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TBD
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Kindle Edition published 2016-01-12
Bestseller ranking: 757432

Product Description
With the odd disappearance of her parents, Gussie Gibson has lived her entire life with her granny on a peaceful pecan orchard, owned by the meanest man in all of Georgia—Mr. J.P. Combs. Granny teaches Gussie many valuable life lessons as a black woman growing up in the still-segregated south. Mr. Combs is an evil underhanded banker who takes liberties beyond his privilege. When Granny dies, Combs informs Gussie she owes him back rent—but he wants much more than money for payment—and more than Gussie can live with.
After defending herself against his sexual advances, Gussie flees to escape certain vigilante justice when she meets a charming, handsome stranger, Sam Johnson, who is just returning from World War II.
Gussie and Sam’s friendship is short-lived when Mr. Combs hunts her down and drags her back to Green Ridge, driven by his craving for revenge and a grudge too deep to comprehend. Gussie fights to return to Sam and his lo...

Author Topic: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]  (Read 19816 times)  

Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #175 on: April 21, 2017, 06:46:35 AM »
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.

The startup world is littered with the corpses of companies that tried to create markets. There are exceptions, but the exceptions define the rule.

The rule is that companies do a lot of market research to identify potential demand.


One on 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.

No one is saying the latter doesn't happen. When I read Jana's post, I inferred she was talking about having the right expectations regarding commercial viability.

For example, I know a girl who wants to open a high-end cupcake shop in New York. She might create a market and experience remarkable success. Stranger things have happened. But to expect as much would be unrealistic, and perhaps even delusional.

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

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline WyandVoidbringer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #176 on: April 21, 2017, 06:55:16 AM »
The startup world is littered with the corpses of companies that tried to create markets. There are exceptions, but the exceptions define the rule.

The rule is that companies do a lot of market research to identify potential demand.

If there are exceptions to a rule, then there is no rule. That's logic 101.

I'm not trying to stir the pot here, so I'll bow out of the discussion.

But if everyone always wrote to market, there would be no market to write to.

Sandell Wall | Sandell's Website

Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #177 on: April 21, 2017, 07:02:27 AM »
If there are exceptions to a rule, then there is no rule. That's logic 101.

I'm not trying to stir the pot here, so I'll bow out of the discussion.

But if everyone always wrote to market, there would be no market to write to.


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

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline WyandVoidbringer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #178 on: April 21, 2017, 07:06:21 AM »

Sandell Wall | Sandell's Website

Online Amanda M. Lee

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #179 on: April 21, 2017, 07:36:16 AM »
I think one of the most important things being forgotten in the luck vs. handwork debate are the intangibles. There's a reason they're so important and definite careers. Intangibles are what make Michael Jordan a better basketball player even though Lebron James is the better athlete. Intangibles can elevate people, and it's not luck. It's a variety of things coming together to create success ... including skill and hard work.
People want to pin everything on luck but I often get the feeling that's because they don't want to do the work and figure out why some things work when others don't. Many times there are explanations but you have to look deep and be honest -- even with yourself -- about why things succeed. More importantly, you need to look deep and ask the hard questions about why some things fail.
It's not always about craft or hard work. It's about things mixing together and working in the right way. It's not luck to me when you have to do eight different things to make one product fit the market and sell. That's skill, understanding, dedication, determination and the ability to keep going no matter what.

Amanda M. Lee

Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #180 on: April 21, 2017, 08:39:41 AM »
Let me ask you all this - if bestselling authors are only in their positions because somewhere along the line they got lucky, then why are any of you on a forum for writers seeking advice? Just sit back and wait. It will either happen or it won't.
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #181 on: April 21, 2017, 08:43:46 AM »
Let me ask you all this - if bestselling authors are only in their positions because somewhere along the line they got lucky, then why are any of you on a forum for writers seeking advice? Just sit back and wait. It will either happen or it won't.
Jana wins the internet.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #182 on: April 21, 2017, 08:44:13 AM »
I guess what matters is: how are your beliefs helping and hurting you? If believing that success is due to luck makes you keep trying, maybe that's helpful. If that belief keeps you from an honest assessment of your work and weaknesses, or from listening to honest critical feedback (including reviews)--then your beliefs will hold you back. If you're not selling well and you think x writer whose work is positioned the same as yours but sells better is a hack and only doing better due to luck--instead, look and see what is working for x. Are her covers awesome while you made yours yourself? (Can't tell you how many people on here make their own covers and then talk about luck. A few people can successfully make their own covers. Most can't.) Is her writing grabbier? Read her reviews. What do readers love? What can you learn from her success? What's your takeaway? If it's "It's all luck," look harder. Because that belief is getting in your way.

