiered on and practiced the songs, just two songs, the entrance and the recessional, which change every week. As I continued on each week, I actually became more confident in my other singing with the rest of the choir. I'm not great. There's one guy in the choir that can sing like an opera star and neither of us are close to singing as well as the greats you sing along with in your car as you listen to the radio. 

Life is like a Walk through the Forest

All of this rambling is just to say that life is like a walk through the forest. You walk the easy parts and think, I can do this for miles. Then you reach the hilly parts and you find yourself struggling just a little. Eventually, the hills transition into a mountain, and every step tests your resolve. At some point you think of quitting, but you say, I'll go just a little farther. The land begins to level off and soon you reach your destination. The pinnacle of success.

Success is Rarely Instant

Success is rarely instant. Most successful people spend hours everyday honing their craft. There is a master motivator that talks about trying to be 10% better each year. Wow, imagine how that would translate your skillsets in ten years time.

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