Author Topic: What makes a 100k author?  (Read 42476 times)  

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #100 on: June 11, 2017, 04:06:40 PM »
Show me a person who did everything right and didn't sell books. I don't believe that person exists. By the same token, I'm certain that anyone who's making a mint did most of the important stuff right.

Believing in chance disempowers writers from growth, even if it saves them from the truth that they can and must do better.

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You're right and I wasn't clear.

Let me revise that and say that they can do everything right in terms of the business side (cover, blurb, categories, etc) but have a book that will not sell due to the story / writing. Some people can do nothing right in terms of the business side but they have a book with a story that is great / compelling and goes viral.

It's not chance. It's a great story well told. The business side -- marketing, promotion, basic business stuff -- that takes a great story well told and makes it more visible so it can sell even more.


Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #101 on: June 11, 2017, 05:30:45 PM »
I'd suggest that in fact people who are actively engaged in places like kboards are already outliers, in a sense. I think it might have been in an Author Earnings Report, but I thought that the vast majority of self-published authors quit after the "one book" they think they have in them. And sell only a few dozen copies. I'm the prawniest of prawns, never having had a four-figure month, but I have to remind myself that even my "failure" is successful by many people's standards.

Add onto that the number of people who are 'gonna write a novel someday' and never do. I'm sure there's some sort of chart in here somewhere:

Number of people who are 'gonna write a novel someday'
Number of people who actually start a novel
Number of people who finish said novel
Number of people who get that novel published, either by tradpub or indie
Number of people who visit or frequent kboards

Progressively smaller subsets of writers, I'd imagine.

We may have 'failed' to enjoy a four-figure month, but our failure puts us in a different category than a whole bunch of writers.

Shoot, for that matter, there are 4 million+ ebooks on Amazon. If just one of your books sells or borrows a copy a week, you're way ahead of the majority of ebooks available on Amazon. How's that for outlier? :)

Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #102 on: June 11, 2017, 05:36:35 PM »
I don't think anyone said that a person's information doesn't count because they're too successful.

You didn't call anyone an outlier, but someone called Annie one. The problem is that when someone successful gives advice and is dismissed because they're an "outlier" then it leaves little reason for them to give advice again and is also a huge failure on the part of those seeking advice to not study successful authors and see the things that they are all doing. We are all doing certain things.

I stopped posting here for a couple years because every time I did, I got "but you're an outlier" essentially meaning, my viewpoint didn't count or matter to those here. So I figured why post.

The irony is, in every sport, playing with people better than you elevates your game and I've done the same thing with writing/publishing. I try to surround myself with highly successful people because of the energy and ideas they have. It pushes me to work harder/better.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 05:38:11 PM by Jana DeLeon »
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Offline brkingsolver

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #103 on: June 11, 2017, 06:01:31 PM »
The irony is, in every sport, playing with people better than you elevates your game and I've done the same thing with writing/publishing. I try to surround myself with highly successful people because of the energy and ideas they have. It pushes me to work harder/better.

Over the course of my business career, I've hired several hundred people and managed thousands. Contrary to a lot of managers I've known, I always tried to hire people smarter than I am. The ego trip of working with idiots wears off quickly. That's why I pay attention to the advice of some people here and ignore others. If someone's books are mired in the millions, why would I consider them an expert and do what they suggest? I listen to the people who write books people want to read.

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Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #104 on: June 11, 2017, 06:11:13 PM »
I've always found it the most useful to listen to people who are where I want to be tomorrow. Not in five years' time, but who are on the next rung of where I want to be next, and who have the same philosophy as I do.

The advice of a mega-seller is not of immediate practical use to me, because a mega-seller can do things that I can't. This is not dismissing advice, but simply filtering what is the best advice for me.

I similarly accept that anything I say will not be useful to everyone. For example, I am a medium seller and have a large mailing list, which is my main vehicle to generate those sales. I do things with this list that would be completely useless to someone without a large list or someone whose list consists only of people who only signed up to hear about the next release, or for someone who is only in KU.

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #105 on: June 11, 2017, 06:39:13 PM »
Show me a person who did everything right and didn't sell books. I don't believe that person exists. By the same token, I'm certain that anyone who's making a mint did most of the important stuff right.

