Thursday, January 09, 2020

A Secret for Success in Publishing: Define Success

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Writers Life Series 

JH: The first step to being successful is knowing what "success" means to you. Why
do you want to publish a book? Laurisa White Reyes shares things to consider when deciding where to set your (indie- or self-) publishing goals.

Laurisa White Reyes is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing. She is also the founder and senior editor of Skyrocket Press and teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Visit her website at

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Take it away Laurisa...

There are as many definitions of success as there are people looking for it. The problem is, if you don’t know what success is, how will you know when you’ve found it? Before you jump into publishing, you should nail down what you’re aiming for.

Nailing it Down

Laurisa White Reyes
When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an author. I remember looking at the books in the library and longing to see my name on one of them. So, when my first book was published 2012, I wasn’t interested in money. Though I did receive a small advance, what I wanted more than anything was to see my name in print. The fact that I was reading books whose authors were long since dead wasn’t lost on me. Authors die, but stories live forever, and I believed getting published was a sort of path to immortality.

But not everyone feels the way I did.

A couple years ago, I spoke at an event in Pasadena along with several other authors. The lady I was seated beside was a successful author of erotica fiction. She told me she’d made so much money that year that she’d quit her job as a school teacher. For her, replacing her income defined success.

“You should try it,” she told me. “Erotica is the best-selling genre. You’ll make tons!”

Only I didn’t want to make tons, not if I had to write sex books to do it. It wasn’t my “thing.”

(Here's more on If You Want to Succeed, Define What Success Means to You)

Discovering Your Dream

What is your definition of success? You might be asking, “Does it really matter if I know why I want to publish?”

The answer is: YES.

Think back to when you wrote your first draft (or maybe you’re in the process of doing that now). While some authors start writing without any sort of plan for their story, the majority of writers either create some kind of outline before they write or at least have a general idea of the story’s plot. These outlines or story concepts act as a map for us to follow while we write, guiding us to our destination—the end of the book. Without that direction, it’s very difficult if not impossible to ever complete the task.

Publishing behaves much the same way. Imagine climbing into your car and turning the key in the ignition. You back out of your driveway and head down the road. You drive for a while when you come to your first four-way stop.

Do you know where you’re going? Maybe you’re heading to the school to pick up your kids, or to the grocery store to grab that gallon of milk for breakfast. Maybe you’re on your way to work or are planning to meet a friend for lunch. Knowing your destination makes deciding which way to turn at that intersection much easier, doesn’t it?

But what if you have no idea where you’re heading, you’re just…driving? Now which direction should you turn?

Knowing the reason why you want to publish—understanding your ultimate objective or goal—will help you narrow down your choices when it comes to presentation, marketing, and promotion. 

For example, if you’re only interested in leaving a legacy behind for your grandkids, why would you spend thousands of dollars on a website or Amazon ads? You’d more likely focus on creating a beautiful book that could become a treasured heirloom and then gifting that book to members of your family.

successful self publishing, setting your writing goals, defining success as a writer
A joke, but there's truth here.
If you’re not completely certain what your motivation is, how do you find it? Here is a simple exercise that can help.

On a piece of paper, in a journal, or on your computer, answer the following questions. There is no time limit, no word count requirement. This is a free-write prompt meant to get you thinking about your goals:

1. Why did I write this book in the first place? (Or why am I writing it?)

2. Who do I imagine reading my book? Who is my audience?

3. Out of a typical day, how much time am I willing to devote to marketing my book and connecting to my readers?

4. How much can I afford, out of pocket, to publish my book?

5. What is the least amount of money I’d need to earn annually on sales to make publishing worth my while?

6. If I didn’t earn a penny in profits, would I still want to publish?

7. As a writer, where do I see myself a year from now?

8. How often do I attend writing conferences and classes that offer information for published authors?

9. How often do I connect with other writers, either face-to-face or on social media?

10. If I could be any author (other than myself), who would that be and why? 

(Here's more on Indie Publishing Paths: Do You Know Your Goals?)

Once you’ve written your answers, narrow down your three most important values as a writer. For example, mine are:

1. Writing stories that matter

2. Writing stories my kids like reading

3. Earning enough to pay my bills

(Here's more on Finding Your Path to Publishing)

As a writer, my values lie not so much in cranking out a string of entertaining titles to increase my income but in creating stories that make a difference, books that I can be proud of. That means sometimes taking years to develop a story before I ever think about publishing it.

Even though my own values do not lie in making tons of money, I recognize and respect those authors who are successful at making a living writing and publishing.

What I’m trying to say is that if you want to make money as an author, GO FOR IT!!! If you don’t care about that so much, that’s fine too.

The point is this—know yourself. Know your own dreams. And define success in a way that supports your personal values. Once you’ve sorted that out, then you are ready to move on to actually making success happen.

What are your three most important values, the values that truly motivate you?

About 8 Secrets of Self Publishing

So, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Great! What next? Time to consider these questions:
  • Is my book ready?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is self-publishing worth the effort?
  • Where will I find readers?
Publishing a book is easy. Successfully publishing a book takes commitment, teamwork, and yes—money. In 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing, award-winning author and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, Laurisa Reyes, explains what it takes to give your book that special ingredient that will shoot it towards success. Learn how to develop your craft, gather a publishing team, market your book, and much more as you travel the road of self-publishing. Whether you're a veteran or new to the field, this book is a valuable resource that needs to be on every writer's shelf.

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