What Do I Call Success?

Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.

Links: Dead for the Money (e-book) http://tinyurl.com/7bzpn6s and

http://tinyurl.com/c6pzz5z

The Dead Detective Agency (paperback) http://tinyurl.com/6wllbrx and

http://tinyurl.com/7f6yc2r

Peg’s website: http://pegherring.com

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This is the last stop for Peg Herring’s Blog Tour, a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective,

and posts on writing. The previous stop was on May 25th at http://www.preciousmonsters.com,

and the full schedule is posted at http://itsamysterytomepegherring.blogspot.com.

On June 11th the complete Seamus interview will be posted there.

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings

for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of The Dead Detective Agency and Dead for the Money

(paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series,

Dead for the Show. Multiple winners will be drawn.

We often hear people called “successful” who are obviously unhappy or seriously messed up. We shake our heads over suicides with “successful” careers or celebrities who enter rehab in spite of “recent success.” Not only do some successes fail to bring happy lives; they sometimes bring personal destruction instead.

Obviously, there are different definitions of success. Often the world’s standard is fame or fortune, maybe both. When my first book was published, a former co-worker said rather slyly, “When will we see your book on the New York Times best seller list?” He was letting me know that I hadn’t quite “made it,” in his opinion. Other acquaintances ask my husband subtle questions about whether we’re getting rich yet. Fame. Fortune. Someone else’s idea of success.

Writers can become wrapped up in promotion and awards and Amazon rankings and forget that what they want to do is write. Yes, we have to have readers who’ll buy what we write. So we get on Facebook and learn to Tweet and seek radio interviews with semi-obscure stations where only the bookiest bookworms go. We spend time and money at conferences, struggling to be noticed among all the other writers. We sit in bookstores waiting for someone, anyone, to come along and at least pick up one of our books. It’s hard to resist advice to “Network more,” or “Brand yourself,” or “Become the world’s best salesman for your book.” Suddenly you look around and realize that you’re spending more time promoting than writing, more energy trying to become a known author than you do trying to become a better author.

Periodically, it’s beneficial for me to stop and think about what I call success, for me, not for anyone else. When I catch myself thinking, “I’m not promoting enough!” I try to pause and consider how much of my time I want to spend selling my work. When I stop listening to the advice of experts on success, I realize that I’d rather write a good book than promote all day long. That reminds me that the world won’t end if I don’t tweet a dozen times today. (In fact, I wonder if authors who simply tweet, “Buy my book,” every few hours really think they’ve spent that time well.)

When I think, “I have to finish this book so I can start the next one,” I remind myself that I don’t HAVE to write anything at all. I’m pretty sure no matter how fast I write, I’ll still die with ideas in my head that I didn’t have time to capture. So if I’m never going to be done, why worry about how quickly I finish what I’m doing? I know– there are deadlines, but the more I worry about those looming dates, the less I get done. It’s only when I relax and let the creative side take over that the words really flow.

When I catch myself thinking, “I could make more money if–”, I remind myself that I didn’t get into this for the money. I write because I’m unable to stop, so the financial aspect is moot. Yes, it’s great to be paid, and if authors got paid by the hour, we’d all be rich. But worrying about the money part of it just isn’t me. I’ve seen the writers who’d do anything to sell their books, and well, I’m just not cut out to be a hooker!

When I think, “I should be farther up the Walk of Fame,” I remind myself that fame has drawbacks. I enjoy writing books that I want to write, and I probably wouldn’t enjoy the scrutiny some writers operate under. I can admit they’re better at what they do than I am, and that’s fine. I like working to get better at what I do, and if the Times never notices, I can deal with that.

So what is success for me?

Exactly what I’m doing, and isn’t that great? I have publishers willing to work with me, readers willing to shell out money for my books, reviewers who say nice things, and lots of author friends to meet with and compare experiences. Would I be happy if one of my books became a bestseller? Sure, but honestly, I don’t think it would change my feeling that I’ve already achieved success, by my definition, and under my standards.

Don’t forget—People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings

for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of The Dead Detective Agency and Dead for the Money

(paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series,

Dead for the Show. Multiple winners will be drawn.