One of the fascinating things about my publishing experiences has been to watch as other authors I know get published. I was one of the first in my 'group' (critique partners and assorted friends) to be published. Many, many others have been published since my first book came out in 2007. Now, 10 books later, I have a different perspective on publishing than I did. And what's interesting to me is to watch as others undergo sea changes, too, as their publishing journeys continue.
I recently wrote an article for my local RWA chapter about how I manage to hold down a full-time job, have time for family and also write 4-5 books a year. I gave the obvious advice: "just sit down and write", "be disciplined", "learn your craft so you're not constantly rewriting"... An important point was "learn your voice." Once I figured out the type of writing I was good at (1st person mystery), writing became easy.
One other bit, though, was "define success for yourself." I promised myself to stay in publishing as long as I had fun doing it. If this became a real 'job' then I'd quit. Who needs that? I already have a full-time job that's tolerable but not particularly enjoyable. If my writing becomes annoying, then why do it? It's not lucrative (I make money at it, sure, but I'm not rolling in dough). I used to say that I want to be the Nora Roberts of ebook publishing: have 3-4 books a year, build a name for myself, and continue to write into the sunset.
I'm seeing friends now who are struggling to define what success means to them. Does it mean having your book on a certain shelf at Border's? Is it to get a New York contract? Is it to snag that particular agent and get them interested in your work? I think every author has to define this for himself/herself. You could use the "New York Times best seller list" but we know that's crap -- it's just a certain amount of data reported at a certain point in time. You could use $$ earned versus $$ spent, but I'm not sure if that's valid -- I'd spend a certain amount of money on conferences and workshops whether I was published or not.
Maybe it's a certain inner satisfaction to know that your stories are being read and appreciated. I love getting mail from people, commenting on my books. But even if I don't get mail, I'm still happy the books are out there.
In the long run, I keep coming back to my formula for success:
Do I enjoy doing it?
+ Can I fit it into my current lifestyle?
- Do I need to do uncomfortable things to succeed (some promotion, for example)
+ Is it relatively easy for me to do?
I'm successful at what I'm doing
So far, so good .....