23 Ways to Define Success as a Writer That Aren’t Being on a Bestseller List

bestseller list

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., highlighted the recent decision by The Wall Street Journal to do away with their bestseller list. Sivasubramaniam explained why he didn’t like bestseller lists in general, with one reason being that authors can buy their way onto the lists. So how can we define success as a writer if we no longer use being on a bestseller list?

Here are my top suggestions:

  1. You can support yourself financially through your writing.
  2. Others have changed what they do or think because of what you have written.
  3. You feel personally satisfied with the effort you have put into your craft.
  4. You have made friends or gained new colleagues by interacting about your writing.
  5. You have learned through the research you did for your pieces.
  6. You are better able to express yourself authentically in your communication with others because of the practice you’ve had writing.
  7. You have earned a reputation as an expert or are known for a specific style.
  8. You can write about whatever you want, whenever and wherever you want.
  9. Others come to you for writing help.
  10. Others share, quote, or recommend your work.
  11. You are completing writing projects that are important to you.
  12. You write consistently.
  13. Your writing is continuously improving.
  14. You are able to write in different genres.
  15. You are established in at least one genre.
  16. Your writing has provided additional opportunities (e.g., speaking).
  17. People acknowledge you as an author.
  18. Your writing has provided you with a deeper understanding of yourself, others, or life.
  19. You can take pleasure in rereading your work.
  20. You are more confident now in your writing than you were when you started (or even compared to last week).
  21. You are able to balance your writing with other responsibilities you have in life.
  22. The majority of the reviews people leave on what you write are positive and unsolicited.
  23. You still love to write and haven’t allowed rejections or criticisms to deter you.

Even though making a bestseller list is great, it’s not the only measure that you’re doing well as a wordsmith. Remember, too, that your concept of success might change over time: Maybe success early in your career is just to earn out your book advance, while later on, you measure it by how many preorders you get. The big picture is that you don’t have to define success the way someone else does. Mix elements that are quantifiable and elements that are more qualitative in nature to ensure your perspective on success as a writer is healthy.