Every once in a while, I come across an article about figuring out our goals as an author. Heck, I’ve written posts along those lines. As we learn more about the industry and grow as authors, our goals might change, so it’s smart to revisit the question occasionally.
But there’s a Step Two to that self-analyzing process that we don’t talk about as often: Will the path we’re on lead to those goals?
If our goal is to see our book on a bookshelf, we need different criteria for the “is this a good publisher” question than if our priority is top-notch editing. If our goal is to build up a backlist quickly, we can research whether certain publishing paths would slow us down too much.
Lately, I’ve been questioning my own goals and path because the publishing industry is changing so quickly. Things that weren’t possible months ago are now easy. As a result, I’m tempted to mentally bulldoze my plans and start from scratch based on this new publishing world.
When we question everything, situations might not look the way we thought. Back when I first started pursuing a writing career in 2008, there was only one path (self-publishing was still something that “real” authors didn’t do). Likewise, there was—for the most part (especially in the U.S.)—only one dream:
Authors dreamed of becoming a bestselling author
and being interviewed on Oprah.
But just as the Oprah show is not the same anymore, so too is the publishing industry a shadow of its former self.
Before, no one dreamed of becoming a mid-list author because most of them were lucky if they made enough money to pay a few bills. Making enough to quit the day job? That required bestseller status.
Thanks to industry changes, more authors than ever before are making enough money, even as mid-listers. Neither Oprah or the Big however-many-traditional-publishers-are-left-this-week are gatekeepers to success anymore.
How Do You Define Success?
All those different paths mean that we have to decide what success means to us. Is it the book in a bookstore? Number of readers? Income? Reviews? Buzz? Name recognition?
There’s a big gap between the goals of “wanting to touch someone with our writing” and “being famous.” Both goals are legitimate, but the path that will lead to one goal will be different from the paths toward other goals.
So we have to know our goal and we have to identify the path that will take us there. However, nailing down such specific goals and paths can be difficult.
Do You Know What You Want—and What You Don’t?
Sometimes it’s easier to define what we don’t want than what we do. I know I don’t want to be famous. Never have.
I stated as much a year ago when all the E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey hoopla hit my blog. Some of her supporters accused me of bringing up the serious ethical issues in the situation simply because I was jealous of her success. When I pointed out that ethical concerns and jealousy weren’t related in my case because I had no desire to be famous, they assumed I must be lying.
But the honest-to-God truth is that I’m much too private of a person to want to be famous. I’m not only introverted, but can also be horribly self-conscious. Kristen Lamb and the WANA crowd at last year’s RWA conference can vouch for the fact that I’m not comfortable as the center of attention. Being famous would be a nightmare for me.
Will Your Path Lead to Your Goals?
The question of whether my path and my goals match hit home when I saw an article about how some fans of the Sookie Stackhouse books are reacting to author Charlaine Harris’s announcement to end the series (the basis of the True Blood TV show). My jaw literally dropped in horror.
This 61-year-old grandmother is now the subject of online taunts and threats from fans that they’ll commit suicide. For the first time in years, she’s not doing a book tour because she feels the need to avoid her “fans.” She’s even received death threats. Yikes!
That article resonated with scattered thoughts in my head. Like, maybe the default dream that used to apply to virtually every author—the bestselling, Oprah interviewee—never applied me at all. And I’ve been wondering if I’m on the right path for my goals.
Am I tempted to change because of a fear of success? (“I don’t want to be famous.”) A fear of failure? (“I’m sick of querying.”) Or because of a legitimate acknowledgement of the changes in the industry? (“We’re not stuck to a single path anymore.”)
I don’t know. I’m at a loss for how to tell if these feelings are an attack of the all-too-common writer self-doubts or a logical and reasoned question about whether my path really matches my goals. Yes, I’m probably over-thinking this, but uncertainty about decisions drives me crazy. *smile*
Do you want to be a famous author? Do you know what your goals are? Are you on the right path for those goals? How do you know? Do you ever struggle with decisions like this? Any advice for me? *grin*