This question seems to have a slippery answer. Every time I come up with something my gut says is true, another though zips in and alters the answer I just formed, adding a whole new perspective to things. And then I lose track of the thought I just had, even though I wouldn’t have arrived at my current thought without the one before it. It’s like trying to hold onto every last detail in a photograph. Our brains just can’t do it. We have to look and look, and look again. Let me see if I can adequately express my ever-changing concept of success.
Trying to grasp the full scope of success flung me down memory lane. How simple life is when we’re little/young. Everything’s simple. Everything focuses around what feels good and makes us happy. Truly understanding the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is never fully grasped until you are a legal adult. Sure, we begin to explore that answer in earnest as teenagers, but we change our minds as fast as a cast die bouncing around on a gambling table. There’ so much to learn, so much we can do, so much we want to see, and we want to do it all at once. And then reality slaps you in the face and tells you to straighten out your priorities. Reality doesn’t work the way you see it in your head, kiddo.
You are quite right, sir. *rubs cheek and nurses injured pride*
In all, it wasn’t about success. It was about always doing one thing or another I enjoyed. Then somewhere along the way, it became all about having a career and succeeding, becoming financially independent and waking up every day doing what I enjoy. And while all that was going on, other people’s realities pushed and pulled at mine. And while I was slowly embracing my calling as a writer, the reality of how to achieve success as a writer slowly became clearer and clearer. Still, to this day, I’m learning what it takes, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.
My preconceived notion of what being a successful author was evolved over the years. At first, I assumed that, once you made it to bookshelves, you were golden. It’s hard enough to make it to bookshelves, so there had to be no more struggle once people could buy your books. Oh, naivety, how you love to rear your head so often in my life…
Authors rise and fall. Some never make it big. Some have their books returned to the publisher with their covers ripped off after years of collecting dust on shelves. Crappy books are published and do insanely well, yet some wonderful books fall through the cracks. The rest fill out the spaces in between, never quite making it big, but not quite slipping into failure’s void. And now here’s my first book added to that intense, subject mix. I’ll elaborate on my debut in a moment (haha, just tried to use “deliberate” instead and it took me a moment to figure out why that word didn’t sound right).
Before finally getting published my whole personal concept of success was finally making it onto bookshelves. After that I’d have no worries. Went to grad school to improve my writing and meet the right people, yada yada, and from there everything would turn out all hunky dory. Yeah… no. I did meet great, wonderful, helpful people, so many of them with the same dream as me, and at the same time me wondering how on earth every last one of us could possibly all have their dreams realized? There’s just not that kind of room at the top… If there was, then the top wouldn’t seem so grand. So what about me? What do I do if I don’ t make it?
No. I must keep trying. I can’t stop until I succeed. Like Morgan Freeman once said about his journey to become a famous actor that he’d either succeed or die trying. I feel the same way. I don’t know how to explain it. I probably can’t. You either know the feeling or you don’t, this ache in your chest, this need to follow your heart, this drive to do whatever it takes, this feeling of being fully alive when all your energies are poured into your life’s passion. There is no “what else” if my writing fails.
April 2012 I’d technically succeeded by my own definition. I launched my first eBook through an independent publisher and… watched sales go nowhere. Twelve books in the first month, a dozen more over the next three months, then I don’t know how many after summer passed. My former ePublisher never informed me, nor did he produce the pitiful sum of royalties I was owed. And over the course of those humiliating nine months, friends and acquaintances assured me they’d grab my book, but never did. I told so many people, handed out postcard-sized flyers with my book cover and synopsis on it, and got my hopes up over and over. I couldn’t believe people would lie to me, instead of just be honest about their reading habits and the likes. For my personality it’s easier to take a “no, thanks” than it is words intended to be kind/polite, yet with no action to back them up. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve let go of the bitterness borne from that. I’ve learned to say “oh, well” and just let it go. Sure, the memories still hurt, but all I can do is learn from it. Now I’m focused on getting people I don’t know to pick up my book. So much easier on the psyche.
I had to fall on my face a few time to accept that my publishing success was actually a failure. I bounced off rock bottom a good few times last year. I didn’t start bouncing up for real until you saw that shift in my blog posts. I’m still bouncing but I’m bouncing a little higher each time, falling not quite as low between bounces. I’m still thinking about how I define success for me personally. During my thinking/introspection a simple answer presented itself. My ultimate preconception of success is simply this: I want to be able to start every day with boogie boarding for an hour or two at the beach just outside my house. That’s it. Catching waves. And to be able to catch them every day in a climate that allows for such a schedule.
This isn’t the answer I expected, but the thought of it makes me smile. I love the beach as much as I love writing. I’ll take the threat of hurricanes and dangerous marine life in the name of good surf, the sooth sound of crashing waves, a salty breeze, ample sun, and of course sand everywhere you don’t want it. There are so many ways I want to achieve this goal, but my heart yearns for my writing to build this yellow brick road to the beach.
February 2013 Book Relaunch
Friday was an exciting day. My new ePublisher and I put my relaunched first book up for free on amazon.com for the entire day. It turned out way better than I expected. It came in at 1094 in overall free book downloads, and 11th in scifi/fantasy. Still, that took no more than 300 copies to achieve that, but now those 300-ish people have my book in their hands and the seed of word-of-mouth is ready to bloom. Word-of-mouth is an author’s best friend. No matter how much advertising and marketing poured into a book readers are what make or break a book. Shield of the Gods is back on at 3.99 and it’s not even in the top 100. It’s circa 60k overall. Now all I need is time. I can’t wait to see my first review from a reader I don’t know. I want that unbiased feedback from someone who’s never seen me, doesn’t know anything about me. Yep, my heart is pumping, but it’s all good.