Any writer worth his salt clings to the dream through thick and thin. And very few actually make it! From what I have observed in this unforgivable business, these are the levels of success:
- The Act of Writing: The writer simply picks up a pen or sits behind a keyboard and writes a poem, story, play, or other literary work. Most writers start here. And many of them end here as well. The writer, at this point in the game, is considered more of a hobbyist.
- Low-Level Discovery: The writer finally becomes published or known as her work is sampled within a small community (e.g. published in school or local newspaper; play performed by community playhouse, etc.). She may or may not have received any type of compensation for her work. If she did, it likely wasn’t much. The recognition from this accomplishment finally makes the writer consider her level of seriousness toward writing.
- Willful Determination: The writer finally decides that she is serious about the craft and completes her first large-body work. Maybe it was a novel or a screenplay. But the project entailed months of work and a great sacrifice of free time. Now the writer decides to look for ways to get the work and herself discovered.
- High-Level Discovery: The writer possibly decides to look for an agent. In rare cases, he finds one and ends up progressing immediately to the Ultimate Discovery level of success. More likely, however, he finally becomes either published in a magazine or other small work or self-published digitally or in print. He may have even won a writing contest. Overall, his work becomes available in the local community or nation in which he lives. It may even become available internationally. The fruits from the labor are still lacking, however, requiring the writer to keep his regular job working in sales, retail, manual labor, administration, or whatever other menial job he is working.
- Collective Growth: The writer continues to work hard at producing and publishing various bodies of work while spreading the word about it in all ways possible (e.g. word of mouth, book signings, print and broadcast media, online social media, etc.). Money continues to flow in, but still does not permit the writer to quit his day job. Meanwhile, agents may be scanning his Social Media, watching him very closely in consideration for future representation.
- Stuck in Literary Limbo: Most serious writers are unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck in this almost hopeless existence at this stage in the game. They feel as though they have done everything in their power to represent themselves and their work. But no one seems to be biting. Sadly enough, many writers give up at this point in the game after having stayed persistent throughout the previous stages of accomplishment. Though I mention this lack of success here, this could also end up occurring anywhere before this level I’ve suggested (e.g. at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels).
- Ultimate Discovery: The writer either accidentally or intentionally becomes discovered by either an agent or one of the major traditional publishers, though the latter is extremely rare. If discovered by an agent, the agent — if he is at all worth a damn — will agree to represent her before all the major traditional publishing houses or production companies out there while receiving pay only when she gets paid. So the search is on for a publisher who will contract this writer to write one or more books under their name.
- First Success: The writer suddenly gets her chance to be published by one of the major publishers of books (e.g. Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, etc.) or contracted by one of the major production companies (e.g. Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, etc.). The writer finally makes enough money that she can quit her job, though she is still not out of the woods and may not be quite wise to do so. After all, many writers have fallen from their first book or production deal when their book, show, or movie did not earn all the money back that was used to produce it.
- Continued Success: The writer’s first success contributes to a return on investment and possibly even brings in quite a profit! He continues to have success in whichever industry he has chosen to write. His profits continue to increase, and he can definitely now more safely quit his day job after having proven himself in the field. In many such cases, the writer’s agent may get several requests from other publishing or production companies to negotiate better deals for the writer.
- Ultimate Success: The writer is now known as more than being successful; he is now known as a trademark and / or one of the Greats (e.g. Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc.). In some cases, the writer may become so filthy rich that he purchases a baseball or football team!