Author Topic: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]  (Read 18861 times)  

Online Patty Jansen

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Re: The Gaurdian: The Failed Novelist
« Reply #75 on: April 14, 2017, 06:52:42 PM »
In general it never ceases to amaze me that the people who are doing well scoff at the idea how it's about luck and insist that anyone can do it, if they just worked harder/changed their covers/stopped whining etc etc.

And the people who haven't made it complain it's all about luck, about not having started in 2011, about being at the right place at the right time, about being lucky to have two cents to rub together to invest in their books etc etc.

I think they're both right, but I do love it when people who are insanely successful acknowledge that at least some of their good run came from a lucky break. I also love it how people who are not successful say "yeah, I know my covers suck, but I'll upgrade when I've got some money", in other words, that it's not all someone else's fault. Yes, there is stuff you can do, and yes, sometimes you get lucky.

But this is generally true: the harder you work and the more things you try, the more luck you'll have. This applies not just to writing.

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: The Gaurdian: The Failed Novelist
« Reply #76 on: April 14, 2017, 07:29:53 PM »
I think the guy talking about the importance of luck is describing the world of trad pub really well--especially trad pubbed literary fiction. The Economist did a piece on the people who achieve fame for literary work at one point; they found it very revealing how many of the authors had editors at publishing houses as parents. Yeah, you get the occasional breakout, but it's rare.

For self-publishing there is luck too, but I think the effort to success ratio is much more balanced. I do know a lot of successful indies and they all work hard (or worked hard and are now working less and depending on their backlist.) There is still luck, I certainly have had it. I fell into what was once an underserved niche. But, I also promote a lot to balance how little I release.  :P
« Last Edit: April 14, 2017, 08:42:57 PM by C. Gockel »


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Re: The Gaurdian: The Failed Novelist
« Reply #77 on: April 14, 2017, 07:46:57 PM »
The way I see it is luck is always an element, but less so the better your product is.

Something like:
Success = Hard work + luck

A book with an awesome cover, great editing, good blurb, good marketing etc doesn't really need a lot of luck to succeed. Probably a bit, but not as much as one that's got an awful cover, no editing and a crappy blurb. The hard work (which you can control, crucially) put into a book reduces the need for it to be lucky.

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Offline sela

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Re: The Gaurdian: The Failed Novelist
« Reply #78 on: April 14, 2017, 07:53:21 PM »
I agree with Patty Jansen. Both positions are true at the same time.

Some of any success is due to luck, which I think comes down to timing. You put your well-written book with a great cover and blurb up on Amazon on Day X and Reader Y just happens to be there scanning the new releases and sees your book, buys it, reads it and tells all her friends about it, and they buy it, and so on. If you waited several hours, if you waited a day, maybe Reader Y might have been busy reading another book and never seen your book. One would hope there are enough Reader Ys out there that someone will give your book a try, but from the looks of some of the books I see that are stuck in the millions in the Kindle store, I suspect not.

Probably most of any success is due to hard work, getting everything right, book, blurb, cover, keywords, promotion, and doing it again and again until you strike gold with a book that garners lots of sales, reviews and ranks. But you can never discount luck and timing. Stuff happens that you could never plan for. The best laid plans and all.

I've had some nice mid-list success since I stared in 2012, having earned a mid-five figure income in my first full year of publishing, and a six-figure income in my second and each subsequent year. How much of that is due to luck? Certainly a portion.

I started publishing in 2012, which many hail as the golden year for indie publishing. However, my first 3-book paranormal romance series, published in 2012, only earned a couple thousand dollars between June 1 and Dec 31, 2012. Not so great a success despite the year and despite pro covers. That series was written without regard to the market. I wrote it simply because it seemed like a good story to me. Whatever success it has had since then was due to a lot of hard work, getting the book visible using advertising and promotion.

My real success came in 2013 when I wrote a bestseller and then followed it up with several sequels, to monopolize on book 1's success. I deliberately wrote book 1 of the new series to market, picked a hot market, studied the tropes and tried to deliver, paid for a good cover and full pro edit. How much of my success in 2013 was due to smarts? How much to hard work? How much to luck? I did no publicity of the book except for one $25 ad on a book blog sidebar and posting about it on a few Goodreads groups. *shrug* Most of it was due to me writing a book with a big audience and getting visible due to Amazon algorithms. BUT something happened that got it those first reads and it took off. One would like to think it took off due to its own merits. I always accept that timing was part of it.