Offline Paul Hector Travis

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #183 on: April 21, 2017, 08:47:26 AM »
When I speak of luck, I'm referring more to the absence of bad luck. For example - and I'm not in any way mentioning this to garner sympathy, just to illustrate my point - a hereditary condition exists in my family. It has affected the males on the paternal side of my family tree, but it has not been debilitating or life-defining. My father, grandfather, great-grandfather have all lived fairly normal lives; the first male to be affected grievously is my son. He won't die early, but he will never live independently, and the disorder means his mother and I have very little free time or money. To be a successful author takes a lot of time and money. Now, if the disability had waited a generation before striking, our lives would be very different; we would certainly have a lot more time and money to assist in the pursuit of my writing dreams. Of course, if the curse had struck a generation earlier, or a generation earlier than that, I wouldn't be typing this.

BTW, I'm not making excuses. I've made plenty of mistakes without which I may have been far more successful, and I'm working hard to correct said mistakes. Plus, I'm sure there are plenty of other people in tougher situations who've achieved more.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 09:18:27 AM by Paul Hector Travis »

Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #184 on: April 21, 2017, 08:52:09 AM »
Luck, fate, destiny, magic...all interesting concepts and I am enjoying this debate, purely from an author's viewpoint.  My books look at magic (at times) as the flip side to science.  If you can explain why something happens, it's science.  If you cannot, it's magic.  Especially important in earlier times.

As for supply and demand...that's the business I left.  I think you're debating Say's Law. Does supply create it's own demand?  Yes, often it does with the help of advertising.  Does it makes sense to see where the demand lies and create a supply to meet it?  Of course, but that may create more supply than demand (at some point) and your share of the market might decrease.

Now, let's get back to luck and magic. :)

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Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #185 on: April 21, 2017, 09:22:57 AM »
Write to market sounds easy. Do the research sounds easy. Many of us aren't competent in that area. That's normal. Marketing and business development is not where we put our focus because we didn't know back then that we would need those skills. We didn't approach writing as a business because we didn't yet know that we needed to approach writing as a business.

We all begin where we begin from, for better or worse. There's no changing that. "Ought" and "supposed" and "should" and "need to" don't change that. We can't go back ten years and make different choices.

Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

Offline KennySkylin

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #186 on: April 21, 2017, 09:39:44 AM »
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.

OK, but this example does not really equate being successful in something like self-publishing or anything where success is based on long term work, ability to take multiple shots on goal, improvement, and persistence.

Focusing on this one party failing is like putting out one unedited book a year with a cover that looks like it was made in MS paint in about 5 minutes with no marketing or promotion and hoping to retire off it.

Building a successful career as an author would be more like having a barbecue party every week or month or whatever, taking steps to mitigate bad weather ruining it beforehand, getting feedback from guests about what they like, improving your food and activities, letting everyone know about it effectively, hyping it up, and so on until you have the most undeniably enjoyable party that people can't resist and look forward to attending every time.

The bad luck situation you presented is only meaningful to something where you have only one shot at and there is no way to improve and succeed over a longer time frame. Reliance on luck diminishes with skill plus time.

Luck is only the deciding factor in things you can never ever influence; otherwise, it's really skill and knowledge over time that wins. It's also not about only focusing on simply working hard. You have to learn from and improve on what you have done before and not just keep doing the same "hard work" over and over even when it proves to not succeed.

Offline Mari Oliver

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #187 on: April 21, 2017, 10:22:07 AM »
I think one of the most important things being forgotten in the luck vs. handwork debate are the intangibles. There's a reason they're so important and definite careers. Intangibles are what make Michael Jordan a better basketball player even though Lebron James is the better athlete. Intangibles can elevate people, and it's not luck. It's a variety of things coming together to create success ... including skill and hard work.
People want to pin everything on luck but I often get the feeling that's because they don't want to do the work and figure out why some things work when others don't. Many times there are explanations but you have to look deep and be honest -- even with yourself -- about why things succeed. More importantly, you need to look deep and ask the hard questions about why some things fail.
It's not always about craft or hard work. It's about things mixing together and working in the right way. It's not luck to me when you have to do eight different things to make one product fit the market and sell. That's skill, understanding, dedication, determination and the ability to keep going no matter what.
THIS + Jana and Rosalind's following comments.

