The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You?

Kristen is a TOTAL Dean Koontz fan-girl!

Last week we talked about why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books and why marketing for writers requires a very different approach. We also discussed what critical event transpires to turn a good writer/good book into a legend—the mobilization of the fat part of the bell curve. Make no mistake, I will never promise to make any author a mega-best-selling household name, but I can give you some fundamental practices that will improve your odds greatly.

I’m here to guide you into higher and higher levels of success.

The tools I offer will help you maximize time on social media to leave you more time to do the most important aspect of your career….write great books. This month, we are going to strike out and explore ways that we can mobilize that fat part of the bell curve to our favor. I believe it is simple, but not at all easy.

Mobilizing that fat part of the bell curve will be a different process depending on what kind of author you are.

The tools I offer work for all kinds of authors, whether you are traditional, indie or self-published. Yet, I will be blunt when I say that indie and self-published authors need these tactics even more.


All Authors are Entrepreneurs

All authors are entrepreneurs, but we are not all the same kind of entrepreneur. Indie authors? We are the people who strike out with little more than a push cart and mama’s tamale recipe and dream to one day make it big. We are, for the most part, on our own and so we have to work harder, try harder, and perform better than the competition.

Writers who go the traditional route can be likened to the investor who opens a McDonalds. They are part of a franchise that is already branded and has a name already trusted by consumers. McDonalds might not be fine French cuisine, but it sells BILLIONS of burgers worldwide and is an icon.

However, not just anyone can own a McDonalds franchise. It’s an expensive and arduous process, but the chances you will be successful are actually quite good. Not only that, but McDonalds has set recipes that are proven to sell. They take on risk and responsibility by taking you on as a franchise owner. There is all kinds of training and support offered to help ensure your success.

But to say owning a McDonalds is the ONLY way to own a successful burger joint is ludicrous.

As entrepreneurs, we have the option of taking out a loan and opening our own burger joint and striking out on our own. There are multiple advantages. We can cook whatever kind of burger we want. We can decorate any way we like. We can choose to open at noon and only serve until two. We can become a burger & sushi bar, a combination no one has done before.

We can take full credit for any success and not have to share our profits. Ah, but we also have a 65% chance of going under in two years and listening to our family say, “I told you so” for the next 20 years. Not everyone has what it takes to strike out with a dream and a recipe for fried chicken.

Same in publishing. Not everyone has what it takes to be successful as a self-published or indie author. The time, work, focus and energy are as exhausting as trying to sway those sitting in the drive-thru at McDonalds to try out our hot dog stand instead.

Traditional publishing holds advantages. Traditional publishers are Golden Arches. Granted, no one goes into a book store and looks for a Random House or a Penguin, but we would be self-deluding if we didn’t admit that a major house stamped on the spine didn’t offer a writer an advantage. In traditional publishing, there are teams of people devoted to help a book succeed. Ah, but traditional publishers have set recipes of what they will publish. There is a standard of word count and the genre rules are far stricter.

Before anyone gets offended, I am in no way saying that traditionally published books are poor quality assembly-line stories. I’m not comparing the content to fast-food burgers. We all know that traditional publishing has very high standards. Granted, not everything they publish is gold, but most of it meets an amazing standard of excellence. The McDonalds reference is more for how the traditional publishers do business. There are limits to the risks they will take.

As a self-published author, I can totally believe that ferret romance novels with rodents as the main characters are going to be the next best thing. Hey, pets are the forgotten demographic. Think of all the cat and dog owners who can now read Fluffy and Muffin stories that speak to their little furry hearts.

No one can stop me from publishing A Tale of Two Hamsters or Muskrat Love Story. If I hit it big, I will be hailed as a creative genius, and Harper Collins will be hunting me down for a book deal. They had no idea that guinea pigs could be such a hot item!

If I fail? Eh *shrugs* people have short memories these days. I can try with something new because the only brand at risk is my own.

As an indie or self-published author, we have more creative latitude but it does come at a price.

What does this have to do with social media?

Before we do anything we first need to define who we are, what we want and the nature of our product before doing anything. We need to be clear about what kind of author we want to be. This is a critical step. We need to define who we are and what we want because defining the destination affects the journey. It will affect the tools we need, the resources, the mental fortitude.