I wrote for 15 years before I ever published a book. I took two college writing courses, joined three different writing workshops -- in person and online, including Critters.org and Other Worlds Writing Workshop. I wrote erotic fan fiction for a dozen years. I wrote several books and shopped them to agents, had some bites but no sales. It wasn't until self publishing became possible and made sense that I tried that route in 2012 after reading Joe Konrath's blog.

Was it luck that I read about EL James' and Amanda Hocking's success in an article online and found Joe Konrath, David Gaughran, and others and took their advice? Yeah, it was luck. Then, any subsequent success was mostly due to hard work. But luck was definitely at work the day I found that article.

This is the article that changed my life:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing

I'll pass $1,000,000 in career revenues sometime in June this year. It was darn lucky that I read that Guardian article that day and stopped sending out letters to agents to try to shop my books to traditional publishers, Googling Joe Konrath and deciding to try self publishing on Amazon. Every day, I think my lucky stars. :)
 
« Last Edit: April 14, 2017, 07:58:33 PM by sela »

Offline Jena H

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Re: The Gaurdian: The Failed Novelist
« Reply #79 on: April 14, 2017, 08:10:08 PM »
Luck always plays a role in success...  sometimes a big role, sometimes a relatively minor one.  Most successful artists (actors, singers, etc.) have absolutely no problem acknowledging that they've 'been lucky' in one way or another.  And then there's....  well, never mind.   :P
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Offline EBWriter

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #80 on: April 14, 2017, 10:37:47 PM »
IMHO: She didn't fail, she just didn't want it bad enough. I've had several failed attempts at stories and novels, and guess what: It's all grist for the mill. Writing is practice and, as Dean Wesley Smith says, no writing is wasted writing. All of it is just like compost: it's all lumped together and ferments, but only if you keep piling it on--in this case, with more words!

You can't give up if you really want to achieve your goals, be they writing a novel, losing weight (these first two I discuss in Book 1 of my SMART FOCUS series), buying a house, running a business...you name it. Often what's lacking in those that give up is a "Plan of Action" (with action being the key word). It helps to actually write down your goals along with strategies on how you plan on achieving them. Do this on paper, not some app or other digital means.

Paper may be old-fashioned, but it's like writing an actual contract with yourself. You're less likely to fail if you see the progress you're making on that sheet of paper as you move toward your goals. Record every milestone, every success, every item you can cross off your list--whatever it takes to keep you motivated to keep going, no matter how small it is. Every achievement counts!

Sure, there are times I feel like the worst failure in the world--that's why I write about my "writing failures" Wattpad, lol--but, ultimately, there are seasons in life and you have to recognize that what you're going through is no more than a dry season. The rain will come again; you just have to be there waiting, with your bucket held high in the air, and continued motivation will fill it up. It's the survivors that reach the finish line, make no mistake about that.

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #81 on: April 15, 2017, 08:56:52 AM »
I think of luck as all the factors that you cannot control. We're all already lucky because we live in a time where Amazon has blown open the self-pub market.

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Offline Paul Hector Travis

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #82 on: April 15, 2017, 09:26:00 AM »
She did well to find an agent, to be fair. Maybe the agent wasn't good enough to get her a deal? Either way, I understand how she feels, but her "woe is me" attitude is a little OTT. There are people getting blown up in Syria, or starving in Africa, or suffering a million other injustices in a million other places making less fuss.

Offline D. Zollicoffer

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #83 on: April 15, 2017, 03:47:25 PM »
I've heard a few successful people say they don't believe in luck and I always roll my eyes. You can increase your chances, but a tiny bit of luck is needed. If it didn't then anyone could become a bestseller. You can follow all the steps outlined in how-to books, release 12 novels a year, and still fail.

I hit gold out the gate, and luck had a lot to do with it. Hard work is important though. I do think that anyone can make a "decent" living by following the steps and writing to market. You may not get rich, but you can earn enough to pay a "few" bills :)
« Last Edit: April 15, 2017, 03:59:58 PM by D. Zollicoffer »

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #84 on: April 16, 2017, 05:02:29 AM »
Does timing have something to do with it? Sure. Having good timing can appear like luck. And maybe it is. You put out the right book at the right time and do well, you were lucky in that regard. But the right book is the key more than the right time. Writing 100 books only increases your odds if they are books people want to read.
When you look at the indies who are doing well, they have more than just luck in common. They also write good books that readers enjoy. They use tested methods to stack the odds in their favor. They seek out the advice of other writers when they notice something that isn't working for them as well as it should, and are willing to admit their mistakes. They are constantly aware of the subtle changes in the market and become proactive rather than reactive.
But the main thing I've noticed is that they take personal responsibility for their career. If a book flops, it's their fault. Not Amazon. And certainly not the readers. There is no sinister cabal out to get them. When they fail, they look to one source for their failure. And believe me we all fail. Even those of us making six figures trip up from time to time. It's scary as hell, too. You spend years building a career and gaining an audience. Yet you are constantly standing at the edge of a precipice. The thought of starting over is enough to make you want to cry.
Reaching the top is one thing. Staying there is quite another.

Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #85 on: April 16, 2017, 05:44:10 AM »
What we don't know enough about are the unsuccessful authors. How many have the same drive, quality, and self-responsibility as the successful authors, but haven't succeeded?


Researchers have engaged on this question in the music business. At some point, you have a pool of equally skilled and talented people larger than the audience can track, and once that happens, then herding affects start happening, and little differences in support can lead to breaking out or not. At some point, the results simply stop being about hard work and wanting it enough. This is why the music industry is always finding new acts, and if they don't find traction, their labels drop them. They maximize their chances of success through sheer volume, further overwhelming the audience and making the breakout effect even stronger.

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Offline BlinkFarm

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #86 on: April 16, 2017, 05:47:45 AM »
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." -- Seneca

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Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #87 on: April 16, 2017, 05:51:52 AM »
What we don't know enough about are the unsuccessful authors. How many have the same drive, quality, and self-responsibility as the successful authors, but haven't succeeded?

This was me for many years. I wrote eight novels and 110 short stories before I finally self-published, and it was then that publishers started noticing me a little more. I wish I'd written more during those years, but I was certainly pursuing it in a serious way.

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #88 on: April 16, 2017, 06:09:46 AM »
What we don't know enough about are the unsuccessful authors. How many have the same drive, quality, and self-responsibility as the successful authors, but haven't succeeded?


Researchers have engaged on this question in the music business. At some point, you have a pool of equally skilled and talented people larger than the audience can track, and once that happens, then herding affects start happening, and little differences in support can lead to breaking out or not. At some point, the results simply stop being about hard work and wanting it enough. This is why the music industry is always finding new acts, and if they don't find traction, their labels drop them. They maximize their chances of success through sheer volume, further overwhelming the audience and making the breakout effect even stronger.
There also an IT factor that is almost impossible to pin down. Some writers simply have a talent for story telling that goes beyond the skills of writing. They intuitively know how to hook the reader. 

Offline Kristen Painter

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #89 on: April 17, 2017, 09:38:01 AM »
I've heard a few successful people say they don't believe in luck and I always roll my eyes.


Well, roll them again because luck had nothing to do with my success. Hard work, preparation, talent - that's what helped me rise. All the luck in the world won't sell a crappy book. And please don't talk about Twilight or 50 Shades as being poorly written, because while you may or may not agree with that, they had the one factor that outweighs craft, promotion, and marketing: storytelling. If you can tell a story that keeps readers reading, you're going to do well.
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Offline TwistedTales

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #90 on: April 17, 2017, 09:50:33 AM »
Nah, there's always an element of luck to flying high. Hard work won't get you very far without smarts. Smarts plus hard work will get you a seat at the table. Luck is what launches you into orbit.

I think you're arguing degrees of success. Hard work will sell some books, work smarter and you'll sell more, but becoming a superstar takes luck.

Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #91 on: April 17, 2017, 09:51:36 AM »


Well, roll them again because luck had nothing to do with my success. Hard work, preparation, talent - that's what helped me rise. All the luck in the world won't sell a crappy book. And please don't talk about Twilight or 50 Shades as being poorly written, because while you may or may not agree with that, they had the one factor that outweighs craft, promotion, and marketing: storytelling. If you can tell a story that keeps readers reading, you're going to do well.

100% this. Go ahead and eye roll for me as well.
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Offline Annie B

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #92 on: April 17, 2017, 12:33:06 PM »
100% this. Go ahead and eye roll for me as well.

And for me. It's weird how once I stopped listening to terrible advice (advice like "it's a marathon, not a sprint just keep doing what you are doing and eventually magically you'll succeed" btw) and started being smart and focused in what I was doing and how I was doing it, I found immediate success.  Luck isn't nearly the factor people think it is for most of us, and I think often saying "oh so and so got lucky" can become a kind of emotional crutch people use to deny that they might have a hand in how their career is going.  I think it's always better to look at what IS under your control and be honest with yourself about how well you are handling those things and what you can do better. There's a ton of things under our control. There are always things you can try to do differently.

