By what benchmarks does one measure his success as a writer? Does selling over 100,000 copies of a book mean you've arrived? Or do you have to make the New York Times bestseller list to feel that you are really and truly a by-damn author?
Even though I have made the Times bestseller list and enjoyed six-figure sales, neither of those quite did it for me. The first time I felt I'd achieved the status of full-fledged author was when I saw one of my books in a used bookstore. It legitimized everything; here was proof that someone had actually bought my book, and thought enough of it to pass it along to someone else, rather than trash it.Of course there are downsides to this sort of validation. For one thing, I make no money on used-book sales. And it would be more flattering if more people kept the books.
Still, I really enjoy the idea of seeing my books available after they're out of print. And I know I can always find a copy of a book when I've given away all my copies.
Addendum: Another commentary on this subject will be found in an earlier post, "6 Ways to Know if You're a Successful Writer" (which also appeared in The Writer magazine in 2006).
* That book that made the bestseller list was my co-authored CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation (Clerisy Press, 2006).