Believing in chance disempowers writers from growth, even if it saves them from the truth that they can and must do better.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk

I wouldn't say that you can do everything right and fail. I'd say that two people can both be doing everything right and one can be much more successful, for reasons that have nothing to so with the quality of a book (it for no reason anyone can determine). That's why it's faulty to say people are successful because their books are good (both high quality and commercial) 1. You need a good book, but you need a lot more too.

For example, Vi Keeland is one of the top writers in romance. She writes great books with hooky blurbs and nice covers, but her writing, covers, and blurbs are not signnifigcanly better than other authors who make 1/2 or 1/5 or 1/10 what she does.

Success doesn't always scale "fairly." You can write a 10/10 book and get everything else right and still not do nearly as well as someone else who's​ books (packaging and marketing) are no better.

Offline This_Way_Down

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #106 on: June 11, 2017, 06:48:50 PM »
You didn't call anyone an outlier, but someone called Annie one. The problem is that when someone successful gives advice and is dismissed because they're an "outlier" then it leaves little reason for them to give advice again and is also a huge failure on the part of those seeking advice to not study successful authors and see the things that they are all doing. We are all doing certain things.

I stopped posting here for a couple years because every time I did, I got "but you're an outlier" essentially meaning, my viewpoint didn't count or matter to those here. So I figured why post.

The irony is, in every sport, playing with people better than you elevates your game and I've done the same thing with writing/publishing. I try to surround myself with highly successful people because of the energy and ideas they have. It pushes me to work harder/better.
There you go with that sense talkin' again. You know better than that.

Offline Thame

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #107 on: June 11, 2017, 06:50:02 PM »
I think the entire point of articles like the one that began this thread is that any one of us can point to our own efforts and say "this works" and "this doesn't work" and be right, but with entirely too small of a sample size.

I agree with Rosalind and Annie on the basics: write good books people want to read. it's the thing that is both most in the control of the writer and least in control of the writer, because we're all doing our best and sometimes that's not enough.

I've seen this. I think my Immortal series is fantastic, great fun that is "the best" thing I've ever written. But what worked for me was The Spaceship Next Door. That book by itself has been more successful by a couple of orders of magnitude than any of the series books.

I went from fantasy series books to a standalone sci-fi that was clean (no swears) with cross-appeal to YA readers. People want to read the series, and I can build off the series until I run out of ideas for it (which is soon, tbh.) But more people wanted to read Spaceship, and many of them aren't interested in Immortal. Yet every one of my books is the best work I could have done at the time I did it.

Not to change the topic here, but I just wanted to share something with you. I ran across your sci-fi book "Spaceship Next Door" when I was looking for something new. This was a couple months ago before I found kboards, or even decided to pursue my own writing. So it's a pleasant surprise to see you posting here!

What drew me to it: it was listed under the "Also Boughts" on another book's page, "Scrapyard Ship." You're still on my to-buy list after I finish Marco Kloos' series. But anyway, your cover caught my eye, the title hinted to an interesting story, and your blurb was what sold me on your book. I hope my comment helps you to get an idea of why a customer chose your book.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 06:55:41 PM by Thame »

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #108 on: June 11, 2017, 11:23:30 PM »
You didn't call anyone an outlier, but someone called Annie one. The problem is that when someone successful gives advice and is dismissed because they're an "outlier" then it leaves little reason for them to give advice again and is also a huge failure on the part of those seeking advice to not study successful authors and see the things that they are all doing. We are all doing certain things.


To me, based on the data I've seen, commercially successful indies are outliers. Period. Commercially successful indies are, by their definition, outliers. The vast majority of authors who self publish do not make a living at this biz, let alone six or seven figures. So every commercially successful author, earning 6 figures or higher, is automatically an outlier. Most commercially successful authors have multiple books published and have been doing it for a number of years, and they have business savvy. Sometimes, an author can find commercial success on their first book. For most of us, it takes several to find our voice and develop business skills.

People should always consider the advice and experience of people who are commercially successful and who are where an author wants to be -- if they want to be commercially successful. Seems a no-brainer. So, yes, watch the outliers. They are doing it right ;) if by right, you mean making six figures or more a year.

Some people don't want to take their advice because, frankly, they don't want to do the work or they can't do the work. And by the work, I mean writing commercial books with large audiences and ensuring they are as visible as possible.

