Monday, March 24, 2014

How Do You Define Success?

Lately, I've had people say things about me hitting  the New York Time Best Seller List. Or signing TV or movie deals. Or in the case of DH, making enough money we can pay cash for a little bungalow in Waimea, Kauai.

But these are other people's definitions of success. They are not necessarily mine. Why? I know how some of this stuff works and they don't.

1) Best Seller Lists

First of all, in cases like the NYT and USAToday, the books that make a bestseller list mean that they sold more copies relative to the millions of books available for sale in a given week.

What a lot of people don't realize is that most bestseller lists are manipulated. For example, the NYT separated adult and kids' books when the Harry Potter dominated the charts ten years ago. They separated hard covers/mass market paperbacks/e-books decades ago for the same reason.

During the erotica boom in 2012, Barnes & Noble weighted their best seller list so erotica books didn't show on their Top 125 unless they were published by a trad publisher.

Also, a bestseller can be bought--if you have six figures to spend and you know which stores the list makers pull their numbers from.

So if there's so much manipulation, is my book making the bestseller truly a success?

2) Movie/TV Deals

The odds of a book being turned into a movie or TV are astronomical. I know several writers who have sold options on their books. (A option is an exclusive license to purchase the right to make a movie and/or TV show based on your story.) Not one of the book authors I personally know has had a movie or TV show filmed yet.

Even bestselling authors don't always have their stories turned into film right away. Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire traveled around Hollywood for two decades before the film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt was finally made. At one point in that eighteen-year journey, Cher was considered for the role of Lestat.

So the odds of one of my books being adapted is next to nil at this point.

3) Money

I'm not going to deny that having extra spending money is very, very nice. I've had it; I haven't had it. But I have learned it's not the end-all, be-all. Yes, the bungalow in Waimea is our dream. If it happens, great. But I've not going to drive myself insane or work myself to death to achieve it.

Each person needs to define what success is to them. Maybe one of these three things defines success to you. If so, more power to you. I hope you find what your looking for. Just don't let other people decide what your success should be. Trust me; it's a sure way to make yourself miserable.


  1. My definition of success will be when I can buy Ivy her 6 top spider burner stove/fan oven.

  2. Now, THAT'S an oven, Tim. And it's way more doable than my bungalow. *grin*

  3. My definition of success has to do with money, but it's a secondary effect. First, I want to be read. I want people reading my stuff, talking about it, commenting on it, and liking it enough to try the next one. Practically speaking, that means selling a lot of stuff. Sales translates more directly into readers than anything else. Books given away are rarely read, so the whole freebie thing is really a non-starter if you want readers, except in special cases like fanfic.

    There are things I'd like -- a big house on a few acres, a car and someone employed to drive it for us (since neither my husband nor I drive) since with that much property we'd be far enough off the bus lines that public transit would be problematic. But I don't need that to feel successful.

    I guess successful would translate into enough readers to let me pay a significant fraction of the family bills on a regular basis. That'd be very cool.


    1. Angie, the big thing is that you have defined for yourself what you would consider success.

  4. 'But I'm not going to drive myself insane or work myself to death to achieve it.'

    What--you some kinda socialist?
    Is what every other member of my family would say...

    1. Nah, I'm one of those free-lovin' pagans, Stu Rat.

      Now, if your family wants to cough up the money for home health care and rehab after my stroke...