Once upon a time while surfing the web, I came across this as a suggested writing prompt:
What author’s career are you most jealous of? Why?
As I read that, my first reaction was: Why should I be jealous of another author’s success?
jeal·ous adj. 1) Fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position. 2) a) Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others. b) Inclined to suspect rivalry. 3) Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness. 4) Vigilant in guarding something. 5) Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; autocratic.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, but I’ve never considered this business as a competition. Why not? Because your success as an author has absolutely no bearing upon my success as an author. In fact, I love seeing authors, especially unknown authors (and especially ESPECIALLY unknown, self-published authors, such as myself) succeed. And if I can help out another author, I’m happy to do it.
Now, let me qualify one thing just a little: I suppose it does become a bit of a competition if you’re writing for magazines, newspapers, or other periodicals. After all, there’s only so much space in each edition.
But, as someone who writes books, my success as a self-published author depends entirely upon my own ability to put out engaging, well-written, well-edited material, and my ability to market that material. That’s all on me. Just because Joe Literary sells a lot of books doesn’t mean he’s taking sales away from me. Way to go, Joe! I’ll be there someday, but in the meantime, keep up the good work! I don’t get annoyed, jealous, or angry because of Joe’s, or any other author’s, success.
Okay, okay, that’s not entirely true. I will confess that I get annoyed when “celebrities” write fluff books that sell millions of copies (or sell almost no copies, but the “author” still gets paid), just because their face is plastered all over the media, even if—especially if—they’ve never actually done anything to warrant their fame. (Hi, Snooki! Hi, Paris!) I guess that’s just a personal failing of mine.
But, anyway, we were talking about authors succeeding…
To better understand what I’m getting at, I guess it helps to know what I mean by success.
You see, your idea of success and mine might be different. In fact, they probably are, at least a little. I’m sure there are some authors that think of success as a six-figure—or seven—advance or annual income, with acclamation in all of the literary magazines, and awards coming in from all sides. I won’t deny that would be nice, but I’d consider myself successful if I just made enough from my writing so that I could do it full time. I don’t need the awards or the six and seven figure paydays, although I certainly won’t turn you down if you want to shoot some of that my way.
Look, there are millions of readers in the world. In my mind, there are more than enough of them to take care of the authors that put out good content, of which I hope I am one. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t. It may take some time, but I’ll get there eventually. Until then, I’ll just keep writing. To all of you other authors out there who might not have made it yet, keep at it! And if you have already attained your idea of success, good work!
So what do you think? What’s your idea of success? And is this a competition? Or is it a road we’re all on together?