What Are the Odds…Really? Taking a Hard Look at Success



What are the odds….really?

I didn’t even consider becoming a writer until 1999 after my father passed away suddenly. Funny how death can make us take a hard look at life, right? Anyway, I recall feeling soooo overwhelmed. I mean my odds of even getting published were about as good as winning the lottery. And the odds of becoming a best-selling author? Well, mathematically speaking, I had a slightly greater chance of being mauled by a black bear and polar bear on the same day.

It was all I could do not to give up before I began.

But, after almost 12 years doing this “writer thing,” I have a new perspective. Often it feels like we are the victims of fate, at the mercy of the universe, when actually it is pretty shocking how much of our own destiny we control. The good news is that if we can get in a habit of making good choices, it is staggering how certain habits can tip the odds of success in our favor.

Time to take a REAL look at our odds of success. Just so you know, this is highly unscientific, but I still think it will paint a pretty accurate picture. I will show you a bit of my own journey. It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change. Thus, with that in mind…

When we start out wanting to write, we are up against presumably millions of other people who want the same dream. We very literally have better odds of being elected to Congress than hitting the NY Times best-selling list. But I think that statement is biased and doesn’t take into account the choices we make.

As I just said, in the beginning, we are up against presumably millions of others who desire to write. Yes, millions. It is estimated that over ¾ of Americans say that they would one day like to write a book. That’s a LOT of people. Ah, but how many do? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step?

Statistically? 5%

So only 5% of the millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the hundreds of thousands. But of the hundreds of thousands, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH a book? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to lay boundaries for friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?

Statistically? 5%

Okay, well now we are down to the tens of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that is required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry standards. When I first started writing, I thought that everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors.

But did they? Or, were they more in love with the idea of being a best-selling author than actually doing whatever it took to succeed? I would love to say that I was a doer and not a talker, but I don’t want to get hit by lightning. There were a number of years that I grew very comfortable with being in a writing group as a writer…but not necessarily a professional writer. I was still querying the same book that had been rejected time and time and time again.  I wrote when I felt inspired and didn’t approach my craft like a professional. I was, at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.

I didn’t need craft books *snort* I knew how to write. Geesh!

I was a member of two writing groups, and had grown very fond of this “writer life.” We hung out at I-Hop and drank lots of coffee. We’d all chat about what we’d do with our millions once we were bigger than Dan Brown. We talked about new ideas for books that never seemed to get written. Or if we ever did sit to write one of these ideas, we would get about 30,000 words in and then hit a wall.

Hmmm…and I thought that idea had so much promise.

Yet, after four years hearing the same talk from the same people shopping the same novels, I had a rude awakening. Maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. Maybe being a copy writer and technical writer and editor didn’t automatically make me a novel-writing genius. Maybe I needed to take this dream of being a best-selling writer a tad more seriously and not rely on bluster, BS and glitter. Maybe I needed to read craft books and scrape up enough money to go to a conference.

So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel, how many read craft books and get serious enough to attend conferences?

You guys are good….5%

And of those who attend a conference, who are asked to send in page requests, how many follow through?

Likely, 5%

How many will land an agent right away?


And of all of those authors rejected, how many writers, determined to impress, are willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings? How many are willing to put that first novel in a drawer, learn from the experience and move forward with a new book…which they FINISH?


And of the writers good enough to get an agent, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform?

Again? Probably 5%.

And of those writers who are published or agented and doing social media, how many of them are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset?


Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see all the different legs we control.

We control:

Taking the Decision Seriously

Writing the Book

Finishing the Book

Learning the Craft


Following Through

Not Giving Up in the Face of Rejection

Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career

I am not saying that finishing a book is easy. I’m not even saying that getting an agent or being published is a piece of cake. I know, first-hand that becoming a best-selling author is one of the hardest things you could ever attempt. Sometimes I think law school or climbing Everest in flip-flops and a mini-skirt might have been the easy way out. None of this is easy.

It is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most people will never be genuine competition. When we start out and see all the millions of other writers I think we are in danger of giving up or getting overwhelmed. Actually, if we focus on the decisions we control, our odds improve drastically.

