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Tips for Building a Successful Career as an Author: Week Five - Luck
Written by
She Writes
July 2018
Written by
She Writes
July 2018

This month has been an amazing exploration of Jamie Beck's career and it is chock full of tips that authors can carry into their own. Make sure you read the full series!

Welcome to the final installment of writing tips to help you build a successful career as an author. For the previous posts about craft, goal setting, perseverance, and networking, please read posts one, two, three, and four. Today, however, we will talk about luck.

Luck's Role

When I evaluate my experience, I can tell you that I work at this job seven days each week, that I missed some soccer and baseball games along the way, that there are only four television programs I watch with any regularity, and that I’ve jumped through any hoop my agent or editor asked of me. That all certainly helped, but there is also a big element of luck at play.

First, I was lucky enough not to have to also juggle a full-time day job. Second, I mentioned in an earlier installment that my second manuscript was my first published novel (In the Cards). It was not, however, the manuscript that got me an agent (that was my third one, Worth the Wait). My agent had passed on In The Cards, but an editor picked that manuscript out of the slush pile (LUCK!) and offered to buy it, so I tapped my agent to negotiate that contract and we resubmitted Worth the Wait (which had been rejected by a different editor at this publisher earlier in the year).

Even then, Worth the Wait was rejected because it did not neatly fit into a contemporary romance line (the editors were concerned it had too many women’s fiction elements to appeal to romance readers). But I believed in that book, so I asked my agent to make sure the noncompete would not prevent me from self-publishing it. To my agent’s and my surprise, my publisher bought it to prevent me from releasing it before In The Cards (LUCK!). In The Cards launched with moderate success and, three months later, Worth The Wait came out and sold one hundred thousand copies within four months, and has gone on to sell almost four hundred thousand copies since its release in 2015 (LUCK!). The little book that no one wanted to take a chance on had gone on to be a big success. That winding path is luck or timing or whatever you want to label something you cannot plan or control. And it also emphasizes the importance of perseverance (another early topic of this series).

Luck vs. Merit vs. Preparation

Now, my husband will say it wasn’t luck. He’d argue it was the combination of craft, perseverance, and networking that helped Worth the Wait break out (men are usually less willing to credit luck for success than merit). I agree that, if any those things had been absent, Worth The Wait would not have made it into the world and sold as well. However, I know many writers who persevere with books at least as good as (or better than) mine, yet their books never quite leapfrog that way. That is the subjective, strange yet magical way of this industry.

My point is not to boast, but to make sure you understand that you can do everything well—even better than others—but some things cannot be explained. Sometimes success comes after a long, slow burn (like with Robyn Carr, who published dozens of books before becoming an eleven-time number-one NYT best seller). Sometimes it comes straight out of the gate (like with Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give). Sometimes it never comes. I think it is critical to be okay with that. Write because you love it and will be happy to work toward whatever goals you’ve set, and then go for it with everything you’ve got. I wish you all the best!

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