What is Success to a Writer?

by Samantha Hoffman

As writers we all have our definition of success. Mine might not be the same as yours and vice versa. How we judge others is probably not how they judge themselves.

I don't know how anyone could say that Alison Hammer is not a successful author; she has two books published by William Morrow, a two-book deal with Berkeley (Penguin Random House) for books she co-authors with Bradeigh Godfrey under the pen name Ali Brady. And she has a manuscript that's finished and close to finding a home, and ideas for several other books. 

Holy crap. That's remarkable, right?

But what is success? Ask Alison and she'll say, "...there is no clear and easy benchmark of what it takes for an author to be considered a “success...” 

And this is the frigging publishing business and you are only as good as your sales numbers. 

For a little dose of reality, read this excerpt from an article Alison wrote in April. I have skipped a bit in the beginning and started with the part I think we all need to see, the real-lifeness of it. At the end there will be a link to the article in its entirety. It's heart-wrenching and hopeful all at once.

Don't be disheartened. But maybe you'll want to rethink your definition of success.

An update of sorts… by Alison Hammer

Posted on April 18, 2022 by thishammer

I won’t dwell too much on the pandemic part of my publishing journey—we all lived through it. But if you want to read what it was like, you can check out this essay I wrote for Writer Unboxed.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the launch experience I had dreamed of and worked so hard for.

While publishing as a whole did surprisingly well during the pandemic, most debut authors did not. People were buying books from authors they already knew—and since most bookstores were closed, it wasn’t as easy for booksellers to share new recommendations with their customers.

I still get sad when I think about the day I found out that Hudson cancelled their order of my debut for their airport bookstores (an author dream of mine) because people weren’t flying. But I tried to stay focused on the silver linings, using Zoom and Instagram to connect with readers and book clubs around the country—and one in Haiti!

I did my best in a difficult situation, and I’m proud of what I accomplished. But admittedly, there’s not much one person can do to move the needle when it comes to sales.

Here, the story jumps from book one to book three. And that’s because publishing is SLOOOOOW. It’s not uncommon for an author to be promoting one book, drafting or editing another book and planning the proposal for the next book, all at the same time.

That’s where I was in January, 2021. My second book, Little Pieces of Me, was coming out in April, so my amazing agent, Joanna, was getting ready to submit the option material for what we hoped was going to be another two-book deal.

While I did have a complete draft of the book, The Auntourage (my 2019 NaNoWriMo project), I was in middle of some pretty hefty edits.

Once you have a relationship with an editor, it’s normal to submit a book proposal instead of a complete manuscript. So Joanna submitted 13 complete chapters and a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline of the rest.

I felt really good about where the book was headed. I’d already run the idea past my editor (before the pandemic) and she agreed that the story would make a great third book. Even though sales for my first book hadn’t been great, I was feeling confident—and honestly, I was proud of the sales. Especially because there was a pandemic going on. Surely, they would take that into consideration, right?!?

One day in February (2021) I got a text from my agent, asking if I could talk. My stomach sank. If it was good news, she would have just called.READ THE REST of the article posted on April 18, 2022 by thishammer

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