Measure of Success

The concept of success has always been interesting to me, and the way I define it has changed greatly over the years. For a lot of people, monetary wealth (or the lack there of) is the only earmark of success that counts. For some, it’s academic achievement. For others, it’s about power and influence in the community (which is typically bought with money).

I wonder, though, what is required to be considered a successful author?

Not too long ago, I would have consider the act of simply writing a book as the line between success and failure. Then I wrote a book and it felt like a victory for a little while. After the second or third, it became routine, not really a big of deal at all.

For some, I imagine a publishing contract would be the definition of success as a writer. But there are different levels of contracts. A quick comparison between my annual income to JK Rowling’s makes that all too clear.

Perhaps success as a writer means mastering the craft of writing, of being able to put together words in such a way that others weep at the beauty you’ve created.

Or maybe it’s topping a best seller list? It’s gotta be cool to top the NYT list, right? Or maybe it’s reader recognition in the form of good reviews? Or maybe awards from respected institutions? Or maybe it’s about earning enough to pay the mortgage and feed your kids?

I haven’t quite figured out what benchmark I need to reach in order to consider myself a successful writer. I suspect that once I reach that point, the definition would change anyway. For now, I’m pretty damn happy with life in general and, when it comes right down to it, that’s why we chase success, right? In order to be happy?

What about the rest of you, writers and readers? What makes a writer successful?




  1. What makes a writer, or anyone successful is when she reaches her goals. If your goal is to publish, then the first published book is “success”. If your goal is to be a millionaire via publishing, then you reach “success” when that royalty check arrives that puts you over the million $$ mark. When I read I like to be transported wherever the author is taking me. If you can make “see” and “hear” your characters and feel that I know them and their surroundings and keep me interested in what they are doing, then you are successful for me, the reader. Your books do that, so for me you are a successful author.


  2. Ultimately, I think a successful writer is someone who perseveres. They may or may not be published, but they follow their heart and get words on the page. it sure as hell does not equate to money!


    • lol, ain’t that the truth. Unless, of course, you are JK Rowling. Did I mention that she’s my gold standard for all things awesome and amazing in the world of literature? Love everything about her and love that she’s found success in a difficult market.


  3. It depends on what you aspire to. As a writer, I would imagine your readers valuing and appreciating your work would make you a success in my estimation. I love all your work so in my opinion you are a success!


  4. I think anyone who achieves or strives to achieve their dreams is successful. Be it being published or being rich it is an individual thing and you are right success is very fluid, it is constantly changing. Often the measure of success in the eyes of others is different from our own.


  5. If you’re able to do what you enjoy doing, whether or not you get paid for it or how much, that seems to be a pretty good watermark to me. Rest is icing.


    • Yes, this is so true, but sometimes it takes folks a while to figure out what that truth means in a practical sense. I’m in my mid-forties and just now getting it. I think.


  6. For me, at the moment, my definition of success would be to be able to make a living out of writing. But then, as you say, my definition may change to become something else. Success is fluid, as human nature tends to demand that we always want to strive for the next goal, and so our definition of success becomes reaching that next goal.


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