Planning a trip to Orlando to go to Disney World is a far different trip than a hike to the North Pole. I challenge all of you to be honest and take some time today to write out what you want. Dream big, dream small, but most of all….WRITE IT DOWN.

Granted, my methods work for all kinds of writers, but the real magic from my principles will come in being properly prepared. We need a full appreciation for the journey we are going to take. The journey for all writers used to be pretty much the same. Write, bleed, get therapy, query, drink, write some more, query, maybe drink some more, and, if you didn’t give up or throw yourself off your balcony, you might make it past the gatekeepers.

Today? Lots of different paths to publication and lots of different definitions for success.

What is your definition of success? Is it just seeing your book in print? Is it selling a handful of copies to friends and family? Is it selling enough money to fund building your underground secret lab? Okay maybe that’s just me. No really! I ask of you…When are you going to know you have finally become successful?

Becoming a best-selling published traditional author is like planning a trip to the top of Everest. It is a HUGE undertaking and very few do it successfully.

The good news is that becoming a best-selling indie or self-published author is not like planning a trip to the top of Everest. Whew!

Bad news is it is like planning a trip to the summit of K-2. Yeah, sorry, no passes. Both ways require sacrifice, blood, sweat tears, blisters and good old-fashioned WORK.

We are going to discuss this more in the coming weeks. But I leave you with this exercise. Ask yourself today what kind of author you want to be. What does success mean to you? Define it. Make it real. If you don’t know the end destination, how can you ever properly prepare? How can you know when you’ve arrived? How can you know what roads to take? You can’t! So nail it down. And we will meet next week for the next step in the journey. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Dreams? Recipes for world domination using only a Bedazzler and a rubber chicken?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I will announce the December winners on Friday. 

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Happy writing!

See you next year!


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  1. All I can think about now is rubber chickens. I don’t think I’ll write that down as a goal but it might be more manageable ha ha! For me, I’ve been going along thinking the poetry is short and by far the quickest to finish so that is the candy on the side, but recently I really want to write poetry more than any other genre. Of course I still aim to get better at the other things I write, but I do feel like I have more purpose now that I have owned that statement. Why should poetry be rock bottom just because it is short and earns little money? Great post, Kristen!

    1. And I didn’t really answer the assignment question, nil points for me 🙂
      I would like to be a versatile author known for more than one genre. Success means selling lots of books at a respectable price combined with notoriety for your work. I think I will have arrived at success when I am completely and utterly overwhelmed with book launches and tours etc. At the moment how to get there is the easy bit.

  2. I love what Dave Ramsey says about success: “It’s dressed in work clothes.”
    You really do have to work hard for what you want. But if it’s your DREAM, then why not give it everything you’ve got!
    Great post. Thanks.

  3. Awesome. SO important to specifically define what success means to us. Without that specific destination in mind, how would we ever know we’ve arrived?

  4. I realized the truth of what you’ve said on this blog about three years ago when I tried to go the traditional route with my first book. What I discovered was that what I had written wasn’t right for the traditional market.Plus I realized that if I went with the traditional publishers, I would have to lose my rights to my book if I wanted to be their slave. I found out too that it was unlikely that they would give me much support in marketing my work. If I wanted it done, I was going to have to play a big part in it anyway. That’s why I went Indie. Back then traditional authors looked down their noses at the Indie authors, but that was before the serge in e-books. Now we have a better chance than ever to get out there and make our names known. I totally agree that we have to think like business people. We are in a business. The sooner we realize it, the more we’ll benefit.

    • Joy Held's Writer Wellness Blog on January 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm
    • Reply

    I just want to know who still has there Bedazzler. I do… “Look, sequins!”

  5. I don’t know what my thoughts and opinions are….except I wish I could take your knowledge, put it all on a chip, then plug it into my brain and download it. My debut hits shelves in May and I know I need to get more organized about this marketing thing. But time more organized.

    I need, to like you said, write down what success means to me. Is it horrible that I don’t know!?

  6. Um…..I’m not really sure what I was trying to say when I wrote “But time more organized”. I think I might have had a small blackout or something. I don’t even remember typing that!

