While watching the local newscast, I heard a reporter introduce a prominent doctor as a successful surgeon, before proceeding to recite a long list of his achievements. I turned to my husband and asked sarcastically, “So if another surgeon doesn’t accomplish all that he has, does that make him an unsuccessful surgeon?”
My husband shrugged nonchalantly and responded, “I guess it depends on how you define success.”
When I first decided to publish my stories, my idea of success was getting a traditional publisher to publish my story. At that time, I was not thinking about self-publishing and (now shamefacedly) like many authors a few years back, I didn’t think of self-publishing as being successful. But now that I have gotten my work published, and spent three years without another in print, my idea of success has changed.
What makes a successful author? Is a successful author a prolific author? I can think of one Pulitzer Prize winning author who only published one book. Harper Lee is by any measure a successful author. Not only did she win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, but her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, is considered an American classic and is assigned reading for English Literature in most middle and/or high school classes. Yet Harper Lee is not prolific.
Is a successful author a rich author? Well in that case the successful authors are few and far between.
Is a successful author on the NY Times bestseller list? That is one measure of success. But does that mean any author who is not on the NY Times bestseller list is unsuccessful?
Is a successful author published by a traditional big publishing house? I’ve seen many successful authors who have self-published, even some producing bestsellers. I’ve seen huge publishing houses publish books that tank.
What I’ve concluded is that what defines a successful author is dependent on the definition of success. And that definition is not only subjective, but is also dynamic. The definition of success as a writer is constantly changing for me.
What do you define as success for an author?