Finding success as a writer: the little victories add up

congrats

I haven’t dropped my goal of becoming a bestselling author (whatever that even means), but I did get realistic and made a list of smaller, much more doable goals in the meantime. Not making it onto a USA Today or NYT book list doesn’t equate to failure. Every Big Victory is made up of smaller victories:

Victory #1: Publishing the book

Before even getting to the sales part, that’s the first big step! Not everyone who finishes a book gets to the publishing part: it’s daunting and a lot like that recurring dream of showing up to take your math test naked. It’s vulnerable and brave to put yourself out there to be read and critiqued, so good job!

Victory #2: People are buying the book

This counts, even if your only customers are friends and family (so far). Your friends have other friends who are not your friends. Don’t discredit the power of word of mouth. I’m a huge evangelist for books that have a strong impact on me.

I’ve read some rants from authors about low sales during some months, but I’m just glad I sell any books at all…although I admit, I was REALLY excited when I sold 22 books in June, and a little crushed when I only sold seven in July. But still, any sales at all are always better than none. Always.

Victory #3: Getting reviews

Maybe your reviews will come from friends and family in the beginning. But still! Reviews help future readers who are browsing and looking at your book. Considering the number of people who say, “Yeah, I’ll get to it” when asked to write a review but never actually do, consider any review you get to be a victory, because it is. Even a small number of reviews are better than none!

But sometimes even one extremely heartfelt review is a huge victory. The first review that ever made me cry was from someone on Goodreads who said my book Someone You Already Know helped her in her healing process as a survivor of rape. That meant a lot. That keeps me writing.

Victory #4: 1-star reviews

Yes, I’m serious. My first instinct after reading my first 1-star for Public Displays of Convention was to blast “Mean” by Taylor Swift on repeat, but then I realized: 1-star reviews are proof to readers that someone other than your mom has read your book. That’s a big deal.

Victory #5: Building up a readership

In the two years I’ve been publishing books, it was only 10 months ago that I heard that buzz-phrase “build a readership.” So I got a Twitter account, a Facebook business page, created this blog, and started setting aside more time to engage with people who have similar interests. If people whom you’ve never met offline are starting to hear about you, whether it’s ten or ten thousand, that’s still a victory: people know you exist, and even if they don’t buy your books, at least they’ll know your books exist, too.

This non-exhaustive list feels small compared to the success of other indies I know, but I made it because I compare myself to others constantly: that’s a death trap. This list helps me remind myself that every big name in publishing started where I am right now. However you define “success,” remember it comes from a bunch of little things all rolled together over time.

Read other posts in the Indie Author Life series, and check back next week for more.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
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7 Responses to Finding success as a writer: the little victories add up

  1. eclecticalli says:

    Very good reminders! I don’t (yet) have a book published, but with the story-blog I have going I have to remind myself constantly: “there are at least two or three people reading this things, and your friends seem to be reading it via email, and your family isn’t reading it so.. therefore.. you are reaching other people!” Easy to forget the little accomplishments are actually huge ones!

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  2. Pingback: Links: Writing, Feminism, Toy Industry | Natacha Guyot

  3. Super post. Particularly like the fact that you’re recognising the “death trap” of comparing yourself to others. The problem with that is that we tend to compare ourselves to the elite instead of the masses – something I talk about in my post: “Being Perfect”. Success should only be measured by our own standards. (So you should ignore my comments…)

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      I network with a lot of indie authors who sometimes like to talk about their rankings on Amazon. Until I start selling a consistent number of books each month, that’s something I refuse to bother with…but even if I were selling enough to pay rent, or to pay for a vacation, there’s always going to be someone out there selling more than me. So I figure it’s best to not even bother caring and continue doing my own thing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very true! While I have not been publishing fiction so far, I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. Only one of my publications so far earned me a bit of money, but it doesn’t diminish the experience and exposure I have gained. And who knows? Maybe my upcoming book will be a nonfiction best seller (I can dream, right?)

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