    Maybe I was saying I need to get more organized, which is true.

  7. Well, I’ve already read We Are Not Alone, and it helped tremendously! Great blog, and I feel some relief that you’ve mentioned self-publishing because it wasn’t mentioned much in the book. I was afraid you wouldn’t address that. But since you are self-published…I’m sure you’re a fantastic resource. You already have been.

    Thank you so much for this class. I’m off to write my assignment now! And…what about mentioning you and your books on FB and/or Twitter? Does that count too? I think I’ll blog about the class tomorrow! 🙂

    1. When I wrote WANA, self-publishing hadn’t really gone mainstream so I didn’t talk about it that much. I knew my methods would work for ALL writers so it really wasn’t terribly important. I saw the change that was coming but most writers still didn’t see any route other than the traditional one at the time. This is steadily changing and I think the industry will be stronger for it.

      1. Do you want to read our assignments? I was thinking of blogging it.

        1. And thank you for your response. It’s uplifting hearing someone speak positively of self-publishing. So many don’t.

        2. Feel free to blog it. I will try to check it out if I have time :D.

  8. I have really thrown this around the past year or so. Many of the writing friends I have made are self-published. I have had the conversation many times, going over the pros and cons of each.
    At this point, I can truly see both sides. I can understand why each can be so appealing. I also understand that it is very much a personal decision, based on each person’s individual goals and personality.
    That being said, I still feel that the traditional route is right for me. It may be a longer process, but I think it is a better fit to my own goals. 🙂

  9. Fabulous post! Yes, we are entrepreneurs as authors and business owners. Thanks for the New Year uplift. I am going with a small press for my book and feel I still need the same tools regarding building my platform and marketing whether small press, Big 6 or self-pub. And am excited to control my destiny. I hope its not like climbing Everest. One. Step. At. A. Time.

    And we create our own success as entrepreneurs. Not someone else. As a former resume writing service business owner, I attest to this. My success there was built on building rapport with clients and (to toot my own horn) I had a 99% success rate in booking them for a job from our initial phone call. I think the same thing applies to marketing our books. Its all about relationships – in person or online and CONNECTING with our readers.

    p.s. Am so jealous you are with Dean Koontz…my fave author!

  10. Fantastic post, Kristen! I plan to take the traditional publishing route with an inde/self pub. mindset. I figure, the harder I and my whole team works, the better. And like climbing Mount Everest, the “prize” should be the journey. (Though the view from the top must be might cool… ;))

  11. Perhaps this seems petty, but I will know I’ve arrived when I can make enough at what I write in fiction on a regular basis to exceed my husband’s paycheck.

    1. I have the same goal. Nothing petty about that!

        • shawn on January 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm
        • Reply

        And I’m most assuredly can’t wait for it to happen too!

      1. Love this–Theresa and Kristen! I’d love to do that too. I have a submission out now with traditional pubs. I intend to work hard on the social media aspect–as if I’ve gone indie. And one day, I’d like to try that too. So cool. Hat’s off to those who are doing both. Great post to get us thinking about what we really want. Working on my goals . . .

  12. I’m taking Bob Mayer’s class. I hope it helps me figure out the kind of author I am. Timely post, Kristen! 🙂

  13. Here I am dropping my name in your hat. I love the McDonald’s metaphor, even though I hate their burgers. 🙂 I’ve noticed authors who do well with major publishers still do a lot of their own marketing. And I’m not just talking about the little people. It seems the “rules” have changed, and are still changing. Great article. Thanks so much for your insight!

  14. Love the comparison to McDonald’s versus Mom & Pop’s Hamburgers. Very apt.

  15. Kristen I love how you virtually just explained the basics of author platform. Essentially you have to know yourself, your likes, your dislikes and love yourself enough to say hey this is what I want and I’m going to go after it.

    1. Had to post again to get the reply comments. Pardon me.

  16. What do I want? World Peace. Hey, it worked for Sandra Bullock.

    In terms of publishing success, this fall, with my first book and fellow author-friends, we set up our booth at a local festival. The organizers put us next to the featured authors table. You know, the sad little table all the visitors pass on their way to see the the the literary heavyweights nominated for the Giller, the Governor General’s Award.

