DEFINING SUCCESS IN YOUR OWN TERMS
To paraphrase a line from my short story “A Relatively Small Sum of Money”, success is such a relative term.
When a well-connected New York agency offered to represent my novel BARONNE STREET, I fantasied about being successful which included a big advance, a national book tour with clamoring fans, and a cable TV series mashing up the conventions of film noir and soap opera.
It didn’t quite happen that way. Reality bit down hard when publishers consistently delivered variations of “The writing is good, but this guy uses his brains, not guns and fists, to get out of jams. And where are the bombs?”
After a more than reasonable number of rejections, my agent politely released me from my contract. It was an amiable split; we occasionally still communicate.
My next step was to independently publish using CreateSpace and Kindle. In order to avoid the clichéd hellish descent into depression, I defined success in more modest terms. I picked a small number of copies to sell. If I met that number I would consider the novel to be success.
My modest goal has been exceeded by four-fold. And mostly to people who don't know me. The number is still so small that I am unwilling to brag about it but…
- · Two years after publication the novel consistently sells a respectable (but small) number of copies each month.
- · I receive emails from strangers who enjoyed the book (another small number).
- · A local TV station interviewed me on their popular morning show. WWL TV Interview
- · I am scheduled to be interviewed on the local NPR station.
- · I have become email pals with the drummer of 80’s rock group Ambrosia, Burleigh Drummond. I borrowed his cool sounding name for my protagonist. The real-life Burleigh Drummond heard about the novel and contacted me. He even invited me to see the band perform. Ambrosia
- · On his web site, actor Lance J. Holt reads an excerpt from my short story “Ash Wednesday”. I would love for this guy to play BARONNE STREET crimelord Evan Charbonnet in the film or TV version. Lance J Holt reads from Ash Wednesday
- · Speaking of film or TV version, I pitched a real movie producer in his office and was politely rejected.
- · My hometown newspaper published an article about the novel when I came to town for a reading. Statesville Recordand Landmark Article
- · The typos in BARONNE STREET inspired a reader to become a free-lance editor/proofreader. She will soon be able to quit her part-time job and edit full-time from home while caring for her children. MS Editorial Services
- · David Lummis asked me to blurb his second novel: The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans–Part 2: The Last Beaucoeur.
- · The local library purchased three copies. Someone stole a copy, another indication of success.
- · Jochem invited me to be a regular contributor to this blog. Now, that’s impressive.
I defined success too narrowly both times. As independent and small press writers we should define our success in terms we can meet. If we meet that level of success hopefully we are closer to the next level.
Don’t get me wrong I would have preferred the big advance and all that came with it. But it’s also nice receiving an email from someone who tells me that my writing has re-ignited their interest in reading fiction.