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #109 on: June 12, 2017, 12:15:59 AM »
And by the work, I mean writing commercial books with large audiences and ensuring they are as visible as possible.

The way I look at it, most big indies seem to mostly do the same things, or at least similar things. Say every individual big indie did ten things in running their business. If you were to compare across the board, most of them would probably do the same 6 or 7 things, and the final 3 or 4 would vary.

Some advertise a lot, some don't. Rosalind says she didn't write her books to market, but she clearly keeps does think about her audience when she's writing. Some people write a dozen books a year, some don't.

I mean, it's like anything else. The particular factor that makes a band take off might be really hard to nail down, but most successful bands probably do a lot of same basic things: they are good at their instruments, they rehearse, they commit time so they can tour, they have professional photos. The final 20% is hard to pin down exactly. I guess it's that impossible to define sense of "do people actually like it?".

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Offline Annie B

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #110 on: June 12, 2017, 12:37:09 AM »
Only 20% of American households earn 100k a year. That's the household, ie often more than one source of income accounted for.

So... if you are in the US and earn 100k or more a year doing anything, technically you are an outlier.

Hence why I feel that term isn't very helpful. There is money to be made publishing books. If you want to be one of the people who makes money doing this, pay attention to what might be working well for people who are doing what you want to do. It's common sense in ANY job. 

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #111 on: June 12, 2017, 03:53:04 AM »
Not to change the topic here, but I just wanted to share something with you. I ran across your sci-fi book "Spaceship Next Door" when I was looking for something new. This was a couple months ago before I found kboards, or even decided to pursue my own writing. So it's a pleasant surprise to see you posting here!

What drew me to it: it was listed under the "Also Boughts" on another book's page, "Scrapyard Ship." You're still on my to-buy list after I finish Marco Kloos' series. But anyway, your cover caught my eye, the title hinted to an interesting story, and your blurb was what sold me on your book. I hope my comment helps you to get an idea of why a customer chose your book.

Thanks for posting! And bless those Also-Boughts. Spaceship has had a few BookBub features, which helps a-b recommendations enormously. I appreciate the info.

Offline Dax

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #112 on: June 12, 2017, 04:42:13 AM »
Rosalind, thank you so much for the OP. Very interesting data. I hadn't thought about the number of hours 100k authors work and using that as a possible metric for success. One of the sayings around here, is if you want to be a full-time author, you have to put in full-time hours. (Of course, there are exceptions to that around here, but it seems like a good rule of thumb.)

I'm not quite sure how useful the outlier discussion is. I see what some posters mean by referring to these authors as statistical outliers, which I think  may be getting conflated with referring to the 100k+ authors as "lucky". I'm not sure what's to be done about the luck component. I think we all come to writing with a certain set of skills, a certain body and health status, a certain pot of money from which to draw, a certain home environment. Some of those things, we can do little to nothing about. Others, we can improve our "luck" where we can.

Michael Phelps is a statistical outlier from the length of his arms and the length of his torso.  Obviously, he came to a great advantage as a competitive swimmer that you can only come by through luck of the draw. But he didn't just fall into a pool one day and shatter Olympic records. He had to train day in and day out, day in and day out. Of course, the results were maximized because of his natural gifts.

Writing seems to me to require less of those natural advantages than sport does.  I think that it would be worthwhile to actually try what the successful authors do for a reasonable period of time, like two to three years, and then see if we can't become "outliers" too.  Good choice of genre with readers, good covers, good blurb, good look-inside, editing, publishing consistently, putting in 30-40 hours a week on it, etc.  I have a hard time believing from my own reading here that someone wouldn't do halfway decently if they did all that. The problem is that it's a ton of work.

Then, if we don't get the results we're looking for, we change strategies.  For example, Annie Jacoby did this, and when she found she wasn't earning the income she wanted to earn, she posted a long thread here. She didn't blame the Zon or the Powers That Be or even luck. She thought hard about the way she wrote romance, and decided it was time to switch genres. She'd been an outlier once, and she knew that she could be an outlier again. She refused to lay down and die, and it seems like this year is going well for her with her genre switch.

It seems that success in this business is persistence, some degree of intelligence (writing decently, getting good advice, being able to accept constructive criticism, etc), and just plain old elbow grease and grit.

Though, honestly, having or cultivating those characteristics might be the true outlier.