    I’ll know I am am successful when those readers panting in line for a signed copy of the latest NYT smash hit make eye contact with me, smile, and leave the line to pick up my book, saying to the friend beside them as they pull out their wallet, ‘Hey, I’ve heard of this book’, and then saying to me, ‘How much?’

    1. Snort! Er. Guffaw! I hadn’t looked at the name, but knew this was you, Sherry, when World Peace popped in the comments.

      You will get to that dream, Sherry! I know your work. To enhance your chances, consider a Sandra Bullock Swiss Alps costume with harmonic water glasses.

      1. Snort!

  17. Ferret romance – is that like “muskrat love”? LOL, couldn’t resist. 😉

    It’s interesting to think about how I’d answer the questions about what criteria define me as a successful author. Maybe this sounds crass, but for me it would be having folks who are perfect strangers plunk down their money and their time to read my book. For the Dean Koontzes of the world, that wouldn’t be terribly life-changing, but for me, it would be like wearing big-girl pants! Squee!

    • Tina Bausinger on January 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm
    • Reply

    As always, you provide valuable information with just the right amount of humor for seasoning. Thanks!

  18. I want the world and I want it now! Can I be honest? This is getting frustrating. Everytime I think you are going to give me some helpful gem you say to come back next week! I want Searching for My Wand to be the talk of the town. I want (at the very least) to sell 100,000,00 copies! I want to be able to make a comfortable living writing. That’s what I want.

    1. LOL…sorry. People get a tad pissy at 10,000 word long blogs, LOL. Defining who we are, what we want and what success means to us is the first and most crucial step. But I would suggest that you define a “comfortable living.” Is that you want enough to pay all of your bills and still have cash left to spend on liquor and wild men of ill repute? Is it you want a diamond-encrusted Mac book? What does it mean? Define it and put a dollar amount on it. List it and describe it in vivid detail.

  19. What’s wrong with writing, drinking, and then drinking some more?

    Ultimately, my goal is to write myself out of a job, but since I’m not currently working; then I’ll just set my goal to exceed my yearly income when I was working. Although, getting a movie deal isn’t a bad goal, either. And then maybe I could get nominated for an academy award…

  20. My goal is to eventually make enough with my self-published books that I can pay the bills, support my family and have money to splurge a little too. When I can afford to write full time, then I can set the bar higher.

    But right now… I need to finish the current book 😀 And learn everything I can about writing and marketing books in the side.

  21. Fantabulous! A life line! I am not crazy. Writing a novel is proving gut-wrenchingly difficult, one of those tight-rope, don’t look down experiences. So easy to turn away during the sweet-sodden holidays and say ah, not for me, but here I am back again, and very glad to find this online support today. Is it bad to be so dependent on Kristen Lamb-esque coaching? Feels like cheating. Oh, right, writing a novel is not a test. Or is it?

  22. You’re chipper attitude always leaves me giggling. I am now picturing someone running around Bedazzling everything in sight while swinging a rubber chicken over their head. I’m pretty sure a battle cry is also involved.

    1. TOWANDA!

  23. Success to me means my stories available in hard copy and e-copy. When I consistently produce one novel and one novella a year that generate five figure sales, I’ll know I’ve succeeded. I’m a Warrior Writer committed to Bob’s A-Team plan. My focus this year is write, write, write, blog, blog, blog and be epubbed by the end of the year. With the focus, the strategic goals by month and years lined out, the methods set (this class being the first tactical goal), and an accountability group to keep my path to the K-2/Everest Summit on target. I see success on the horizon. =) Thanks, Kristen for jumpstarting me.

  24. Great post, Kristen! I’ve known my goals as an author since I was 13 years old! I’ve tweaked it a little and there were some years where I thought I would try another way, but right now, I’m back to that original goal. And I’ll know I’m successful when I’m at a law school alumni event and some one asks where I work and I say, “Right now, I’m a stay at home wife and mother.” And they get that look on their face like they bit into a lemon. But then I follow it up with, “But I’m also an author.” And I can give them the titles of my three published novels still available. I’ll also have a signed contract for two more. Not that I’ve thought about it much or anything. 🙂

    1. I love your goals, Tracey.

      1. Thanks, Lanette. And I like drinking. Actually, I love it… 🙂

  25. Loved the post. I need a lot of help in establishing a brand. I know how to write. Getting someone to read it is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Sometimes I feel I’m all alone. Hope I’m not. I want to connect. Thanks

  26. Enjoyed the post. My careers advisor recently said something very similar. Especially about actually writing it down.

