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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Measuring Success

by M.L. Buchman

Measuring success as a writer is a splendid, squirrely, ever-changing target. It is almost as curious a journey as trying to find the end of the book that you're writing--elusive, exciting, and when you get to the end, you are thrilled at what you've achieved...and then you look up and realize it is part one of a series and more lies ahead!

Signing my first contract in 1995 for a book that released in 1997 was a heck of a big moment. That was a huge success, even though it was with a small press that would soon be out of business, I got to hold my first two novels before it did collapsed.

My first contract with a major publisher in 2010 was pretty darned amazing, marker on the path to success, even if it was 2 years from contract to the release of The Night is Mine.

Then there was a cold February night, still before the release of The Night is Mine. I had been out of work for over a year courtesy of the recession. We had just moved to another city for a job that I had finally landed and were flat broke. That night we received the first money from the first book of my contemporary romance series, "Angelo's Hearth."

Where Dreams Are Born sold 20 copies in its first month. The check was for $53, for the whole month! For the first time in a year I was able to take my wife out to dinner, we even had a beer with the meal! It is still one of the great markers of success in my career, sitting in a quiet pub with a burger and a brew and playing cribbage. Who knew that "success" could have such a simple moment to measure it. (There was enough left over for a nice lunch a week or so later! Major success!)


That "Angelo's Hearth" is now a completed 5-book series and my #2 most successful series after "The Night Stalkers" is a constant joy. (Though, as that series is complete, I expect that "Firehawks" will take over with the December 2nd release of #2, Full Blaze [now available for pre-order...hint, hint.])

In 2013, after yet another ridiculous experience with corporate America, my wife and I decided to make the jump to full-time writing. I still work the same insane hours that I worked for corporate, BUT I'm working for me and spending half of every day in some cheery fantasy-land of writing. I am a much happier and healthier person than I was two years ago, despite the long hours.

Why? Because I'm doing something I love. I came late to writing in my mid-thirties, but I have never found anything to be anywhere close to being so much fun.

Curiously, success keeps sneaking along and nudging you on the shoulder to say, "Hey, remember me?" It came along and gave me a nudge and wink just last week. Our local chain Fred Meyer store out here on an obscure section of the Oregon Coast has a little book section. There, on a seriously rain-soaked night, I received a jazzy little reminder that success is not only the big things, it can also be the little ones. And if we watch for them and revel in them, they can bring a surprising amount of joy.

So, here is me, feeling all goofy and floating about five feet off the ground, when I spotted this:
The first four books of my "Night Stalkers" series, all in a bunch. Not even in the tiny romance section just a single rack wide in this store, but in the across-all-genres "Popular Authors" section! Whee! My t-shirt, by pure chance that day, says: "I live in my own little world, but it's okay. They know me here." It's a cheerily successful little world and I take those success, big and small whenever I can find them.

So, what little (or big) successes do you have to celebrate?!
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M. L. Buchman has over 30 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.


In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.

4 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

You are right, Matt - success can be marked in many ways. Finishing a novel or short story, seeing a cover for the first time, having someone you don't know tell you how wonderful your opening was...the list is endless. We must savor these moments!

M. L. Buchman said...

I'm sitting in a class this week...one of the other attendees is a huge fan. That was cooler, but what was even cooler was the memory of a class I took a decade ago and got to sit next to Susan Wiggs. To have that juxtaposition and affirmation is just huge!

Judith Ashley said...

Seeing the covers for the first time (courtesy Gilded Heart Design), holding a print copy for the first time, first sale and first royalty check are all at the top of my list. There are so many more first's to go! and I'm looking forward to celebrating every one of them.

Judith

PS: I have a picture of myself at a Border's store pointing to the place on the shelf where my book would be. So excited to see your books up at FM and in Popular Authors. I'll check out the FM's in my neighborhood and send you pictures!

M. L. Buchman said...

Thanks Judith. Random book sightings are always cheering!