Some would say becoming a best-seller.
I've been in the writing business for years, published since 1982--and I have not yet acheived the best-seller status and probably won't in my lifetime.
Other might say having your name recognized.
I suspect a lot of folks do recognize my name because I'm on three blogs on a regular basis, and have my own where I not only promote myself, but many other authors. I also promote like crazy when I have a new book out, and I seem to be compelled to let all my Facebooks friends what I'm up to.
Being able to give up a day-job seems to be another sign of success.
I did that a long time ago--but my writing certainly doesn't support me.
A sign of success to me would be making more money than I spend with promotion.
Yep, some promotion does cost. When I did my freebie for Kindle, I paid for several sites to promote it. Which ones worked best, I have no idea. But I over 5000 copies of the book were downloaded and other books in the series have been purchased (the whole idea of the free download) and new reviews are popping up.
When you do in-person events, there are many costs:
The cost of purchasing books to sell
Gas to get to the venue.
If it's faraway, a hotel room and food to eat.
Often the amount of books sold doesn't begin to pay what you had to put out.
So why do we do it?
I can only speak for myself:
I like meeting readers and talking about my books.
It's fun to get away.
And if you went on vacation, you'd have to pay for a hotel and food--so I consider these trips mini-vacations.
So far I've planned several of these "mini-vacations."
Now I can hear you saying, so why on earth do you do all this if it's not paying off?
One biggie is that as a working writer, all of these expenses are tax-deductible.
But the most important of all is, I'm not going to quit writing until I'm not capable enough to do it. I have this strong compulsion to keep on writing--to find out what my series characters are up to, to create new problems for them and help them solve the problems.
Ah ha! Maybe that's the real sign of success--doing something that I love.
Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith
Me and hubby a the Jackass Mail Run--this one was right down the street and cost a fraction of what most of these venues charge.