    (I’m reading ‘We are not alone’ and thought I’d let you know that actually my choice of toothpaste is based on advice from people online. I get mouth ulcers which are irritated by Sodium Lauryl Sulphate.)

    • Grigory on January 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm
    • Reply

    I’ll know i’m successful if i get a Nobelprize 🙂

  27. You probably don’t know it, but you’ve talked me off many a ledge.

    • heatherishither on January 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm
    • Reply

    Love the analogy. Everything is so exciting right now. I’m loving all the options we have both as readers and writers now.

  28. Did I sound bitchy earlier, because I really didn’t mean to. I don’t need a diamond encrusted Mac, nor do I need drinking money and men, although one really good one would be lovely, but I certainly don’t wish to have to buy him, lol! To define a comfortable living is easy, I want to be able to move from an apartment into a nice house. Nice being 3 or 4 bedrooms in my current neighborhood. Yes I want to be able to pay my bills, and send my kids to college if they so desire. (One will, the last probably not) I’d also like to travel a little because I rarely have, but I don’t have to fly first class or anything crazy. I guess what I want more than anything is to make enough money that I don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul, as they say. I don’t want to constantly think about money and let’s be clear, I could use a publicist. I’m willing to work. I just want to know that I’m not wasting my time!

    1. LOL. No you didn’t sound bitchy at all! I was merely challenging you to be more specific. Nebulous goals are almost as bad as no goals at all. Get it out of your head and on to paper and make it crystal clear what success really looks like. Your subconscious can be very helpful if you give clear directions :D.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on January 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    In answer to your question, my definition of success in writing is two pronged.
    1) I really want an agent. I feel like the only way I can get in with one of the big publishers is to have someone, other than my mother, pulling for me.
    2) I’m already published and I’ve done well in sales, but my contract is with an e-publisher, a big one who takes good care of their authors and has gorgeous covers and talented editors, but…well (and this is a personal opinion, there’s nothing wrong with either E or Indie publishing) I feel like I haven’t totally accomplished my full goal yet. Yes my book is available on Amazon and LSB, and sure people can read it, but they can’t find my novel in a book store. They can’t turn paper pages.
    And here’s the crazy part, I love reading books on my Ipad. It’s cool and slick and futuristic. And I can carry around 1000 books without breaking a sweat. Plus, brick and mortar stores are closing left and right. You’d think I’d be happy with being electronically published.
    But something inside this noggin of mine just can’t grasp that I’m an author until my book can be purchased off a shelf in Barnes and Noble alongside Vera Bradley wallets and the sound of milk being steamed in the background.
    All I know is that my dream is to be a writer and have people not only read, but enjoy my stories. If being forever e-published is my lot in life, It’ll be okay…but I’d be much happier if a tree had a part in the end product of publication.
    Thank you, as always, for your wisdom.
    Have a great evening!

    • Tamara LeBlanc on January 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm
    • Reply

    Forgot to answer another of your questions in my very long comment.
    I want to be the kind of author who writes daily.
    Every year one of my new year’s resolutions is to write more, to write like it’s my job. And every year ends with that resolution having been ignored.
    I don’t want to continue on this path of maybe I can do it, I want to be the chic that DOES do it. That’s my resolution, to be the kind of author who is, prolific, driven, and unafraid of failure.
    Thanks again,

    1. We are all afraid of failure. Courage doesn’t mean not feeling fear, it is acting in spite of what we feel. We still feel fear, but we don’t hand it the keys to our future ;). Sounds like you are off to a terrific start!

        • Tamara LeBlanc on January 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks so much Kristen!