Offline danpadavona

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #113 on: June 12, 2017, 05:25:10 AM »
To be fair, six-figure authors are also much less likely to have a day job. People who earn less aren't necessarily working less--they may just have less time to spend writing and marketing.

This is an excellent point and a good example of how statistics can be misleading. I assume plenty of authors hit 100k and quit their jobs to concentrate on writing more per day, whereas if you take the study at face value you will assume authors hit 100k because they quit their jobs and wrote more per day.


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Offline Anarchist

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #114 on: June 12, 2017, 06:11:23 AM »
People should always consider the advice and experience of people who are commercially successful and who are where an author wants to be -- if they want to be commercially successful. Seems a no-brainer. So, yes, watch the outliers.

That was my thinking, too. When I hear "outlier" in the context of business, I always pay attention.

Imagine that you want to open a restaurant. Most fail within a few years. What aspiring restauranteur wouldn't listen to the advice of Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay, all of whom are arguably outliers in that space?
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Offline jlstovall4

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #115 on: June 12, 2017, 06:40:50 AM »
Yep. My big goal is to buy a house with cash. However, the type of house I want and am currently saving for is only about 60,000k, which will get you a modest but decent house in my area of the country. I can do that simply by continuing to work a regular job and not spend my royalties a while longer. After that, I'm perfectly happy to earn between 3-5k a month, which puts me in the middle class and allows me not to work for someone else anymore because my biggest expense is taken care of. Wealth is not your income. It's your debt to income ratio, so I consider myself very successful to be able to acquire enough supplemental income to buy a house with cash. Other people might say that's nothing.

I'd suggest that in fact people who are actively engaged in places like kboards are already outliers, in a sense. I think it might have been in an Author Earnings Report, but I thought that the vast majority of self-published authors quit after the "one book" they think they have in them. And sell only a few dozen copies. I'm the prawniest of prawns, never having had a four-figure month, but I have to remind myself that even my "failure" is successful by many people's standards.

Like Rosalind said, success is a subjective construct. I feel successful in that I have the luxury of being able to flop (as I do) without my kids going hungry. But damn, I want the monies! I want the income and the visibility that comes with "success", because in a way it's external validation of the work I've been doing and sacrifices made.

I'm conflicted between these two great points!  :o :P

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #116 on: June 12, 2017, 06:44:15 AM »
What looks effortless and natural in others is usually the result of tons of hard work. That's not to say that we aren't all born with varying levels of native ability, but it can be deceptive from the outside to look at someone's polished draft and try to figure out how they reached that point.

The saying is: The easier it is to read, the harder it is to write  ;).

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Offline BellaJames

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #117 on: June 12, 2017, 07:41:00 AM »
I wouldn't say that you can do everything right and fail. I'd say that two people can both be doing everything right and one can be much more successful, for reasons that have nothing to so with the quality of a book (it for no reason anyone can determine). That's why it's faulty to say people are successful because their books are good (both high quality and commercial) 1. You need a good book, but you need a lot more too.

For example, Vi Keeland is one of the top writers in romance. She writes great books with hooky blurbs and nice covers, but her writing, covers, and blurbs are not signnifigcanly better than other authors who make 1/2 or 1/5 or 1/10 what she does.

Success doesn't always scale "fairly." You can write a 10/10 book and get everything else right and still not do nearly as well as someone else who's​ books (packaging and marketing) are no better.

I agree with this.

There will always be authors appearing on the scene at the same time, writing in the same genre and one has massive success and the other is selling a lot less. Why is it that? Natural talent, that authors unique voice and style. Is it their marketing plan. No two authors are going to promote and market their books exactly the same and some are just good at building a relationship with readers. Some authors experiment a lot and try something different.

There are a couple authors who write books like Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward and Lauren Blakely but they are not constantly on the best sellers chart or on the biggest selling books of the year https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2016/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bsar_cal_ye#1

I think it is great to have big names and big selling authors on kboards. I remember listening to a big author saying she does not post on here anymore because she felt she had nothing more to contribute. Here it is, it was Amanda Hocking. https://www.wattpad.com/126324629-ask-me-anything-question-from-marilynvix

However, I think it is the same with any business, that people can take all the advice and try to do what 'a successful author' has done and they still don't sell half as well.

