Author Topic: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]  (Read 18822 times)  

Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #150 on: April 20, 2017, 06:13:01 AM »
One of the forms luck comes in is the popularity of your favorite genre(s) in your lifetime.

This is 100% untrue. This is exactly the part where being a professional comes into play. Romance is NOT the only game in town. I write mysteries and thrillers and trust me, I'm making an excellent living with it.

But what do I really want to write - horror. I love horror. I'm passionate about horror. You know why I don't write it? Because the market pool is too small for my targeting interests. So instead, I created a dark psychological thriller series. No paranormal elements, but I get to write some horrific things and it is selling well. MUCH better than horror would.

That's your answer. No one is entitled to a career doing exactly what they want. You are selling a product and need to determine the biggest market for your a product that fits your skill set. That's the publisher part. Because if you're indie, you're not just an author. That's only half the job.

Trust me on this. I was a CFO making other people wealthy long before I started writing books. I know how to assess markets. I know how to leverage product to make money. I know when something isn't worth my time and when something is. I write what sells. Not necessarily the first thing I wanted to write.
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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #151 on: April 20, 2017, 06:31:57 AM »
Nobody is disputing brkingsolver's credentials. Well, I'm certainly not, anyway.
LOL!!!!!  :o  ???  ::)

I was raised to believe that people make their own luck. That may not be true 100% of the time, but as with all things there are exceptions. Various surveys and analyses show that the grand majority of published authors - published anywhere by any means - do not make enough from their writing to live on. Most don't make enough to eat regularly. This forum, and the media covering indie publishing, gloss over that. When I was growing up, I knew a number of "successful" authors. One friend's father published 45 middle-grade books but was never able to quit his day job. Another friend's father made a ton of money publishing spy thrillers that were turned into movies. Was one a better writer than the other? Luckier? Or did one write commercially-viable books?

I don't have any aspirations for a Pulitzer. I work on my craft and try to be a better writer, but I don't consider that as important as becoming a better story teller. I can teach someone the mechanics. I can't teach them how to dream and how to tell others about that dream in an engaging manner. I think that's something you have or not.

Picked up a JD Robb book off a BookBub ad this week. Took 2 work days to read it - on the bus, in a bar, way too late at night. Her success has nothing to do with luck.


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Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #152 on: April 20, 2017, 06:33:20 AM »
No one is entitled to a career doing exactly what they want. You are selling a product and need to determine the biggest market for your a product that fits your skill set. That's the publisher part. Because if you're indie, you're not just an author. That's only half the job.

Trust me on this. I was a CFO making other people wealthy long before I started writing books. I know how to assess markets. I know how to leverage product to make money. I know when something isn't worth my time and when something is. I write what sells. Not necessarily the first thing I wanted to write.

That's a great summary of how to build a successful business.

I'd rather be a hair-band guitarist playing huge stadiums. Or a lecturer on anarchy (a la Hans Hoppe). But I want to make money, so I built businesses unrelated to those passions.

I happen to like my genre. But again, if I had my druthers...



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Offline KennySkylin

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #153 on: April 20, 2017, 07:40:22 AM »

I'd rather be a hair-band guitarist playing huge stadiums. Or a lecturer on anarchy (a la Hans Hoppe). But I want to make money, so I built businesses unrelated to those passions.


When I read this, I thought your dream was to be in Warrant or Poison. I never really considered Ozzy to be a hair-band. But then that magnificent mane of hair on Zakk Wylde can't be denied.

Offline Mercia McMahon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #154 on: April 20, 2017, 09:24:52 AM »
I kept wondering what could keep this thread on a poor (but typical) Guardian article going and now I know. Someone mentioned kboards very own four letter word. I believe in luck. I'm Irish. I'm supposed to. It doesn't guarantee success in life as even a cursory glance at Irish history will reveal.

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Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #155 on: April 20, 2017, 09:54:32 AM »
But then that magnificent mane of hair on Zakk Wylde can't be denied.

Right?! :)
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

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Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #156 on: April 20, 2017, 10:45:22 AM »
Trust me on this. I was a CFO making other people wealthy long before I started writing books. I know how to assess markets. I know how to leverage product to make money. I know when something isn't worth my time and when something is. I write what sells. Not necessarily the first thing I wanted to write.