Offline ThomasDiehl

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #93 on: April 18, 2017, 12:41:31 AM »


Well, roll them again because luck had nothing to do with my success. Hard work, preparation, talent - that's what helped me rise. All the luck in the world won't sell a crappy book. And please don't talk about Twilight or 50 Shades as being poorly written, because while you may or may not agree with that, they had the one factor that outweighs craft, promotion, and marketing: storytelling. If you can tell a story that keeps readers reading, you're going to do well.
Still so, your work would likely not have paid off without luck. There's plenty of excellent books (and excellent products in general) hardly anybody ever bothered to try.

Hard work by itself does not guarantee success, neither does luck by itself. The two need to come together. However, hard work does influence how many chances you get for luck to strike.
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Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #94 on: April 18, 2017, 01:19:48 AM »
And for me. It's weird how once I stopped listening to terrible advice (advice like "it's a marathon, not a sprint just keep doing what you are doing and eventually magically you'll succeed" btw) and started being smart and focused in what I was doing and how I was doing it, I found immediate success.  Luck isn't nearly the factor people think it is for most of us, and I think often saying "oh so and so got lucky" can become a kind of emotional crutch people use to deny that they might have a hand in how their career is going.  I think it's always better to look at what IS under your control and be honest with yourself about how well you are handling those things and what you can do better. There's a ton of things under our control. There are always things you can try to do differently.
So what I think you are saying is don't listen to the advice of people who have no track record of success.  ;)

Offline PaulineMRoss

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #95 on: April 18, 2017, 01:51:04 AM »
Nah, there's always an element of luck to flying high. Hard work won't get you very far without smarts. Smarts plus hard work will get you a seat at the table. Luck is what launches you into orbit.

Disagree. The only luck involved is the hand you were dealt when you were born - whether you've actually got the smarts needed, and the character to knuckle down to the hard work. That and living in an age when it's possible to use them, ie Amazon and the internet.

I've seen people launch into orbit through luck. It happens. But unless they have the smarts to understand why, it doesn't last very long. I've also seen people (quite a few people, actually) who sat down and said: right, I'm going to do this properly and get it right and I'm going to make a success of this, and they do the hard work and they apply the smarts and they launch into orbit, and then repeat that with book after book. That's not luck, not in the slightest.
   

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Offline TwistedTales

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #96 on: April 18, 2017, 02:24:14 AM »
Disagree. The only luck involved is the hand you were dealt when you were born - whether you've actually got the smarts needed, and the character to knuckle down to the hard work. That and living in an age when it's possible to use them, ie Amazon and the internet.

I've seen people launch into orbit through luck. It happens. But unless they have the smarts to understand why, it doesn't last very long. I've also seen people (quite a few people, actually) who sat down and said: right, I'm going to do this properly and get it right and I'm going to make a success of this, and they do the hard work and they apply the smarts and they launch into orbit, and then repeat that with book after book. That's not luck, not in the slightest.

Ignoring the element of chance or luck in any game works on the assumption you can control the outcome. Unfortunately, that's not true. I won't deny hard work and smarts can (not always) take you a reasonable distance, but you'll always need to be in the right place at the right time to do exceptionally well. And don't forget success begats success. Once someone has had that lucky moment, then they can grow on that, which doesn't require luck because they're already in the right place.

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #97 on: April 18, 2017, 02:34:52 AM »
It looks like luck to some people, just as technology looks like magic to primitives. That may sound mean, but it's accurate. I know this because I experienced it firsthand. Before I was a writer, I watched others succeed while I failed miserably. I just couldn't understand what they were doing that I was not. In my arrogance, I wouldn't admit that I was the problem. The harsh reality was that the people around me doing better had an understanding I lacked. And no matter how hard I tried or how many hours I worked, I couldn't achieve what I was after. And yes, I thought I was unlucky. But I was wrong and couldn't see it.
This changed when I became a writer. It all made sense to me. I had a lot to learn, but I had a knack for making the right choices. New information was easy to understand and apply. I knew it wasn't luck because other writers were doing similar things and also succeeding. After a while, I began to see a common thread. Not identical. But similar enough to make the connection. I recognized opportunities and took advantage of them. I ignored the things beyond my control and focused on on the things I could influence. Sure, I made some mistakes. But I was prepared for them and was able to recover. I realized that being at the right place at the right time meant that I put myself there to begin with.
Feeling fortunate is not the same as being lucky.

Offline Kristen Painter

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #98 on: April 18, 2017, 04:12:41 AM »
There's plenty of excellent books (and excellent products in general) hardly anybody ever bothered to try.

I hear this all the time but have yet to see an example, so share a few with me. If these books are really that excellent, I'd like to read one.

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Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: The Failed Novelist [MERGED]
« Reply #99 on: April 18, 2017, 04:57:40 AM »
Good writers can be bad marketers. I would think that's self-apparent.

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