Writing Success: A Different Definition

“What does success look like to you?”

I’ve been asked this question multiple times in interviews and it’s easy for one’s mind to leap to dollar signs. I freely admit that I have the same dream as every other author out there: I want to make a full-time living from my writing. I would like my book to be in major bookstores across the nation. Who wouldn’t?

But there’s a problem with this idea of success. This is a very hard goal to attain and, if this is our only measuring rod, the majority of writers are going to be frustrated and disappointed when reaching that goal takes longer than we envisioned .  . . or never happens at all.

And, even if some of us do achieve this dream, I can testify that dreams coming true aren’t always all that they cracked up to be. The money will be spent, accolades will be forgotten, sweet gratification will waver under the battering of hard work, and accomplishments must always be topped.

When monetary success and some semblance of fame are the only goal, the harvest of satisfaction from the writer’s life is small indeed.

It is only when we look at an author’s success as something more than book sales and seeing our novel in Barnes and Noble that the measuring rod becomes more reasonable. And this perspective comes only when we start thinking about other people.  

One day, every book we have ever written will disappear. But people, and how our words and stories affect them, endures. It is easy for a writer to be caught up in a world of words or in dreams of big royalties, but the riches of the writer’s life lie not in KDP reports, but in uplifting the human heart.

Let me give you an example.

My biggest release to date has been a book called The Goblin and the Dancer. This novel opened a lot of doors for me, one of which was an invitation to the fairy tale panel of SheaCon, an annual Discord event run by K.M. Shea.  (If you don’t know who she is, she’s essentially the queen of all fairy tale retellings).

It was an immense honor to be invited. I was absolutely dumbfounded to be paired with so many accomplished authors that graciously accepted me as a peer. As an author and an extrovert, to say that the event was an “epoch in my life” was an understatement.

But being with these rock star writers, sitting on an author panel, the adrenaline of a live event, the thrill of increased book sales . . . . at the end of the day, none of that was the highlight. There was something much smaller that was my biggest takeaway.

As I was scrolling through the Discord conversation, responding to listeners, I paused at one particular comment.

One of the questions earlier on in the panel was “biggest obstacle you’ve faced as an author.” I hesitated before answering, and then decided to be honest and very briefly mentioned that chronic health issues were a daily obstacle, though I assured listeners that everything I have done as an author has been during my health crisis, not before, and that it is entirely possible to push through pain and make writing dreams a reality.

On the Discord server, amidst a lot of other chatting, one person had thanked me for sharing that I struggled with health issues. They said my brief testimony had given them hope that being an author was possible, despite their own limitations.

I walked away from SheaCon rewarded by everything I had expected, more exposure, more accolades, more sales . . . but the most valuable part of it to me was that one person, and my gratitude for how God could use my words to touch them. 

It is moments like this that have made me believe that I have achieved success as an author . . . and many more. Such as:

A video of a little girl opening up a birthday present and discovering that her sister gave her signed copies of my books. She gasped and squealed aloud. Her eyes shone as she jumped up and down and hugged my book to her chest.  This video—kindly recorded by the older sister—did so much for my heart that I dedicated the second book of my Tales of Ambia series to this young reader.
A mom messaging me to thank me for writing clean and fun books that she can not only give to her young daughter without qualms, but a book that she can read with her daughter with equal enjoyment.
A young reader letting me know that my book was the first book that got them into reading in the first place.
A friend messaging me to let me know that her little sister was distracted in the waiting room of a difficult doctor’s appointment by my novella; a book that kept her laughing during a scary moment.
Another reader shared how she was without power during a storm, stressed and overwhelmed, and found comfort in The Goblin and the Dancer, where a trio of characters who also find themselves in the dark, but still discover something to celebrate.
A young mom, stranded by the side of the road, waiting hours for a tow truck and on the brink of a melt-down messaged me later to let me know that it was only after remembering A Royal Masquerade was on her Kindle that she was able to find some respite. The antics of my main characters had made her laugh in a hard moment, and believe that everything was going to be all right after all.
The pleasure and excitement of a librarian who had known me for years working with me to get my book accepted onto the shelves.
Having my book in the library. The library was a magical portal to me as a child. I would often check out the same books; those books were my dear friends, always waiting to enchant me over and over again. The idea that my novella might be THAT book for some other reader fills me with inexpressible pleasure.
Hearing from multiple readers that my book was enjoyed as a read-aloud. The knowledge that sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, cousins and friends, moms and daughters gratifies me more than I can express. Being read aloud to by my mom was one of the most precious and formative gifts that was ever given to me. There is something special about a book that is read aloud; not all books lend themselves to it. The fact that my book might be one of these is a true honor.
Having my novella included in a themed book box. One of my main motivations for writing is to provide readers with magical moments. There’s something about finding a new read tucked inside a package that cannot be replicated: there’s a sense of wonder and discovery that you don’t get when you’re simply ordering a book online. The idea that my book might be a part of giving individuals that serendipitous experience thrills me.
Hearing from newsletter subscribers that my writing tips have changed their writing lives, or emails from clients telling me that my developmental editing services that my words had encouraged them and given them story breakthroughs.

These are only some of the special and intimate things that have happened to me as a published author. Though making a full-time living from my writing is still a goal I pursue, I stop regularly to remind myself that the true harvest is not in money or fame.

Recently, I tore one of my books to pieces as an experiment. It was quite painful. I love my book and worked hard on it, but I did it as a visual reminder to myself that every single book ever written will be burned up in God’s final judgment. Our writing is finite, but the souls affected by our writing are eternal.

With that in mind, I trust the Lord for the increase and do my best to sow good stories into the hearts of my readers. Making a living as an author may or may not happen, but a harvest of joy, laughter, and clarity is the best crop I could possibly ask for.

And the harvest has already begun. 

Get to Know Allison!

3 thoughts on “Writing Success: A Different Definition

  1. Awww. I teared up reading this.

    It’s true–your Tales of Ambia series really has made a big difference for my little sister, Allison. ❤ Thank you for doing what you do!

    (And I can't wait to share your latest release, A Flash of Magic, with her!)


    1. AWWW, NOW I’M GOING TO TEAR UP. *hugs*

      Thank you so much, Katie! You have no idea what your kind words mean to me, or what Mary’s love for Ambia means to me and how much she and you have motivated me in my writing! You are both the best!

      Ah, I hope you enjoy!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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