Okay, I've only been at this for a blink of time and already I'm pivoting/fixing/figuring out how to get books to sell. It takes an honest assessment of what you're doing. A lot of authors relate to their work in an artistic and passionate way: you are not your work. They get so attached to their work that they can't see why readers aren't buying. If we want to succeed in this business, then we must be able to give readers what they want. It's about serving others, at least in my mind. When I buy a book, I'm looking for an emotional experience. I want to give readers the same...otherwise, why am I writing?

I know many writers who are so stubborn about "I will never give up writing for ME in order to make money", then they whine that they aren't selling. I sell hardly at all...but I'm fixing things that aren't working and improving what I do daily and it's working. Little by little, but it's working. And Jana is right. It isn't all about craft. It's about being business savvy, which is difficult for writers because, well, lol, we rather be alone writing! The thing is, welcoming this part of the gig can only help us grow as people and artists in general.

On writing to market: last year, I published my first book. It didn't sell. I published two more that didn't sell. I unpublished them and worked on craft + learned as much about the business before hitting publish again this January. A hard, honest look at what I was doing was necessary. It's not about me anymore, it's about my readers. If I want to achieve my dreams of writing for a living, if I want to provide my husband with some financial relief at some point, if I want to set a good example for my son about hard work, if I want to sell books until I die...then I must study the market, must continue honing my craft, must continue reading and learning, etc. This year, I'm doing a little better than I was in 2016. Why? Because I don't care anymore about what I want to write. I found a nice little sub-genre and am doing the best I can to write what readers love. And see, the thing is, many authors I know (most who aren't published yet) have this idea that readers will love their work just because they wrote something! No.

A friend's mother is a ravenous Y.A. fan. I don't read Y.A. but I pay attention to what she raves on about books. I want to know what it is that makes her so desperate to continue filling her Kindle. She also loves romance and I learn so much from conversations with her. Readers want an experience and if they can't relate to your story because it's too abstract and full of words they don't understand or whatever, then how can they attach themselves to character and story?

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I truly believe that anyone who is successful at what they do is because they kept improving, learning, didn't quit. And most importantly, they wanted to serve others.

Offline WyandVoidbringer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #188 on: April 21, 2017, 11:27:08 AM »
This year, I'm doing a little better than I was in 2016. Why? Because I don't care anymore about what I want to write.

This makes me sad.

Could it be that you're doing better because you learned to write better?

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Offline Annie B

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #189 on: April 21, 2017, 12:05:18 PM »
I guess what matters is: how are your beliefs helping and hurting you? If believing that success is due to luck makes you keep trying, maybe that's helpful. If that belief keeps you from an honest assessment of your work and weaknesses, or from listening to honest critical feedback (including reviews)--then your beliefs will hold you back. If you're not selling well and you think x writer whose work is positioned the same as yours but sells better is a hack and only doing better due to luck--instead, look and see what is working for x. Are her covers awesome while you made yours yourself? (Can't tell you how many people on here make their own covers and then talk about luck. A few people can successfully make their own covers. Most can't.) Is her writing grabbier? Read her reviews. What do readers love? What can you learn from her success? What's your takeaway? If it's "It's all luck," look harder. Because that belief is getting in your way.


This. All this.

In 2014 I'd been self-publishing for 4 years and writing full time trying to make a go of it for 5. I was a failure. I was super sick (bad luck, right?) and practically on bed rest unable to eat more than Gatorade for months. We were broke (husband laid off in 2011, took 3 years and a pivot in industries for him to find a job, I was basically unemployable at this point for multiple reasons including health, and my former poker career was dead thanks to Black Friday legislation and no money to move somewhere with live games or to stake me). I had over 40 products up (mostly short stories and novellas, a few novels) but nothing was selling very much, despite me putting money into professional covers etc and trying to prop those things up.

Lots of bad luck, right? Could have kept doing the things I'd been doing for four years and hoped it worked.