I also think that when some people read threads and interviews with very successful authors, it can be overwhelming to learn how much work that person puts into their career and business.

However, I think it is good to have a mixture of success stories. Not every author works 80 hours a week, spends thousands on ads and has a VA. There are authors who still have a day job and manage to write and publish a book every 3 months. Not every author is trying to get into the top 100. There so many different success stories.

I listen to a lot of interviews with romance authors and one author says she wrote a book and with a little promotion it took off, while another author said she did not see success until book 4.

Like I said on the other thread, I like to read the big success stories where someone is making $100k a year or even $500k. I love the stories of authors selling their movie or tv rights (because I'd love to do that one day) but I also love the stories of authors who are quitting their soul sucking day jobs and writing happily.

I think Wayne's video about Freedom is fantastic, that's the lifestyle I want too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oix5XTILX3I


Offline Kristen Painter

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #118 on: June 12, 2017, 08:49:13 AM »
It's not always about having a day job or not. Writing has been my full time job since 2004. I got an agent in '06, sold to NY in '09, started indie pubbing (along with my NY books) in '10, but I didn't really break out until '15 when I released the first Nocturne Falls book. That success was due to finding an underserved area of the market, writing great books, and packaging them well. And yes, I'm an outlier. But I think what I did is achievable if you can write books that people want to keep reading.
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Offline Rosie A.

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #119 on: June 12, 2017, 09:08:56 AM »
It's not always about having a day job or not. Writing has been my full time job since 2004. I got an agent in '06, sold to NY in '09, started indie pubbing (along with my NY books) in '10, but I didn't really break out until '15 when I released the first Nocturne Falls book. That success was due to finding an underserved area of the market, writing great books, and packaging them well. And yes, I'm an outlier. But I think what I did is achievable if you can write books that people want to keep reading.
An outlier? It sounds like you worked hard and stuck with it. Good work ethic as opposed to being a random hit.

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #120 on: June 12, 2017, 09:12:21 AM »
To me, there are two main elements of success in indie publishing and I suspect they undergird all commercially successful indies.

Business acumen is the second element -- your author platform, your marketing strategy, promotions, networking, output, work ethic, etc.

Craft / Art is the first and the most important. I'm not talking beautiful prose (although there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it suits the genre and category); I'm talking craft as in storytelling chops and a sense of story, character and pace that suits the genre and category and so pleases readers.

The two work together to make an indie a commercial success, but without the first, success will be short lived. You can get a mediocre book up in the ranks with a really savvy push and lots of paid marketing, etc. but if the story doesn't please, the fall will be fast and the ROI not as great as if the product itself was quality.

So: focus on craft / art and then make sure your business skills are up to snuff. Storytelling storytelling storytelling should be the indie author's mantra followed by business business business. 

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #121 on: June 12, 2017, 09:17:43 AM »
An outlier? It sounds like you worked hard and stuck with it. Good work ethic as opposed to being a random hit.

Right, there's nothing random about it. I work like a beast. For a year I said no to everything so I could get the first three books written and polished in order to release them in three consecutive months. When I say I'm an outlier I absolutely do not mean I got lucky. I mean I'm an outlier because of the sales my books generate. They exceed the average. That's all.
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Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #122 on: June 12, 2017, 09:25:00 AM »
An outlier? It sounds like you worked hard and stuck with it. Good work ethic as opposed to being a random hit.

The word outlier doesn't mean random, and it doesn't have anything to do with how hard you worked. It's a statistical term that refers to a data point that doesn't fall within the same range as the bulk of the other data points. ;)

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #123 on: June 12, 2017, 10:31:14 AM »
The word outlier doesn't mean random, and it doesn't have anything to do with how hard you worked. It's a statistical term that refers to a data point that doesn't fall within the same range as the bulk of the other data points. ;)

Thank you!

If you want to be an outlier, then listen to outliers and study what they do and how they do it.

Not easy, by its very nature. Akin to wanting to write a Billboard Hit song.

Offline Kristen Painter

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #124 on: June 12, 2017, 10:35:42 AM »
The word outlier doesn't mean random, and it doesn't have anything to do with how hard you worked. It's a statistical term that refers to a data point that doesn't fall within the same range as the bulk of the other data points. ;)

This. Thank you.
Kristen Painter
Author of the bestselling Nocturne Falls series