Guest Post: Defining Success in our Bookish World

Hello readers! Today, I bring you a guest post by the lovely Liza Wiemer, who last month brought us unspeakable pockets. She’s here again with tough questions about success, and the never-ending question as to whether we have achieved it.

We’re writers. We work long, hard hours, put our hearts and souls into our manuscripts. For many, writing comes after other jobs and definitely after other responsibilities. Most likely, there is no guarantee of publication. As writers, how do we define success?

  • Is it finishing our first draft?**
  • Editing until the manuscript shines? **
  • Writing and sending out query letters?**
  • Getting an agent?
  • A book deal?
  • A six-figure advance?
  • Being published by one of the Big Five?
  • A starred review in Publishers Weekly or School Library Journal or Kirkus or Booklist?
  • An endorsement from a bestselling author? Or 2 or 3 or 4?
  • Perhaps it’s the number of congratulations you receive to an announcement of a book deal?
  • Arranging book events? **
  • Putting together a publicity campaign? **
  • Or better yet, having your publisher create an incredible publicity campaign, including signings at Book Expo America, ALA, and a national or international book tour?
  • Writing blog tour posts? Or posts for wonderful writing/publishing sites like this one? **
  • Giving talks at bookstores, libraries, schools? **
  • Making YouTube videos to promote your work or share your passion for writing? **
  • Is it hitting the New York Times Best Seller’s list? Or USA Today Best Seller’s List?
  • For how many weeks? 1? Or 10? Or 52?
  • Is it receiving invitations to speak at prestigious book festivals?
  • Or selling 10,000 books? 50,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?
  • Perhaps success is having your book made into a movie?
  • Maybe it’s a high ranking on Amazon? Top 100? 1000? 5000?
  • Or having over 100 reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Or is it 1000? 5000? 50,000?
  • Is it seeing your book in Barnes & Noble or an Indie or airport bookstore?
  • Making 10 Top Ten Favorite lists posted by bloggers and vloggers? 20? 30? 50?
  • Maybe it’s having your book in school libraries?
  • Or maybe success is the number of retweets or likes on a post on Instagram or Facebook about your novel?
  • Or the number of followers you have on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? How many is a lot? 5000? 10,000? 100,000?
  • Perhaps it’s seeing your book #1 in a category on Amazon?
  • Or is success an email from a teen telling you your novel saved his life?
  • Could it be someone telling you how much your book impacted her?
  • Or how she recommended it to all her friends?
  • Or a large crowd at a book signing? How many is that? 50? 200? 1000?
  • Perhaps it’s winning book awards? Like the Newbery? Or National Book Award?

Every single one of these things is FANTASTIC! Every one of these things is worthy of a CELEBRATION or major CONGRATULATIONS! But if NONE of these things have happened or only some of these things have happened, does it mean we’re a failure? I sure hope not!

BECAUSE… as amazing as these moments are, other than the ones with the **stars**, not one of them is within an author’s control. NOT ONE. Do we want to place our self-worth in the hands of others? Do we want to value what we do based on things we have very little influence over? Ranking numbers change hourly on Amazon. We’re not a number. Your first manuscript might not sell. (Mine didn’t.) Or your second. (Not this one either.) Or third. (This one did. YAY! And no, it hasn’t hit the NYTBS list—yet, here’s to optimism—and my advance was very small.)

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Everything listed above would (most likely) be a dream come true. But if we define ourselves based on these things, things we can’t control, then we’re turning over our personal power to others, people we don’t even know! It could be so easy to fall into a pit of author despair. (Most likely rocking in a corner, clutching our book!)
  • Be awesome.
  • Write the book that speaks to you.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments.
  • Ask yourself: Did I work hard? Did I do the best I could? Am I kind and gracious to other authors? To readers? To reviewers?

Dictionary.com defines success as: the accomplishment of one’s goals. The word “one’s” makes it clear that the goals are the ones you set for yourself. I’ve learned to set my goals based on what I personally can do. I’ve learned to define my success by knowing I’ve persevered. I’ve work hard. I strive to be my best. I celebrate fellow writers’ milestones and do whatever I can to be supportive. Because I really believe this universe is INFINITE and there’s room for everyone to have lots of moments in the sun! Finally, don’t give up. DON’T give up. DON’T GIVE UP! Write your novel. Persevere!

I look forward to celebrating your bookish milestones with you.

Happy writing!

Liza WiemerLIZA WIEMER married the guy who literally swept her off her feet at a Spyro Gyra concert. Their love story can be found on her “About” page. Besides being a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, she is a readaholic, a romantic, and a lover of nature, crazy socks, and rooftops.

Hello? is her debut YA novel. It was named a Goodreads YA Best Book of the Month, November 2015, and Paste Magazine called it “one of the most original YA novels of the year.” She also has had two adult non-fiction books published, as well as stories and articles in various publications. As an award-winning educator, Liza has conducted over 75 interactive seminars during the 2015/2016 school year, fueling her passion for working with young adults. A graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Education, Liza is also the mother of two young adult sons.

6 Responses to Guest Post: Defining Success in our Bookish World

  1. Tinthia Clemant Jun 17 2016 at 6:59 am #

    One night, when we were discussing my self-publishing endeavor, my son asked me how I would define success of my novel. I replied if three people, other than relatives and friends, read the book and loved her, I would be successful. I achieved my goal and breathed a sigh of gratitude. Now I want more. That’s the thing with success. It’s slippery. Blessed be, Tinthia Clemant

    • Liza Wiemer Jun 17 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      Tinthia, It’s always great to strive for more, especially when it’s things that we can DO! I set personal goals almost daily on what I want to accomplish. Wishing you the best, Liza

  2. Kristen Steele Jun 24 2016 at 11:30 am #

    This is an awesome post. Writing and publishing a book can be challenging. It’s important to celebrate every achievement, no matter how “minor” it seems.

    • Liza Wiemer Jul 21 2016 at 10:14 am #

      You are so right. We often forget how many stages a writer goes through before publication. It’s a journey, and for many of us, it feels loooong. It is long! It’s easy to get discouraged. I remind myself to celebrate those small accomplishments! Sometimes it’s finding the right word that had been eluding me. 🙂 All the best, Liza

  3. Aileen Stewart Jun 30 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Well said! We each have be happy with our own journey and if we have done our very best and are striving to always learn and do better, then we are successful.

    • Liza Wiemer Jul 21 2016 at 10:28 am #

      Aileen, I couldn’t agree more and I admit that there are times I need to remind myself of this! Yesterday was one of those days. 🙂 All the best, Liza

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