Most writers aren't CFO, or even anything close. Do you think that these different starting conditions would result in a different set of business results, or would an otherwise excellent writer with little seed money and no idea of ROI do just as well as you?

Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #157 on: April 20, 2017, 11:11:15 AM »
Most writers aren't CFO, or even anything close. Do you think that these different starting conditions would result in a different set of business results, or would an otherwise excellent writer with little seed money and no idea of ROI do just as well as you?
I didn't have seed money. I published my first three books with a $300 investment plus $1K for website etc. Earned that back in 10 days. But I had a great hooky concept and series title and professional covers that conveyed mood and reading experience, and the books had great appeal to a group of readers. (Not to all readers. The trick is, you have to write something that a reasonably large group of people really enjoy. Some people will hate it. That's OK. If you write so mainstream and sort of "good enough," though, that most people read it and think, "that was fine" and then forget it--that won't bring the pixie dust. There has to be something there. Some spark. Something special. Voice. Whatever you call it.)

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #158 on: April 20, 2017, 11:41:17 AM »
I didn't have seed money. I published my first three books with a $300 investment plus $1K for website etc. Earned that back in 10 days. But I had a great hooky concept and series title and professional covers that conveyed mood and reading experience, and the books had great appeal to a group of readers. (Not to all readers. The trick is, you have to write something that a reasonably large group of people really enjoy. Some people will hate it. That's OK. If you write so mainstream and sort of "good enough," though, that most people read it and think, "that was fine" and then forget it--that won't bring the pixie dust. There has to be something there. Some spark. Something special. Voice. Whatever you call it.)

You do rock.

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Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #159 on: April 20, 2017, 01:45:20 PM »
Most writers aren't CFO, or even anything close. Do you think that these different starting conditions would result in a different set of business results, or would an otherwise excellent writer with little seed money and no idea of ROI do just as well as you?

They could do as well or even better if they are dedicated to learning the publishing business. That means studying the market every day and assessing your work. It means killing an idea you might love in favor of one that is more marketable. It means continuing to write a bestselling series you might be bored with rather than writing something new.

I only give my credentials to point out that too many indie authors view this as only writing. It's half writing. Maybe. The other half is publishing, which requires business acumen to handle well. You can acquire it. Anyone can. But they have to want to and invest the time in learning.
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Online Lorri Moulton

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #160 on: April 20, 2017, 04:49:18 PM »
There's nothing wrong with having a little luck.

Can you sit back and wait for it?  Probably not.  But if it shows up and taps on your shoulder, don't refuse to see that it's there.


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Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #161 on: April 20, 2017, 06:29:51 PM »
They could do as well or even better if they are dedicated to learning the publishing business. That means studying the market every day and assessing your work. It means killing an idea you might love in favor of one that is more marketable. It means continuing to write a bestselling series you might be bored with rather than writing something new.

I only give my credentials to point out that too many indie authors view this as only writing. It's half writing. Maybe. The other half is publishing, which requires business acumen to handle well. You can acquire it. Anyone can. But they have to want to and invest the time in learning.


I think that you understate your expertise, mostly because that's a common human trait. That means that that you see your skills as far easier to learn than they really are. As a person who is learning marketing, market analysis, customer relations, advertising, and contracts, I still feel like I'm at the bottom of the hill. I have great respect for you, and folks just like you, who really understand the business side and keep on top of it.

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Offline Salome Golding

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #162 on: April 20, 2017, 07:20:25 PM »
They could do as well or even better if they are dedicated to learning the publishing business. That means studying the market every day and assessing your work. It means killing an idea you might love in favor of one that is more marketable. It means continuing to write a bestselling series you might be bored with rather than writing something new.
See, as with everything else, there is a trade-off. It all comes down to what you are prepared to give up. Being a professional writer comes with sacrifices - to make maximum returns you may be called upon to sacrifice your own tastes and your own enjoyment. Will I be willing to do that? Probably not to the level necessary to achieve Jana Deleon level of success. But that is ok as long as I acknowledge and accept that writing what I want to write may not bring the highest level of success, because it is not in a top-selling genre / I'm not willing to write the most popular tropes in a particular genre.

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #163 on: April 20, 2017, 08:14:51 PM »

It means killing an idea you might love in favor of one that is more marketable. It means continuing to write a bestselling series you might be bored with rather than writing something new.


