Six Paths of Writer Success

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Six Paths of Writer Success

While most people believe a writer’s success is by how many books are sold and the money they make, it’s not the only way to identify writer success. There are multiple ways to measure that success. These are a few that I’ve identified.

Path #1: Financial Success – This is the measurement stick most people—readers, critics, and other writers—use to determine if a writer is successful or not. Are they a best-selling author? Did they make the New York Times list? Did they receive a huge advancement?

Path #2: Review Success – The number of reviews readers leave can be a huge measure of success if the bulk of the reviews are positive. Getting notes and messages from fans is always a thrill. It’s the equivalent of Sally Field’s award-winning speech of “They like me!”

My best friend from high school who got a copy of my book a couple days before I got my copies! She’s one of my biggest fans!

Path #3: Word-of-Mouth Success – There’s no better measure of a writer’s project than it getting a lot of reader word-of-mouth promotion. Nothing can top it. Word of mouth praise sells books. And, there’s nothing more fun than seeing friends of my friends stating, “She’s a good writer,” or “I love her writing!”

Path #4: Publication Success – Before writers could become indie publishers, a writer’s success was hinged solely by being accepted by an agent or editor. The only other option open for writers to publish without an agent or editor back then was to use a vanity press, where the writer paid to have the book published, and then the author would go out and peddle the book. It worked for Robert James Waller who self-published his book, The Bridges of Madison County. He filled his trunk with copies and drove across the country giving them away, seeking out radio stations for live interviews.

With the advent of the eBook, independent publishing (self-publishing, indie publishing) became possible. That avenue became a game changer for many writers, including me, even though I had been traditionally published in the 1990s with three of these books, which I retitled and have republished. Today, any writer can get their book(s) published and in any format: print, e-Book, audible, large print, and so forth.

To date, I’ve published eight books and edited a ninth that included one of my short stories, publishing it for a writer’s group that I belong to.

Path #5: Film Rights Success – The dream of any writer of fiction is to see their story on the screen—big or small. I keep hoping and keep writing the scripts.

Path #6: Journey Success – This measure of success is all about self-satisfaction. The first time a writer pens The End, it is a huge achievement of a dream becoming reality. And then, opening a box and seeing a stack of my newest release never gets old. Ever. (Three such past boxes being opened.)

Currently, as I come to the end of writing a how-to nonfiction book and am finishing the small-town romance series I’ve been working on for the last few years, I’m enjoying how my fire is directing and driving me toward my desk every day.

Watching the words pile up, getting into the writing zone, and watching the hours fade into each day’s end are self-satisfying beyond words. Amazingly so. There is no other emotion or feeling like it.

I love all these various moments and events of success. How could I not?


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
This entry was posted in #IWSG, Writer at Work and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Six Paths of Writer Success

  1. nancygideon says:

    “Watching words pile up” What a great definition for the joy of writing success. As a list maker, I LOVE this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love #6: Journey success. That’s how I measure if I’m successful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diane Burton says:

    #6 is great. The journey changes so much. We need to celebrate the baby steps.


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