We all want to know how to become more successful authors – but the main question you need to answer is: What is your definition of success?
In today's article, Bonnie Baguley from WildMindCreative explains why your timeline might be skewed.
It takes 10,000 hours to achieve success. At least that is the idea popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. The reality, however, is somewhat different.
While it takes close to 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any skill (which is really what Gladwell is suggesting) success is a different beast altogether.
Many indie authors, starting out, visualize success as a magical end-point. A final state in which everything will be perfect. We say things like “when I get the perfect book deal/ literary agent/publishing contract, then I'll be happy”. Or “when I have x number of readers, I'll have it made”.
In doing so, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we focus too much on the end result what happens when things don't go to plan? We wind up discouraged, disappointed and feeling like a total failure.
While it's important to have big bold goals, it's also vital to celebrate the small wins along the way and realize that success is not an end-point but an infinite journey of highs and lows. I urge all indie authors to throw out their narrow timelines for success and embrace the following.
It's a Bumpy Ride
Becoming a successful indie author is one hell of a journey.
When you read about best-selling authors there is a tendency to believe that they have been ‘blessed' or everything magically fell into place for them. In the majority of cases, this couldn't be further from the truth.
Many of these authors have had to struggle through innumerable rejections and severe self-doubt before becoming best-sellers. Think of JK Rowling who sent her Harry Potter manuscript to 12 different publishers only to be rejected by them all.
Or Stephen King, who hurled his first draft of Carrie into the trash. Or even Dr Seuss who was heading home to burn Green Eggs and Ham, before a friend persuaded him otherwise.
Literature is filled with best-sellers who tried and failed, yet persevered.
It's a Marathon
To maintain motivation try breaking it down into achievable steps and rewarding yourself along the way.
- Finished off that difficult chapter you were struggling with?
- Nailed a tricky plot twist?
- Or set up a regular plan for book marketing?
Give yourself a pat on the back. Maintain your momentum with mini-goals and enjoy the journey.
Success is Different for Everyone
Your vision of success is unique. So, while media and society might try to sell you the cookie-cutter image of a successful author, it's important to assess what success means for you.
Ask yourself from time to time:
- What am I trying to achieve with my writing?
- Am I enjoying the journey?
- Why am I writing?
It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others and adopting their visions of greatness, but maybe you don't need 50,000 raving fans. Perhaps your dream is to be able to set your own hours and never work Mondays again.
Everyone's journey is different and success is meaningless if you are living someone else's dream instead of your own.
There is no End Goal
Being an author takes persistent dedication and it can help to have an ultimate aim. Yet, the reality is that your goals are stepping stones and, as you progress on your author journey, your ideas will evolve as you do.
For example, at first you might start with wanting to see your story in print, then once you have achieved that you want to publish a series, then you might have a specific sales goal to reach, then you want to see your name on the best-sellers list.
Our goals evolve as we do. Sometimes, we also find that achieving our goals is not what we envisioned. Both success and failure are threatening to self-image and the final result might be a reassessment of our aims.
More than an end-point, our goals should dictate the direction we want to head in.
Success is not age dependent
There is no finite timeline for success. In a society that glorifies youth, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have left it too late. History disagrees.
Some of today's most successful authors didn't become best-sellers until later in life. Success is not age dependent, so stop thinking that by this stage you should have hit certain targets, or achieved specific goals.
Don't limit yourself with invisible self-created boundaries.
A Final Word
What if success is not about just achieving our goals, but everything that we learn along the way?
There is no state in which all our problems magically disappear and we have achieved everything we set out to do and to be honest, I'm relieved. Life would be terribly boring if we had nothing to strive for.
So, assess what success means to you. Set yourself goals based on the direction you want to take. Work persistently to achieve your dreams, accept the challenges, and give yourself credit for every achievement that occurs along the way.
And most importantly, enjoy the journey. Look around and soak it up, this is life in all its bumpy glory, and there's something magic about striving to share your story with the world.
Have your goals evolved since you started writing? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Bonnie Baguley is a Marketing Consultant, Writer and the Founder of WildMind Creative, Book Marketing for Authors. For more book marketing inspiration, motivation and resources head to the WildMind Creative website or follow WildMind Creative on social media via: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.
[Desk and flower photo courtesy Plush Design and Unsplash. Fulfill your destiny image courtesy Danica Tanjutco and Unsplash. You are here image courtesy John Baker and Unsplash. Ladder image courtesy Samuel Zeller and Unsplash.]