Monday, April 1, 2013

Defining Success

Defining Success

(Elle Strauss here. I recently posted this on Indie Elite, but I thought it was worth repeating.)

I've officially been an indie author since September 2011, so about a year and a half. When I put my first baby out into the world all by myself, my idea of success was simple. To sell enough books to pay for the cost of self-publishing.

I mean, I couldn't justify losing money on my venture, so if I could just break even... I'd be a success.

It's funny how my view of success has changed a million times in just a few months. Now with self-publishers hitting all kinds bestseller's lists and dominating Amazon's top 100, and doing it in record time, the definition of success, or at least our perception of what success is, can be all over the map.

-if I break even, I'll be a success
-if I make enough money to pay the heating...
-If I make enough money to pay the rent/mortgage...
-if I make enough money to quit my day job

At some point it moves from making money to survive to this:

-if I make the top 100 Amazon
-if I make NYT bestsellers list
-if agents start calling me
-if I get a publishing deal AND I get to keep my e-rights
-if I become a household name in the industry
-if I have a zillion fans
-if I get a movie deal

(Even Trad published authors get caught up in this. One well-known YA author actually tweeted about how HARD it was for her to keep getting asked when her book was going to be made into a movie. She felt like a barren woman who was always being asked when she was going to have kids. Yes, she REALLY said this!)

Let me tell you, this is a recipe for crazy making.

So, what is the definition of success?

I don't know. It's different for everyone. I actually have a hard time seeing myself as successful because I've placed a high bar in front of me that I haven't yet reached.

Sometimes you need to lower the bar.

I got this email recently. It made me smile. It helped me to lower my bar.

"... I've bought all of the clockwise series, Seaweed, Perception, and the Jars of Clay series, ... your writing is amazing, and I can only hope that one day I will be a success like you (:"

(emphasis mine)

Sometimes we don't see ourselves the way other people see us. I'd say, most of the time.

Are you a success? I bet you are. Just lower the bar and keep smiling.

Elle Strauss writes fun, lower YA fiction (time-travel and fantasy). She is fond of Lindt’s sea salt dark chocolate and hiking in good weather. Elle is married with four children and divides her time between British Columbia, Canada, and Dresden, Germany. She also writes upper YA (historical and science fiction) as LEE Strauss. To find out more about Elle and her books check out her facebook page, and follow her on twitter. To find out about new releases sign up for her newsletter at .


  1. Yeah, there is always something else to strive for and sometimes we forget to realise how much we've already done. Great post!

  2. Never forget that success isn't perfect.

  3. Thanks for sharing. It is sometimes hard to remember that other's will see success differently than we do. Great post.

  4. I think that in the U.S. in particular there's a lot of pressure to be successful, especially because successful celebrities (many of whom are very young) are glorified and put up on pedestals; it makes us feel like we have to be like them. Or at least, that's how it is for me, sometimes. But I like your point about how it's okay to lower the bar, because that helps us recognize what we've already achieved.

  5. Well, I for one go around telling people about my friend, the successful self-published writer Elle Strauss. Just thought you should know that. :)

    1. :) Thanks, Amo. I'm back early May. We have to meet up!

  6. Yep. My bar has been all over the place. I'm really glad I'm published--traditionally as well as Indie! Published is published in my "book." :-)

  7. Love this post! Thanks for the reminders :D

  8. Love this post, Elle. I'll be sharing. :)