Same with blogging. You guys know I am a huge fan of writers having a blog. Out of everyone who desires to start a blog, only 5% will. And of those, how many will continue blogging more than a few weeks? How many will post every week for years? How many will be self-disciplined enough to post multiple times a week no matter what? How many will have content that is tooled to excite readers and also keep the writer/blogger enthusiastic, too? How many writer-bloggers will write in ways that create a community and build a brand? I teach how to do all of this and more in my new book,  Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer, but how many people will buy this book and put every step to blog success in place and be able to sustain long-term? See, the competition isn’t nearly as steep if we look at how much of our future success is in our control.

I want everyone reading this to feel encouraged. Yes, your family thinks you have better odds of being the next Queen of England than being a successful novelist. Hey, at this point, maybe you even believe it, too. But the odds are actually better than we might believe when we really take an honest look.

This job is like one giant funnel. Toss in a few million people with a dream and only a handful will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most, the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices.

In the Sahara there is a particularly long stretch of desert that is completely flat. There are no distinguishing landmarks and it is very easy to get lost. To combat the problem, the French Foreign Legion placed large black oil drums every mile so that travelers could find their way across this massive expanse of wasteland one oil drum at a time.


Are we there yet?

Want to be a successful author?

Take it one oil drum at a time.

What are some oil drums you now see ahead? Does your journey to author success seem easier now? What makes you feel overwhelmed? What inspires you?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

I will announce the winners on Monday. 

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.


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  1. This is a great perspective for those of us who are battling the blues about how horrible our chances are of making it to the big time. Or maybe that’s just me.
    But sticktoitiveness and the humility needed to learn and change can put you way ahead of the pack of wannabes.
    Great post.

  2. I can’t remember where or when I saw this, but I once read a statistic that has stuck with me throughout my writing career—the entire number of authors in the U.S. who are successful enough to make a living solely by writing numbered (way back when I read this) only 200.

    That’s pretty darned sobering.

    My goal in life is to raise that number to 201. So far, I suck at it.

    1. Yeah, but indie and self-publishing is changing that. I am writing a book about that right now. There are works that are not a good fit for NY, but could make an author a very healthy living if he self-pubbed. And sell enough books and NY comes calling anyway. The odds are improving, but we still need to FINISH a GOOD book and learn to use social media effectively. Feel encouraged. It is an amazing time to be a writer :D.

  3. Lovely post, as always. I especially like this sentiment: “the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices.”

    Everything in life that is worth something takes effort and often, education in some form.

    Unless you are a leggy starlet who “forgets” to wear her underwear and takes an unseemly step out of a cab in front of photographers.

  4. Great point! I love your statistics! Another way to look at it is like the lottery. You are very unlikely to win with one ticket. But (most times) someone wins every week. So to make the unlikely happen, you just have to do it, and do it often enough. There are probably lots of jokes that could go here…

  5. Every successful author has masochistic tendencies…why else would we keep beating our heads against the wall? But ya know…once you stop beating your head, you see past the wall to the handholds that offer a path over, under, or around. It can be done. Two big differences between wannabes and successful authors–the successful folks actually try, and more importantly, don’t quit.

  6. One oil drum at a time. This was perfect. I am the only one who controls how many steps I take on this journey. I will reach that next goal. And the next. And the next. I’m that determined.

  7. After taking your online class, buying your two books, and reading this fantastic post, maybe I have a chance to rise to the top. This made my day, my week, my year!
    Thank you, Kristen!

  8. I love how the universe conspires to whack me over the head with ideas I’m generally too dense to pick up using my own brain power.

    This week’s version is telling me: I can do this. Only recently did I start admitting (to myself, to my husband, to my friends) that I hope to be writing full time in 5 years. It’s not a next week plan, but I need to come close to matching my current salary by then to be able to support my family. I make this decision and see signs. Your post here. The 5%. I can do 5%. And another post at Zen Habits, that succinctly develops the idea of Joyfear, which is something I feel when I think about taking this leap. If you’re interested in that post, here’s the link: http://zenhabits.net/joyfear/.

