I initially launched my website as a marketing tool, when Into the Wilderness, my first novel, was published in 2010. The site was incredibly useful during the first year the book was out and I was traveling to bookstores and libraries, giving readings. I posted my schedule of upcoming events on my landing page, uploaded reviews, and directed event coordinators to my media kit, where they could download my author photo and templates for posters and a press release. There was even a bio they could use to introduce me. Slick.
I also tried to see beyond the publication of a single novel; I wanted the site to be a marketing tool for a career. So I included information about some of the other work I do: Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council, Commentator for Vermont Public Radio, and free-lance teacher and talking head willing to take on any interesting challenge. The “Contact Me” page has been the most surprising and wonderful element of the site.
At first, I heard from event planners, contacting me to read from the book; then readers emailed “just to say hello.” Strangers poured out praise; some asked for advice; many told me their own stories of migration or of finding unbidden love. More recently, people have been emailing me to speak, to write, and to teach.
These emails always arrive via cyberspace as a surprise. I’m so focused on the novel I’m writing that it’s easy for me to lose sight of the bigger picture – the whole me. Because it takes me a long time to write a novel, and because I measure my writing success almost entirely as a novelist, my sense of success often takes a hit, something I realized when an email “to teach” crossed my screen.
The email was from a Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Vermont, Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He wondered if I’d be willing to talk with a high school junior who was possibly interested in writing career. If we clicked, would I tutor the student over the summer? You bet I would! This is just the sort of work I adore, and I’m looking forward to meeting the young man later this week.
But what really boosted me out of the word-mine where I’ve been toiling so long and so lonely, was something the rehabilitation counselor said over the phone. “You’re a successful writer who can give our client some insight.”
I’m a successful writer? Really?
Because I’ve only been measuring my success as a novelist, I’d lost sight of other ways to measure my writing career. Lately, my self-appraisal has been plummeting toward failure. So this was a wake-up call to readjust how I think of success. Clearly, I’ve discounted all the other ways that I’m a writer in the world. This cold call reminds me that I’ve been writing a long time, I’ve put a lot of words out in print, and I’ve touched many lives with my words. If that isn’t writing success, I don’t know what is.
How do you measure success as a writer?
In addition to writing, Deborah Lee Luskin raises bees, vegetables, chickens and daughters in southern Vermont.