If the money and success are the end result, probably very true...but then I wouldn't be writing.  I'd still be doing something else I don't enjoy nearly as much.

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #164 on: April 20, 2017, 10:40:11 PM »
I'm not overly fond of the idea of "luck"; it sounds sort of magical. But if you replace it with "things that have helped me that I didn't generate for myself," well, I've have a lot of those. I can't claim much success as a writer, but what small success I've had definitely rests in part on those things. My professional success in other areas does as well. That doesn't mean effort, decision-making, and other stuff that was in my control didn't matter; it must matter a lot, since I know some people who had less of a leg up than I do who've done better than I have. Still, it doesn't seem right to ignore the advantages I've had, compared to some.




Offline ThomasDiehl

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #165 on: April 21, 2017, 12:54:17 AM »
You realize you are debating with a writer who has sold more books than almost everyone else here combined, right?
Idon't see how that's relevant.
I don't doubt she has put a lot of work into her books. I don't doubt she is very successful. I don't even doubt the amount of work played a role in her success.
What I do take umbridge with is the complete dismissal of luck as a fcator. What I see here is what Chuck Wendig calls Survivorship Bias - "I worked hard and that is why I succeeded were others didn't" seems to be a valid position to somebody successful, but it dismisses the hard work those less successful have done.

What I have come to realize is an American trait. For some reason, invoking the notion of luck one might as well call people names. This, to me, is absurd. Luck and bad luck are things simply because you do not control everything in the world. There are other things, other people moving around with their own goals and motivations, and it is out of our control when and how they meet. Thus, things happen without our influence and the best we can do is position ourselves in places most likely to benefit from those changes. When we and the rest of the world align, I call it luck.
You can put as much work into your barbecue party as you want, when the weather forecast fails you and it's pouring, that's just bad luck and even if you have some tents to shield you from the rain, it won't be as good a party with the bad weather beating down on your tents and moods.
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Offline PaulineMRoss

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #166 on: April 21, 2017, 01:35:35 AM »
What I do take umbridge with is the complete dismissal of luck as a fcator. What I see here is what Chuck Wendig calls Survivorship Bias - "I worked hard and that is why I succeeded were others didn't" seems to be a valid position to somebody successful, but it dismisses the hard work those less successful have done.

Yeah, it's not cool to say that it's only because they worked harder than everyone else. There's definitely more to it.

Somebody upthread said that what's needed for success is hard work, smarts and luck, but I disagree. I'd say luck is a nice bonus, but it's not essential to get a lucky break. Or to put it another way, people can be successful without ever having a big lucky break. I know it's possible because I've seen people do it, and it's insulting to those who claim that they made it through hard work and being good at what they do, to say that they only made it through luck.

People can have lucky breaks, of course, but without the smarts to take advantage of it, that lucky success just fades away (and I've seen that happen, too).

Hard work is a pre-requisite for success, but it's not enough on its own. Understanding the market and learning the necessary skills (smarts) are also necessary but not sufficient. But together they ARE sufficient for long-term success. And a little luck doesn't hurt.

PS I work reasonably hard, but I don't have the marketing smarts, which is why I'll never be uber-successful.  ;D

Quote
You can put as much work into your barbecue party as you want, when the weather forecast fails you and it's pouring, that's just bad luck and even if you have some tents to shield you from the rain, it won't be as good a party with the bad weather beating down on your tents and moods.

I suppose the equivalent to the barbeque-day rain is Amazon changing the algos, but even then the smart people adjust quicker than anybody else. And some people are smart enough to see changes coming (the switch from KU1 to KU2, for instance; lots of people predicted that).
   

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Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #167 on: April 21, 2017, 04:42:18 AM »
Idon't see how that's relevant.
I don't doubt she has put a lot of work into her books. I don't doubt she is very successful. I don't even doubt the amount of work played a role in her success.
What I do take umbridge with is the complete dismissal of luck as a fcator. What I see here is what Chuck Wendig calls Survivorship Bias - "I worked hard and that is why I succeeded were others didn't" seems to be a valid position to somebody successful, but it dismisses the hard work those less successful have done.

