Hey cHEwY gum gums
This is part 4 of my Frequently Asked Questions series, you can find one of my earlier FAQs here
I get asked this question often by kids when I visit schools, and it’s one that I ask myself too. When I first released Thai-riffic! in 2010, I had these lofty dreams of making it BIG, and a decade later, the question remains, have I made it?
In other words…shouldn’t I be famous by now?
This question of fame and is always at the back of my mind. Anxiety and doubts never go away in this writing journey, whether it’s your first or hundredth book. Is this book good enough? Is it as good as my last book?
But let’s go back this easier question. How do you measure success as a writer?
I suppose the most obvious place to start is sales. The numbers don’t lie. When someone asks me how many books I’ve sold, I say it’s somewhere between 1 and a million, and it’s closer to 1 haha.
Then there’s exposure. Are my books being sold everywhere? No. You won’t see my books in K-Mart. I don’t have any TV-series or movies based on my books. While it’s nice to say that writers (and artists for that matter) don’t create books for the money, fame and recognition, we certainly wouldn’t mind it, if only to prolong our careers and keep us going.
It all depends on how you measure success. If it was my goal to be a megastar, then yeah I guess I’ve fallen short. But I would trade a short HOT career for a longer sustained one. There are authors that I knew from 10 years ago, that are not around anymore. The authors I’ve admired are ones that have been writing for twenty, thirty years plus. This is the path that I want to go on, and the key is to keep releasing books that sell enough to keep me writing the next one.
So if being successful means being busy doing what I love, then I’m doing okay. I call myself a working-class author. It’s kinda similar to working-class comedians, the ones who don’t have their own TV show, but are working every week, in smaller clubs, pubs and anywhere they can.
I’m lucky to have filled up my diary with plenty of events and commitments. I have been lucky to have opportunities to be featured at festivals across Australia. I’ve done most of the major ones, multiple times. Over a decade, I’ve visited thousands of schools where I was their star (if only for a day) and have inspired kids to read and write, and ignited others to do so for the first time with passion. I’ve had the chance to travel around the world through my books.
Okay, that’s enough humblebragging for one post haha.
But I’ve never taken this side of an author’s life for granted. Sure, a school visit is not as glam as sold-out event at Sydney Opera House or a movie deal, but it’s still something that validates my career. Even during those years in 2013-14, where I didn’t have anything published, I was still plugging away on the speaking circuit, doing festivals and schools. It was a lifeline, not only in the financial sense, but to spur me on to finish manuscripts, that one day would be my next books. I don’t know how long I could have lasted for though. Schools and festivals only invite you back if you have something new to talk about. Authors can only peddle their older titles for so long before you become irrelevant. Thankfully, Stuff Happens: Ethan came around in 2015, and kick-kickstarted my next phase.
All of this ‘I’m happy to be here’ talk doesn’t mean that I’m never to stop trying to be BIG. I still have dreams of seeing my books being published in the US or UK. I want every new book to be more popular than the last one. Will my next book, Don’t Follow Vee will be that breakthrough?
So I tell kids that I’m not JK Rowling famous. I’m not Andy Griffiths BIG. But I’m well known enough in the books world. I may get mentioned in certain circles of other authors, teacher-librarians and (if I’m lucky) booksellers. I’m bringing out books. I’m still hungry to write new stories.
I’m still doing what I love.