  29. If I dream within reality I’d love to make enough on my self pubbed book to pay for getting the next one out- however the next step to that dream- I want to make enough money to improve my families quality of life- the next step up making enough money to support my family completely and have my husband become my personal slave- the highest shiniest step- movie deal, my own island with underground lab, interviews with Oprah, and a movie deal- I have a few fav directors picked out but I don’t want to jinx it 🙂

  30. Success is committing yourself to achieve your goals. To know you have truly succeeded is by looking down at a list you have written to yourself and have everything checked off. I’ll admit I don’t write down my goals. I keep them in my head where I can change/adapt to them if it looks like my goal is not turning out the way I want it to. I think I have a fear of committing myself to a project and pushing myself through that extra mile to get it done, which is ultimately why none of my writing projects, current or past, are finished.

    As for my dreams? Currently I dream of blogging and freelance writing. I have a comic book I’d like to write and draw, which means I have to learn how to draw too. Unfortunately, all four concepts terrify me.

    The kind of author (or artist) I would like to be is someone who is committed to her projects and writes (and draws) consistently and passionately.

  31. The idea of writing down what I really want is a little scary. But I’m sure that’s why it’s important to do. I’m not going to post my goals here because that’s way too much for me, but I will write them down in my little notebook. Now I want some McDonald’s french fries.

  32. I’ve recently retired and am still rediscovering what all I want to do in my second childhood, besides write my family’s mentally ill, abusive, incestuous memoir of which I survived and broke the mold behind me. There’s a tear jerking mammoth of a memoir for you. This only answers little of the question and it matters not whether it’s e-published or traditional, but I will need help in the long run!
    For over 20 years I worked in special needs advocacy. I still want to work toward the greater good. Money to make our little nest egg more “cushy,” yes, that would be nice indeed! How much money? That begs many questions. I’m writing my memoir in hopes of helping others. I would like for my book to become successful enough for me to travel and speak with others; sharing hope and listening to their stories (should they care to share).
    I’d like to open a mental health non-profit foundation to target individuals who have suffered from the hands of rape and incest. It is more prominent that the public actually knows. I know, I worked in the field as well as being a victim and survivor.
    A movie, talk shows, yes, I no longer have a fear of speaking. My voice was stifled for many years. Once I discovered I had nothing to fear after being left homeless and was on my own, my world opened up for the taking!
    I forged full steam ahead and didn’t look back, until I was forced with looking at it from a nervous breakdown during menopause. Strange how your brain eventually makes you face your fears and deal with them.
    I am now stronger than I have ever been in my life! It doesn’t take tons of money to make me happy. I am happiest when my family is cared for and I can share with others of my time or if I have it, money as well; in one way or another.
    Once this memoir is finished, I’d like to start a series for children and YA about all of the aforementioned above, but in a better way that they can understand it or their parents can share it with them. No one should ever have to go what I endured.
    Yes, TOWANDA! I’m now older and I have more “assurance!”

    Gomenosai! For such a long answer to a rather easy question.

    Suzannesan (from Marble Falls)

    1. Just that you know I’m not some propaganda or notoriety mogul; after I wrote this answer, it kept me up all night! Everything that I write is truth. It was MY life and learned much in spite of how I was raised.
      That in itself is much of the story. I knew it was wrong and was determined to do something about it. I have been working as an advocate since a child, but didn’t realize it, until I started writing as the healing process.
      I’m “Little Miss SuzieQ” out to save the world, just help where I can. That’s what I’ve always done and will continue to do. This is not something I just started. You can find me on LinkedIn and see all the things I’ve done in the past.
      BTW, I was probably voted “Least Likely to Succeed” as well as “The Perfect Square” of my decade.

  33. I’m shooting for the traditional publishing route armed with the tools to help with the marketing as much as possible. Thanks for your quote the other day about “results being what’s important, not perfection.” I was letting myself slide into the perfection trap when faced with the fear of failure. Then I realized that not going forward was failure itself. Thanks for that!

