“Have I Arrived?” Defining Your Expectations as a Writer

I recently went to a fabulous wedding. It was held at a vineyard in California wine country and everyone was dressed to the nines. I was able to interact with many acquaintances I rarely see.

“You’ve published a book!” A friend’s mother cried, hugging me with enthusiasm.

“Self-published,” I felt obligated to mention.

“Yes, but you always wanted to be a writer, and now your dream has come true! You have arrived!”

As she ran off to be photographed next to the bride, I let her gracious words marinate in my head for a while. Have I arrived? Not by my system of measurement. In many instances, a writing career is something that can take a lifetime to establish. So, how do authors know when they have ‘arrived?’

On the outset of any undertaking, it is important to determine what success looks like. Writers can only benefit from defining their own expectations of success. Does success mean self-publishing a book on Amazon for friends and family to enjoy? Does it mean filling a need or service in the community? Does it mean a lucrative career and multiple bestsellers that are optioned for film?

Plane red carpet

If you aspire to have your work read by as many people as possible, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a popular writer. However, if you only recognize success as a big time book deal and an over-sized cardboard novelty check, you may never reach your ultimate goal. The writing journey is a long one, with many milestones on the path to success. Reaching a milestone goal might be cause for celebration. How about celebrating the first time a stranger approaches you and asks about your writing? Why not celebrate your first book review that goes online? Maybe one of your milestone goals is selling three hundred books and you celebrate by going out for sushi. There are people who have sold three million books and it doesn’t feel like enough to them. That’s the difference between people who walk the earth happy and those who are vaguely dissatisfied and unfulfilled. They never established the finish line, so all they can see is what they have yet to accomplish, not what they have already accomplished.

If your goal is to be the best writer in America, that’s not possible to quantify, and trying to measure your success will only frustrate you. Whatever your endgame, the point is to determine the location of the finish line and create goals and expectations for building your writing career. It’s important to be honest with yourself about where you want to end up. If you can clearly define and articulate where you want to go, you have a much better chance of getting the help you need to reach your destination.

Emily Bronte only wrote one book in her life, but it was Wuthering Heights. She did not live to see the widespread acclaim for her book, but we can all agree that she was an exceptionally successful writer. Many writers wait for their audience to decide if they have arrived. They are waiting for a stamp of approval from the world, a bestseller list placement, their parents, friends, or maybe their high school creative writing teacher. At the end of the day, though, only the writers themselves can determine if their goals have been met and they have finally arrived.

Do you think that success as a writer is about the destination or the journey?

The Create Space Experience

Many people gaze at online publishing as settlers must have viewed the wild, wild, west – with fear and awe. However, life on this frontier is not as lawless as one might think. It can be a useful accelerator on your path of obtaining or supplementing traditional publishing efforts. Take Create Space, for instance. Well-organized and structured, this tool can provide the positioning and leverage you need to take your creative efforts to the next level. Where you go from there is entirely up to you, and there are a myriad of options for you to ornament your work with whatever bells and whistles you want.

Even before you receive what is called an advanced reader copy (ARC) or a gallery (similar to an ARC), you can print out books for your readers and reviewers. In turn, they can begin your marketing buzz by word of mouth. With Create Space’s step-by-step application, the author is guided through all the necessary steps to correctly setting up their book. Setting up the title, creating the interior, and selecting cover art are parts of the process. You can upload interior files as a PDF to ensure formatting will not change. You can either create a cover with the website’s cover creator wizard or upload your own. In this case, be sure to follow their directions to the letter to ensure you don’t frustrate yourself by having the wrong size spine or files with poor resolution that will look shabby.  If you aren’t the type that can sustain the trial and error it will take to get this right, then recruit a patient friend to help you with the details.

Even before your book is actually for sale, you can choose to have sample chapters viewable to your social media networks through Create Space / Amazon, even if you don’t have your own website. You will have a way for people all over the world to familiarize themselves with your book. Create Space also has very good deals and is a low cost vehicle for having copies on hand for your book signings and giveaways.

The flexibility for authors is also remarkable. There are no minimum print runs with Create Space. You can order as few as one at a time. For perfectionists who want to make sure everything is just right before committing to a large press run, this is an unprecedented luxury. I ask readers to write Amazon book reviews, which are better than gold, and send out those links via Twitter. Perhaps best of all, actual customer service people answer the phones and they do so 24 hours a day.

Thanks to Create Space and other emerging platforms, there are more options than ever for authors to distribute their work. Technology has opened up an ocean of opportunity, and the new world looks brighter than ever.

Have you ever utilized non-traditional publishing methods to support your traditional publishing dreams? If so, how? How might a tool like Create Space help your marketing platform?