    Thanks again, Kristen, for nudging me in the right direction: forward.

  9. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for being a voice of reason in a sea of negativity. If we writers listen to everything that is said/written about the hope of being published, we might as well give it up now.

    Yes, this post is encouraging because, as you point out, we do have more control over our writing futures than we are generally led to believe. It’s a business, after all, not dreamland.

  10. You’ve really made it sound better, thanks Kristen. I was fumbling about with lots of manuscripts last year, this year I’m reading a lot more, craft books, novels and hopefully pitching a better story soon. I hope to go to the conference in Niagra next year when the kids and dog are a bit older. Baby steps in the right direction I hope 🙂

  11. I’m hung up on the image of you climbing Mt. Everest in flip-flops and a mini-skirt! But I digress…

    I’m here and I’m doing what you say, Kristen. I sleep with my Kindle under my pillow, queued up to We Are Not Alone. Thanks to your written tutelage, I see that I’m getting results, though I just started EFFECTIVELY social networking a week ago.

    FYI: Your 5% figure is confirmed by Earl Nightingale in his monumental work, Lead the Field.

    Thanks again.

  12. This post made me feel very writer-happy. I think I’ll be re-reading this periodically to stop me from freaking out. LOVE IT! THANK YOU!

    #MYWANA = 5%


    1. LOVE the #myWANA = 5%! Go Sara!

  13. So true! Winning in this game means being the Prince/Princess of Perseverance. It took me over six years of “serious” writing and five manuscripts to land a book deal. I use the angst and frustration of each rejection to write the next query/chapter/whatever necessary to move a step forward. (And, yes, there have been many tears shed and carbs consumed along the way.)

    My next goal to tackle is blogging. It’ll be my third try, but I think I’ll get it right this time thanks to what I’m learning here.

  14. This is a great post, and it helps to put things in perspective. As I was reading down the list, I was thinking, “I can do all these things, if I just stick with it.” It demonstrates (for me, at least) that my personal odds of succeeding are better than most because of everything that I already do or am currently working on. Thanks!

  15. Very inspiring post, Kristen. Sometimes the BIG picture is too big! All those who talk about wanting to be a best-selling author, won’t necessarily follow through on it doing the hard work that’s required. I have a good start…I follow your social media advice, I consistently blog, I’ ve read numerous craft books and I write everyday. It may be awhile before I can go to a conference, but I’m working toward it. I started writing without the knowledge of all the obstacles, so i have been optimistic from the beginning. I’m determined to persevere no matter what the odds are. I was fortunate to get a critique from a fellow writer and am in the process of making changes based on his advice. My only complaint is that it’s taking me longer to write my story than I’d hoped, but I add to the word count/page count everyday. Thanks for always being so darned positive!

    • Callene Rapp on June 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm
    • Reply

    “How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to lay boundaries for friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?”

    This really hit home to me. I’m very very good at always putting anything and everything other people want above what I want or need to do. After all, that’s what good little girls do, right? The problem is that I’m beginning to resent people doing exactly what I’ve trained them to do for years, which is expect certain things from me, and they aren’t understanding now that my priorities have changed.

    I also suck at holding myself accountable for not getting the writing done.

    Thanks as usual for an eye opening post, Kristen. If you ever decide to give up the writing gig, you’d make a great therapist. A kinder, gentler, more attractive version of the Geico drill sergeant!


  16. Roughly 50,000 novels make it into print each year, and digital self-pubbing is going to see that figure inflate faster than the early universe. So competition is fierce, but pretty much anyone who sticks with it will get published eventually. As for whether you’ll be successful – that’s just a bonus. Write because you MUST, and then completing a book you’re proud of is the best kind of success.

  17. Excellent. So if I get this right, if I do all of the things you suggested, I have a 50 -50% chance of being published. Not too shabby. So, are your two books on Amazon? I’m going to add ‘Are You There Blog…’ and We Are Not Done… ‘to my Good Reads list of books to read.