    1. Just dropped by your blog and left you a comment on your one liners. I think you’ll find it interesting.

  34. I’m not sure I’m a writer. I’m a communicator.
    My love is the process of making a story, and then having someone understand it. When I was little, I wrote stories and made people read them, and since my teens I’ve been involved in publishing in some way. The process of bringing stories to people is what I love.
    I have been published, but it’s frustrating to have boxes of unpublished writing–work that has reached no one–because I haven’t understood what I am. I’m not interested in making a body of work that no one reads, or that will be found after I’m dead.
    Most days my job as a copy editor of a medical journal is more satisfying than my writing because I know the journal will reach someone.
    On New Year’s Day, I published my blog to Kindle. That helped me realize I have to start thinking of my writing as only the first step in the publication process. Legacy or indie published–doesn’t matter. Getting it out there is completion and completion is my goal.
    Then that’s my definition of success. Taking stories from conception to the reader. Just getting it out there. Knowing that gives me direction and I’m developing a strategy.

  35. Yep – time to get the goals out of my head and down on paper, where they can become real, blossom, and make me a million dollars this year!

    Thank you for another fab post, Kristen. 🙂

  36. I’ve gone back and forth over whether or not I want to be traditionally published or self-published. I’m leaning towards traditional publishing right now, but that could change. I do know that I want to make enough money that I can pay the bills, keep the house, and have money left over to travel some, take workshops, and put some away for the future. Oh, and give some to my favorite charities.

  37. In my previous career, I learned goals are moer often acheived if stated in ‘SMART’ terms, ie. specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tactical. Here’s my first draft: I want to epublish imaginative and entertaining fiction of varied lengths in great enough quantities to support my writing and contribute at least an additional $20k to the household coffers within five years.

    But I reserve the right to change my mind 😉

  38. My first goal is relatively modest–publish a novel. If I can achieve that success, then my next goal will be to make money from a second novel, which will be a much better story, written faster, smarter, and deeper. After that … we’ll see.

    It’s so true about knowing what your goals are. I think that’s why many writers are miserable–they’re writing for the wrong reason, but they won’t admit it to themselves.

    Thanks for shining a light on this toppic, Kristen.

  39. Thanks to your post, I’ve decided to bedazzle my next query package! Not really, but I did realize that I need to refocus my goals, and do it pronto. I feel myself slipping into writer’s coma…

  40. Simple: I will know I’ve arrived as a writer when my income is such that I can live indoors, eat on the regular, and travel comfortably. Okay, so those need some concrete figures to them but with inflation, I’m just not sure that the dollar amounts I put in now will be adequate in a year, LOL.

    Seriously, I will consider myself successful with my writing when it’s my sole source of income and I’m NOT living on the street in a cardboard box.

  41. The panster in me starts squealing the moment we start talking about long-term planning. It doesn’t matter that I’ve converted to using outlines with my writing and that I understand the value of putting a plan down even though it may get scrapped and rewritten in short order…the idea of planning my writing career freaks me out. My inner panster says, “Everything could change in less than a year! So much has changed already. You started out with traditional publishing being the only option and now there’s indie and e-pubbing. What if….” I guess I just need to tell my inner pantser to chillax. LOL Sure, things will probably change and change fast but I need to make a plan anyway.

    Ultimately, I want to have my books in print and e-book (though that doesn’t mean I’m set on traditional publishing necessarily) and I want to be selling enough books to equal my hubby’s income. But, as that seems so far away right now, my nearer goal is to self-publish an anthology, novella, or novel and sell at least 100 copies beyond what friends and family buy. I think that will give me my first real taste of success. My nearer nearer goal is to finish my MIP and prove to myself I can actually finish a novel.

  42. 1. I want to know what happens next in my current WIP.
    2. I want to have 3-4 books under contract (1 down already plus a short story that appeared in a Christmas anthology).
    3. I want to establish a relationship with an agent, after I have a fairly solid on-line presence and a track record for sales.
    4. I want to earn $20 – $40k a year from writing fiction.

    Thanks for the entertaining/enlightening post. I’ve been wondering what WANA stood for, and through reading the comments here, I finally figured it out –> We Are Not Alone. That’s beautiful.
    Thanks again,
    (w/a Liv Rancourt)

  43. My long-term goal of getting published will happen this fall when my debut comes out. There’s a lot I hope to achieve in terms of entertaining readers and getting future book deals, but one of the ways I’d know I’d “arrived” is having my book reviewed by Nancy Pearl, Seattle’s rockstar librarian.

