It seems I’m constantly on the lookout for things that will stimulate my mind. Or that will possibly stimulate the minds of others. (Sometimes this tends to get me in a little bit of trouble.) Well, today I found a little gold nugget poking out of the dirt in the form of an excellent post by Lot’s Cave publisher Pheadrus T. Wolfe, which is presented below. Perusing through various author forums at times, one of the most common questions that comes up (after “Will Amazon ban me for this book?”) is, “How do I be successful as an author?” Lots of people offer lots of advice, but this article really hits it on the head, at least for me. The ultimate answer is, you first have to decide your OWN definition of “success”! Phaedrus’ article presents many forms of criteria to consider, not just one (tons of money!).
Personally, there are actually a number of ways I judge my own “success”… It is, of course, gratifying to receive a check from my publisher every month, no matter how big or small. I’m notified almost immediately by Boruma Publishing and Smashwords whenever someone makes a purchase of my books. It’s always a nice little thrill, even if it happens multiple times in a day. I have also been fortunate enough to receive a handful of very complimentary reviews, which is very rare in this genre, especially considering the taboo subjects I indulge in.
Yes, I would like to make money doing this. I know there’s a lot of “free” stuff out there in the genre I write in. Most of it is crap. And even that’s being generous at times. Charging a fee may not get me as many readers.. but knowing that I’m putting a price on my stories forces me to be a better writer. I received a personal note one time from a guy who said his hand was constantly in his pants during every page of reading If The Door Is Open. What higher praise could an erotica writer ask for?
Ultimately, the main criteria for my “success” is, how many orgasms have I caused?
In today’s erotic market, it can be tough to measure an author’s individual success. Part of the problem authors face is the question of how to remain motivated to do well. Authors repeatedly pour their heart and soul into their erotic books. Whether the story is short or long, takes a day or a month to write, an author still wants the book to succeed. It’s worth noting that this urge to do well drives every author in every book he or she publishes. An author’s success is not measured overall, but rather on an individual per book basis. The definition of a book’s success, while a personal one, often transfers into a greater overall opinion of the erotic market. Every author views the market differently and therefore measures success differently, various similarities remain standard for the majority of authors.
High Sales – The most obvious measure of success for authors is the concept of high sales. This metric poses numerous problems, especially for controversial erotica. Many erotica authors hear grandiose stories of riches and wealth from other authors bragging (sometimes falsely) about their book’s latest success. Claims of making $5,000 dollars in a single month is not unheard of. For an author trying to make a living and barely getting by, this is immensely discouraging. The truth is, many authors would be considered successful just to make a meager living from their royalties. Perceptions do not change easily in authors’ minds however, causing many successful authors to quit early just because they don’t see insane profits as quickly as they’d like.
Reader Feedback – Reader feedback is perhaps a less obvious measure of success which authors rely on heavily. Nothing excites an author more than seeing a positive book review raving about his or her writing skill and efforts. These reviews many times are the only measurement of a reader’s happiness. In the erotic market however, book reviews are rare occurrences, as readers often do not want their name connected permanently with erotica on Internet. Even so, in today’s market, many authors give away free copies of their books by the hundreds just to receive this feedback. The truth is, we live in an age where many reviews are faked, paid for, or insincere. Because of this, many readers have stopped looking at reviews, not to mention even reading them. For erotica authors, reviews should not be a measure of success in any form. On the bright side, a bad review doesn’t make an author’s work bad either, as so many erotica authors find their books under attack by religious zealots.
Fan Base – Another less obvious measure of success worth noting is the idea of a fan base. Many authors just starting out want to see a fan base, or an instant number of guaranteed sales. While this may actually be a justified measurement of success, this metric is the hardest to judge. Fan bases change depending on time of year, individual financial situations, and book platform availability. It’s worth noting that just because an author sees a disproportionate number of readers to actual sales doesn’t mean those “fans” don’t exist. In actuality, it takes several months, if not years, to build a good steady fan base. While a fan base isn’t a good way to measure success, it can be a rewarding undertaking for authors to consider. Keeping the reader in mind will often turn out to be a better experience for authors.