What I have come to realize is an American trait. For some reason, invoking the notion of luck one might as well call people names. This, to me, is absurd. Luck and bad luck are things simply because you do not control everything in the world. There are other things, other people moving around with their own goals and motivations, and it is out of our control when and how they meet. Thus, things happen without our influence and the best we can do is position ourselves in places most likely to benefit from those changes. When we and the rest of the world align, I call it luck.
You can put as much work into your barbecue party as you want, when the weather forecast fails you and it's pouring, that's just bad luck and even if you have some tents to shield you from the rain, it won't be as good a party with the bad weather beating down on your tents and moods.

No, you still don't get me. I am not dismissing that others might work as hard and not be successful (although I have not seen evidence of that in the people I've known personally). What I am saying is that not everyone has the innate TALENT to be successful. Some of you are arguing over how many hours someone puts in when I'm saying the hours don't matter if the ability is not there or only marginal to begin with.

I am a classically trained violinist. I practiced my butt off to gain first chair first violin in symphony and chamber group while in high school. But my friend, who played the cello and was accepted to Juilliard, played at a level I could have never attained with practice. He was simply light years ahead of me by only existing. It was in his bones, DNA, makeup, brain wiring, whatever you want to call it. People have talents for different things and some people have more talent at those things than others. Consistent bestsellers are no different than professional musicians and athletes that are at the top of their game. It's a small group of people in a large population of people who tried to do it or are capable of doing it but not at that level.

Now, a competent writer can still make a great living. But they have to do all the same things the big bestsellers do to make the most of their work.

For those that dig in their heels and refuse to write to market (NOT write to trend), that is your choice, but what you then have to accept is that your success (and revenue) will likely be much less than someone who is specifically targeting their audience with what they write.
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Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #168 on: April 21, 2017, 04:43:20 AM »
See, as with everything else, there is a trade-off. It all comes down to what you are prepared to give up. Being a professional writer comes with sacrifices - to make maximum returns you may be called upon to sacrifice your own tastes and your own enjoyment. Will I be willing to do that? Probably not to the level necessary to achieve Jana Deleon level of success. But that is ok as long as I acknowledge and accept that writing what I want to write may not bring the highest level of success, because it is not in a top-selling genre / I'm not willing to write the most popular tropes in a particular genre.

This is an entirely realistic and logical approach.
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Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #169 on: April 21, 2017, 05:50:02 AM »
Idon't see how that's relevant.
I don't doubt she has put a lot of work into her books. I don't doubt she is very successful. I don't even doubt the amount of work played a role in her success.
What I do take umbridge with is the complete dismissal of luck as a fcator. What I see here is what Chuck Wendig calls Survivorship Bias - "I worked hard and that is why I succeeded were others didn't" seems to be a valid position to somebody successful, but it dismisses the hard work those less successful have done.

What I have come to realize is an American trait. For some reason, invoking the notion of luck one might as well call people names. This, to me, is absurd. Luck and bad luck are things simply because you do not control everything in the world. There are other things, other people moving around with their own goals and motivations, and it is out of our control when and how they meet. Thus, things happen without our influence and the best we can do is position ourselves in places most likely to benefit from those changes. When we and the rest of the world align, I call it luck.
You can put as much work into your barbecue party as you want, when the weather forecast fails you and it's pouring, that's just bad luck and even if you have some tents to shield you from the rain, it won't be as good a party with the bad weather beating down on your tents and moods.
It's why you check the weather forecast before the party. And if it's really important, you check the almanac. It may still rain, but you do what you can with the tools you have. Because you don't understand why something happens, or you can't wrap your head around causality, doesn't make things random. Beyond your control, yes. But that's just the way it is.
Successful people in any profession offset the things beyond their control my maximizing the things they can impact. Where other people see good or bad luck, they see good or bad decisions. They see opportunities and make sure they are ready to take advantage of the situation. When it doesn't work out, they evaluate what went wrong. They don't chalk it up to bad luck. They alter their methods. They have the strength to be self-critical.
You can't see everything coming. But you can be prepared for most eventualities. That way if it rains, it rains.
Nine times out of ten, I can spend a few minutes and tell you why an author is not doing well. I promise you Jana can too. Not once have I ever thought it was bad luck. There is always a factor they are not seeing. Often they are unwilling to accept responsibility. But some do. Maybe that's why there are only a few spots at the table.   