  44. This made me smile & since it’s one of the first posts I’ve read in a good long month, that’s a good thing.

    As for Muskrats in Love, what about:

    Sloths in Seattle
    10 Bees that Buzz About You
    You’ve Got Snails (sounds like an STD diagnosis, sorry ’bout that)
    When Hairy Met Sally
    City of Antelopes


    1. LOL Too funny! You guys are so creative :D.

  45. I totally want a diamond encrusted Mac. That is going down on my goals!

    I’m sorry, but after Natalie Hartford’s post yesterday, Bedazzler just makes me laugh and lose my concentration. If you didn’t read it, here’s the link:

  46. Great post, as always. 🙂

    At this point, I am still working the traditional route. I’m going this way mostly because I like the idea of working with a team of people and I like having someone to help me ensure that what I’m putting out there is the best it can be. I really don’t know that I have what it takes to do it all alone. I still plan to market myself like an indie because I believe that is necessary in any market these days.

    I live to write, so I will always do it. What I would really like is to make enough money to supplement the household income and take the stress out of the cost of going on vacation, fixing the truck, taking the cat/horse/other critter to the vet, and the like. I also wouldn’t mind getting a bit of fan mail/e-mail now and then from someone letting me know a book I wrote moved them (like the fan mail I got from my short story in Cricket magazine – that is an amazing feeling).

    Best use of a bedazzler? Sprucing up the ugly black walking boot you get when you break your ankle (twice) or your foot (once). Trust me, that is a really good time for a bit of bedazzling. 😉

  47. An enjoyable and inspiring post. I kinda cheated on my assignment, though–I already knew what I wanted out of writing 🙂

  48. I’d like to work the traditional route, but I don’t believe a publisher will pick me up – too controversial for the usual houses.

    As for my ultimate goal? I’d like to see a movie made. Why? To humanise asylum seekers (my husband) and partner visa people (us). To show that being kept away from your husband who could be killed any day is not a nice way for a government to treat a citizen. Hopefully to bring civil rights changes.

    Big goal, I know. I’ll settle for selling to book and being able to pay the kids university fees!

    • hmcmullin on January 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm
    • Reply

    I know what I don’t want perhaps more than what I want. I don’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling. I’d love the talent and creative mind part (and the money wouldn’t hurt) but I wouldn’t want the groupies, wanna-bes, paparazzi, and loss of privacy that comes with that fame. I don’t want to be the center of attention, I want to write about the center of attention from my own corner. I want the satisfaction of creating something in my mind, getting it on paper, and having it bring a smile to someone’s face, or give them the same kind of “aha” moment that I’ve gotten from another author’s writing which opens a whole new universe to explore.

  49. Very inspiring as usual.
    My view of success is to become a career author and being on the best sellers list would be the icing on the cupcakes (easier to eat).
    Last years goal was to get a publisher–I did that (my novel TWISTED ROOTS will have a summer release).
    This years goal is to sell at least 800 copies by the end of December 2012. If I keep following you and reading your book, I’m sure to get there. 🙂

  50. Your words have made me think, Kristen. My goals are to eventually make a living writing. I’d like to work with a traditional publisher writing novels that inspire, entertain and captivate readers. I’ve decided to set a $ goal this year for money I’d like to make writing, something I’ve not done before and consider other ways to make money writing in addition to writing novels.

  51. Hi Kristen,

    A good question for people to ask. What kind of author are they? The brand does not stop at the book, but carries through the author too.

    I consider writers who are not embracing social media to be lagging behind. I wonder if their audience is frustrated because of lack of website or internet presence?

    My own goal is to publish the first book in my trilogy- Becoming Human, trad or Self Publishing, to be decided.

    • Ed on January 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm
    • Reply

    As I am working on just finishing my first novel, I will consider myself successful when I am published at all (whether traditional or indie, though I’m leaning more toward e-publishing based on what I’ve been reading lately). I expect some of my friends will buy it, but ultimately, if I can get anyone beyond my circle of friends to purchase it, I’ll count myself successful.

    We’ll see how that changes when I get a few more titles under my belt 😉

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