Getting Discovered – The worst metric of success in the mind of many authors is a fantasy of “getting discovered.” Fifty Shades of Grey, left many erotic authors with sudden hopes of their book taking off. While the Fifty Shades Trilogy has done enormously well in multiple regards, authors should not use this as a tool of measurement. Many authors have compared their own writing to that book, finding their own better. Authors begin wondering why his or her books haven’t taken off. Getting discovered is a lengthy, painful, and not always beneficial process–much depends on chance. Authors should instead focus on writing their books, enjoying the freedom they have to do so. This is especially true for authors of more controversial works; consider the likelihood of such books taking off in the public mindset. While getting discovered isn’t impossible, it should NEVER be a metric for new authors to gauge success in any form.
With so many traps to measure success, accurate judgments of success may seem impossible. Authors will find that multiple ways to judge success do exist, however. These methods will be very individual, but each author should try to be adopt them in some form. Try replacing any of the above traits with the following positive ways to judge success:
Positive Ways To Judge Success
Writing Goals – Every author has things they’d like to work on. Whether it’s about writing better blurbs, or changing the overall length of stories, writing goals can be extremely productive. Setting small goals that enhance the quality of an author’s writing will lead to outside feelings of accomplishment. In time, authors will feel less defensive of their writing opting to actually share selections of their work. Being able to take a step back from your writing will also help the feelings of anxiety and nervousness at publishing a new book. Feeling proud of your work as an author is more important than feeling successful by society’s standards. At the end of the day, an author has to answer to themselves about their writing first. Small writing goals is certainly the way to go. If an author wants to be successful, then keep writing writing writing and do not stop to play with marketing, making book covers, or become distracted by other facets of publishing.
Quarterly Sales – While I mentioned above that high sales rates are a bad measure of success, that doesn’t mean sales are a completely negative measurement tool. Taking a step back, and looking at your personal sales report can be highly productive. Please do not use this on a monthly basis, as some months are not good sale months… ever. The right unit of measurement seems to be somewhere around every four months. A four month’s span seems to be just enough time to find an overall sales pattern. By comparing four months at a time with another 4 month segment, authors can see increases based on the number of new books an author has for sale. Looking at these subtle increases, an author will most likely find only a positive notion of success from these overall spans of time while looking at it month by month doesn’t cut it at all.
Knowledge of the Market – An author hardly ever considers their knowledge of the market as a measure of success. This is one of the biggest mistakes made, especially by authors just starting out. Knowledge of the market seems to correlate to an author’s success. Think about it; the more an author can navigate the market, the more an author knows how to judge their books. Taking into consideration how successfully an author can navigate their potential sales, an author quickly changes their writing. Not always, but usually these changes are for the better. Authors that take time to understand how the market works learns to improve the writing of their blurbs, their story content, and even to set the titles of their book. In order to truly be successful, an author simply must learn how the market works.
Trademark Writing – Part of understanding the market and improved authorship skills results in trademark writing. This takes a couple different forms, depending on the author. Some authors like their cover to have a certain design quality specific to them. Other authors tend to write only within a certain sub-genre. Being able to lock yourself within a specific sub-genre really allows author success. While some authors hesitate to pick one sub-genre for fear of not appealing to the vast majority of people. successful authors know their audience. Writing for five different sub-genres creates confused readers who will, never really know what they’ll get. Trademarking turns into a positive way to measure success.
Fan Outreach – Differing from trying to measure a fan base, an author’s fan outreach doesn’t focus on numbers. Fan outreach is an author’s ability to be found online by their readers. Taking time to utilize social media is the sign of a successful author. Not getting trapped in an endless social media marketing loop authors that have fan outreach know when to quit. Taking time to be searchable, but not overwhelming, successful authors have the ability to self promote. While this may not seem important to success, it is. If an author takes time to look at their appeal to readers, they can gauge some fan feedback. All in all, fan outreach can be good or bad. It can get real bad if an author spends time blogging that would be more productive in getting a new book out.
Taking time to measure success can be painful for authors who don’t know any better. Realizing that some gauging methods are more successful than others, authors keep from getting too discouraged. Judging the various methods for their effectiveness, some authors may find individual ways of feeling successful. So many author experiences are unique, as each genre can be measured differently. Feedback from readers may be more likely for example, or sales higher than in a separate genre. Whatever method an author uses, it’s important to remember everything should be taken with a grain of salt. Feedback won’t always be positive, but that doesn’t mean all books are poorly written. Take time to enjoy being an author, whether or not you feel successful. In any case, for an author to be successful, just keep on writing and do not waste too much time gauging. Write!