But... I didn't. I stopped doing everything I'd been doing for the last four years. I stopped pricing high and started looking at prices in my genre and what successful indies were doing. I stopped writing whatever I felt like and prioritizing volume over paying attention to the market. I focused and wrote a series designed to capture the market I wanted to hit. I spent the last bit of money we had (700 bucks on our last non-maxed credit card) for wow-factor covers and good editing on the first three books in a new series. In Aug of 2014 I released the first one at .99, despite being broke and scared of doing that and not making money on the first book. But that's a strat I'd seen from other, far more successful indies. I released book 2 three weeks later at 2.99, a price which my former mentors had told me over and over was only for short stories and had warned me was the bargain bin.  To save us financially, I needed to make 1k in Aug. I made 5k. In Sept, I made over 20k. On just those two books. I released book 3 and then book 4 within 6 weeks of each other and had made just shy of six figures in the last part of 2014 alone.  I had done no marketing beyond including the first book in a bundle with other authors (most of whom had very little audience, but we managed to sell a decent number of those, though my first book did better on its own in the end) (Bookbub kept rejecting me and didn't take a book of mine until well into 2015).  This was the same summer KU happened, and I wasn't in KU, so that was maybe poor decision making on my part (I probably could have made more money in KU, but I was determined to be wide, oops).  I haven't made less than six figures in the years since, though. Because I keep doing what works and keep trying stuff. The biz is always changing, and it pays to look at what works today instead of lamenting over what doesn't work anymore or never worked in the first place.

If that's luck, then it's amazing how I got magically lucky right when I stopped doing all the things that hadn't worked, and started doing things that I saw working well for others.

You can't change the circumstances of your birth. There's plenty of other things that happen (health issues etc) that you don't have much control over either. But when it comes to a writing career, there are tons of things we have control over. That should give people hope, not fill you with fear. As Rosalind said... if calling something luck lets you get through the scary things and do what you need to do, then... do it I guess. If it is holding you back from making hard decisions about your career or keeping you from changing up what isn't working, then saying "just luck" isn't useful.

If you want different results than the ones you are getting... do things differently. If you won't do things differently, then perhaps you need to learn to accept what you have.

Offline Mari Oliver

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #190 on: April 21, 2017, 12:08:00 PM »
This makes me sad.

Could it be that you're doing better because you learned to write better?
Oh, of course! I totally don't disregard that one bit, even though I've been writing seriously for 7 years and have been writing stories since I was a kid. BUT...the difference is that I've learned how to structure my stories properly and include tropes etc that readers love and trust. So yes to what you said. :)

Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #191 on: April 21, 2017, 12:12:45 PM »
If you want different results than the ones you are getting... do things differently. If you won't do things differently, then perhaps you need to learn to accept what you have.

This should be stickied at the top of this forum.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline SC

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #192 on: April 21, 2017, 12:50:06 PM »
As for the definition of luck - success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions - we'll have to agree to disagree, I suppose.  :)

Ha, yeah, I guess so. Because first I'd say, "Let's discuss what we mean by 'chance'," and then I'd argue that there's an awful lot that doesn't fall into either "chance" or "one's own actions".

I suspect we just have different ways of looking at the world, and that's okay.

Offline WHDean

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #193 on: April 21, 2017, 12:53:57 PM »
A few observations:

1. There's a difference between necessary and sufficient conditions for success. I don't dispute the necessary conditions laid out by Jana and others, and I admire their determination. Yet there are too many variables to imagine that these are sufficient for success. If they were, the traditional publishers, with their armies of marketers, editors, designers, and their massive budgets (etc.), would have long ago achieved a perfect track record.

On top of that, there are successes that have completely ignored most of the necessary conditions. Take Andy Weir. I liked his book, and I loved his personal story even more. By his own admission, he became a bestselling author despite his best effort not to be one. He not only did everything wrong, he wasn't even trying to do anything right. He only put his book for sale on Amazon because he couldn't make it free for his fans.

As for people claiming to be able to identify why a book fails or succeeds with any reliability, well, pardon me for being sceptical. Finding a reason that a book failed is easy because the variables are so numerous. But no one knows all of them, their relative weight, or how they interact. For example, one can play Captain Hindsight and claim that Weir's unorthodox road to success really did follow the orthodox pattern. But yours is a just-so story concocted after the fact to explain away luck and preserve your belief that it doesn't exist. No doubt such a story could also be concocted to explain away why Cuckoo's Calling wasn't a bestseller until its author was "accidently" revealed. 