  18. What an inspiring post! Maybe it’s not so insane to dream, after all! Will RT!

  19. Great post as always. The big picture can be so daunting, especially for a first timer. When I think about everything that goes into it AFTER the book is written, it’s a bit overwhelming. I worry about having an audience built whether I self publish or manage to land a contract. I’m blogging and trying to get the topics right, reaching out on Twitter and meeting people, joining groups and learning the craft, all as I finish my book. One thing I haven’t been able to do is go to a conference, but I hope that’s in the cards at some point.

    But seeing the tasks listed one at a time, and knowing virtually every other writer has gone through or is going through the same thing, is a tremendous help.

  20. I already own a mini skirt and flip flops but I still refuse to believe that is my best option 😉
    I’m going to plug away with learning the craft and following the best advice I can find.

  21. Do I have to shave my legs before climbing in the mini skirt and do the flip flips match? What an incredible post, printing this out to put in the folder I’ve started for excellent inspirational posts.

    Really appreciate how you are willing to share the experiences of your journey, the ups and downs, the wealth of knowledge that you have learned along the path to help the rest of us forward. Great leadership 🙂

  22. I love this post! I challenged myself to start writing *regularly* for my own blog, puddintopia.com, a year and a half ago because I’d always said I wanted to write, but never actually wrote anything. Now I’m adding some kind of content for my own blog and as a regular contributor at another nearly every day of the week. I’m also on schedule to finish the first draft of my first novel in two months.

    All of the writing I do comes after 9 hours at the day job, and I plan to do whatever it takes to make that day job not so necessary in the years to come. Posts like this one, that highlight the benefits of working hard and sticking to it, are incredibly inspiring. Deep down, I’ve always believed that opportunities will be dictated mostly by my own actions, meaning that success or failure start with me. It’s great to hear someone else reinforce that message.

  23. I don’t know how many oil drums are standing in my way, but I will knock them over one at a time By God!

  24. Hi Kristen,

    You always manage to inspire me in a kick-my-butt way. From your post, I realized that I’m doing many things right and today was a day that I really, really needed to feel as though I was doing things right. Next step in my journey is to go live with my blog and other social media. After reading your post today, I’m really feeling the pull now to get it done and out there by the end of next week. I’m going to reach that next oil drum! LOL!

    Thanks for all you do!

  25. What a fantastic post! And just at exactly the right time for me too, since I’m having a little crisis of confidence in my writing this week. I think you’ve just given me the kick in the pants I needed to keep going.

  26. I absolutely believe this. Since coming out of the closet as a writer, many people have told me their dream to write books, or their clever idea for a series, but they haven’t written. It reminds me that not every writer will push through til the end. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. Thanks for another helpful post. I was not surprised to read that only 5 percent of the wanna be writers pick up a book on craft or attend conferences, but I was surprised at the percentage who don’t follow up to a request to send proposals after a conference. Way back when I was first starting out, I always followed up on such a request. Geesh, isn’t that why we go to the cons? To make the contacts and market our books.

  28. I’m currently working away at this giant oil drum that says “finish editing”, but I’m getting there bit by bit. I could stop watching Veronica Mars on netflix and work at it a little harder though. Luckily I have this great support group on Twitter that will hold me accountable if I don’t get there in a timely manner 😉

  29. what comforting words – you did a wonderful job of showing where lots of would-be writers stumble. it takes a lot to keep pushing through to each next level. as you point out in the beginning of the post, life gives us enough sobering reminders that we are lucky to be able to hone our craft. carpe diem!

  30. I’m loving your blog. It’s fantastic. Your posts are inspiring and encouraging without sugar-coating the truth. <3

    To answer your questions, sometimes just looking at the laundry list of tasks I give myself, between my blog and my fiction, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. Until I start writing. My characters and stories inspire me, and when I hit a new mile marker in my writing, I feel accomplished. My friends also inspire me, and talking without other writers especially.

    I ran a critique circle at my local library back in MA (my partner took it over when I moved), and a few of the writers who dropped in viewed the others in the circle as competition. It made things strained for the few weeks they showed up, but the "competitors" never stayed long. The regulars, those who stayed, were a fantastic support system. I argue in favor of writing groups, but not as the sole outlet for "professionalism."