Offline WyandVoidbringer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #170 on: April 21, 2017, 06:18:21 AM »
For those that dig in their heels and refuse to write to market (NOT write to trend), that is your choice, but what you then have to accept is that your success (and revenue) will likely be much less than someone who is specifically targeting their audience with what they write.

But is this really true? You've mentioned your true passion is horror, but you don't write it due to the smaller market. But one of the most successful authors of all time is a horror writer.

I don't mean to knock writing to market at all, but it seems to me that many very successful authors created their own market with their writing.

As independent authors and publishers, we apply many business principles to the business of writing. I think one thing we tend to gloss over that's true in the business world is that many times consumers don't know what they want until you show it to them. The same can be true with writing. But, I'll admit, you need to be a darn good writer to be the 'next big thing.'
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 06:21:57 AM by WyandVoidbringer »

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Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #171 on: April 21, 2017, 06:27:48 AM »
For those that dig in their heels and refuse to write to market (NOT write to trend), that is your choice, but what you then have to accept is that your success (and revenue) will likely be much less than someone who is specifically targeting their audience with what they write.

You've mentioned your true passion is horror, but you don't write it due to the smaller market. But one of the most successful authors of all time is a horror writer.

That doesn't debunk what Jana said at all.

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #172 on: April 21, 2017, 06:33:36 AM »
Idon't see how that's relevant.
I don't doubt she has put a lot of work into her books. I don't doubt she is very successful. I don't even doubt the amount of work played a role in her success.
What I do take umbridge with is the complete dismissal of luck as a fcator. What I see here is what Chuck Wendig calls Survivorship Bias - "I worked hard and that is why I succeeded were others didn't" seems to be a valid position to somebody successful, but it dismisses the hard work those less successful have done.

What I have come to realize is an American trait. For some reason, invoking the notion of luck one might as well call people names. This, to me, is absurd. Luck and bad luck are things simply because you do not control everything in the world. There are other things, other people moving around with their own goals and motivations, and it is out of our control when and how they meet. Thus, things happen without our influence and the best we can do is position ourselves in places most likely to benefit from those changes. When we and the rest of the world align, I call it luck.
You can put as much work into your barbecue party as you want, when the weather forecast fails you and it's pouring, that's just bad luck and even if you have some tents to shield you from the rain, it won't be as good a party with the bad weather beating down on your tents and moods.
Agree.  (Except I don't think the backyard barbecue is the best example.)

It does seem that some people think that the concept of luck negates or diminishes or wipes out the hard work they've put in, or whatever talent they have.  That's silly-- the two ARE NOT mutually exclusive.  But it's undeniable that there are times when something unforeseen, something outside of our control, something that can't be manipulated, happens and impacts our lives (careers) in some way.  Whether the outcome is good or bad, that is what people call luck.  A number of people have responded here that they "don't believe in luck," but in the next sentence acknowledge that circumstances beyond their control can have an effect on things.   Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
Jena

Offline WyandVoidbringer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #173 on: April 21, 2017, 06:37:43 AM »


That doesn't debunk what Jana said at all.

In business there are companies who perfect an existing product or industry and carve out their market share that way.

There are others who focus on innovation, creating a market with a product or idea where before there was none.

Both methods have their challenges and benefits, neither is superior to the other. I would argue that they need each other.

I don't see how writing is any different. On one hand, I can think of many great and successful authors who write to market, on the other I can think of many who wrote the story they had to tell, and discovered that readers loved it and rewarded them for it.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 06:43:38 AM by WyandVoidbringer »

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Offline Kristen Painter

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #174 on: April 21, 2017, 06:41:59 AM »
Nine times out of ten, I can spend a few minutes and tell you why an author is not doing well. I promise you Jana can too. Not once have I ever thought it was bad luck. There is always a factor they are not seeing. Often they are unwilling to accept responsibility. But some do. Maybe that's why there are only a few spots at the table.   

I completely agree. In many cases, it's very easy to tell why a book or series isn't selling, but most people don't want to hear that their covers need to be changed or the writing isn't up to par (or whatever the issue is). Those who can take advice from others who know what they're talking about often end up with good results.
Kristen Painter
Author of the bestselling Nocturne Falls series