2. The luck versus talent, skill, and hard work dichotomy cuts both ways. Sure, people can attribute their all their failures to bad luck. But people can also mistake their good luck for the inevitable consequence of talent, skill, and hard work. Nothing is inevitable in the free market or any other complex system.

3. Survivorship bias is a real thing. Dozens of scientists can spend their lives working independently on the same discovery, but only one of them will be first to publish. When the first scientist to submit the paper becomes the second to publish because the editor of the journal decided to delay publishing his paper for a month, that scientist was the victim of bad luck. No one can predict such events.

Nonetheless, it's very easy to play Captain Hindsight when you know what happened. You can imagine, for example, that the first scientist to publish chose the right journal to publish in, blah, blah, blah. But again, that's a just-so story tailored to explain away luck.

4. Believing there's no such thing as luck might be a good psychological strategy and believing the opposite might be a bad one. I don't know. But I do know this: If you think disbelieving in luck is a good strategy, I recommend that you avoid trying to make the case that theres no such thing as luck because reality will not cooperate.


Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #194 on: April 21, 2017, 12:57:20 PM »
Chance, fate, destiny, luck, karma....or random events.  I don't think it matters what you call it, as they're all beyond our control.  I believe how we deal with this is more important than what we call it.

You have to make the best of what you have and I think that's something most would agree upon. 

How we define success is as different as how we see luck.  Some want lots of money, fame, etc. and that's wonderful.  Others want freedom and independence.  Some want security.  And a few probably want all of the above.  Working on your craft and being open to new ideas is great.

That being said...not everyone has the money or the access to credit to do all the things deemed necessary to be successful in this industry, immediately.  And that's okay, too.  I think we all have our own stories, as well as the ones we write.
 
Best of luck (couldn't resist) to us all! :)
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 12:59:07 PM by Lorri Moulton »

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Offline Paul Hector Travis

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #195 on: April 21, 2017, 12:57:42 PM »
Ha, yeah, I guess so. Because first I'd say, "Let's discuss what we mean by 'chance'," and then I'd argue that there's an awful lot that doesn't fall into either "chance" or "one's own actions".

I suspect we just have different ways of looking at the world, and that's okay.

I was thinking that myself, to be fair. The definition is flawed.

On the other hand, were it not for my son's condition, I would probably never have started writing in the first place. If I were as ignorant as Alanis Morissette, I'd call it ironic.

Offline Annie B

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #196 on: April 21, 2017, 01:10:02 PM »
I'll note I'm not saying there is no such thing as luck. What I mean when I talk about looking at the things under your control is that luck isn't nearly the factor the way that people often want to think it is. There's plenty of luck (good and bad) that happens to everyone. However, if you are not succeeding in your life the way you want to be, looking at the things you do have under your control is often more useful than trying to examine all the ways in which you aren't lucky and people who are doing what you want to do are.

Luck is a thing.

So are self-examination, critical thinking skills, craft, business acumen, and all the other things that are entirely under your control in this business.  Focusing on the things not under your control seems less than useful if you want to change your circumstances.

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #197 on: April 22, 2017, 10:22:34 AM »

Here's the publishing process as I understand it: imperfect writers create imperfect books, publish them through imperfect systems, advertise through imperfect systems, to be bought by imperfect people for imperfect reasons, who read them with imperfect judgement. Yet, I'm to believe that there's no luck involved in writing and publishing.

Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

Offline Anarchist

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #198 on: April 22, 2017, 10:52:31 AM »
Here's the publishing process as I understand it: imperfect writers create imperfect books, publish them through imperfect systems, advertise through imperfect systems, to be bought by imperfect people for imperfect reasons, who read them with imperfect judgement. Yet, I'm to believe that there's no luck involved in writing and publishing.

I don't think anyone has said "there's no luck involved in writing and publishing."

Rather, several folks have posted that luck isn't the deciding factor in publishing success. Success can be engineered.

Ultimately, the discussion is academic. The two camps are entrenched. The line has been drawn in the sand, and there will be no converts to either creed.

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

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline P.J. Post

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #199 on: April 22, 2017, 12:31:40 PM »
Snooki is a bestseller.