    Great post. =]

  31. Thank you for this post! I actually love reading these kinds of stats because I suddenly feel pretty darn good about how far I’ve made it, and that gives me the drive to keep going. I didn’t realize how much I have taken control of and that really stops that writing world from spinning so hard!

  32. Kristen, as you say in the comments, the odds are far better now we can go indie and epublish.

    Our novel, at 120,000 words, is too long for the legacy guys to print and profit from.

    Guess what. Amazon don’t care how long it is! It makes no difference in e-publishing.

    They make money on every copy we sell and we make 35% on every copy we sell. 35%! That’s more than double what the legacy guys would have given us if we’d gone with them…

    We could have cut 40,000 words, signed a contract and a year or so later had an overpriced book on the market. Instead we e-pubbed at a sensible price. and six months down the line we’ve sold 75,000 copies. And yes, New York came calling…

  33. My optimism just jumped up a bit.
    I have control over every one of the things listed. And most all of them are fun.

    I wonder how many of the aspiring writers understand that one book may not make a
    career, or even very much money, and push on through that first, second…twentieth book,
    where possibly if they do the other things right they might be able to make an income.

    That’s probably 5% as well…or less.

  34. First off, I pay my respect to Texas writer Del Cain, who spent a couple of good hours with me this past month, critiquing some writing samples of mine, and whose Twitter account pointed to yours!

    I, too, started a family webpage, around the time my mother died in August 2002. No, I don’t have that content directly available now, but some of it’s out there, via the Wayback Machine and the Internet Archive [at http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://darinsharripages.org%5D; I relaunched my website, with the same domain name, a few months ago on the WordPress platform, with Advanced Network Hosting, after they gave me a super deal to rejoin them.

    Writers, with this or another robust semantic publishing platform, we own our own digital printing presses! Rich Gibson [http://mappinghacks.com/2006/10/03/the-power-of-the-press] said, “if you don’t control your tools you don’t control your own story. And if you don’t control your own story your creative acts are subject to the oversite of people whose motivations are not the same as yours.” That’s political influence and social power, fellow writers.

    Paper is optional; we can always contract for short- or big-run jobs, as basic or deluxe as we can afford, to get it out into brick-and-mortar locations, and into people’s hands. Don’t forget your e-book versions, either!

  35. My overwhelming feeling comes from the oil drums I have’t reached yet. There’s so much more I have yet to do. That and I feel like I’m always a few steps behind everyone else. Thankfully, I’ve got good friends and posts like these to set me straight. I know I’ll get there, though I have no proof to justify this. Tons of people say the same thing, but I’m prepared and excited to do whatever I have to get there no matter how many set backs.

  36. It seems I’m part of a nifty little group…we should get all get jackets like the bike gangs do and slap “5%” on the sleeve, haha.

    I’m not a best selling author by any means, I’m an indie who has only been on Amazon for a little over a month now (but I’m doing well! Or so I’m told.) But I have committed to sustained and substantial changes in my life, part of which was the commitment to be an author. Will I make the New York Times Bestseller list? Probably not, I’m an indie after all. Could I make a comfortable living for myself and my family off of my books? I think that’s more likely.

    I intend to be a successful author. I think success is a matter of how you define things. Just publishing my book on Amazon was a huge success for me personally, if not yet financially. Heck, FINISHING the book was a huge success! I’d like to make a comfortable living from my writing, and do something I enjoy doing. That’s how I define success, and that’s the success I intend to achieve.

  37. This actually makes me feel better about pursuing my dream! It seems like everyone plays up the fact how hard it is to get published but your breakdown of the steps and the stats makes it seem like I’m not that crazy after all. There are no guarantees but I’m certainly going to give it my best shot!

  38. This gives me such hope! And makes me more determined.

  39. I want to believe I will make it to the finish line. It feels like there are so many hurdles. Truth be told, I’ve always been the girl with all the connections. Sure would be nice if I knew someone in publishing. But, as you say, that’s a cop-out. If I work, it will happen.

    It will, right?

    • Diana Murdock on June 11, 2011 at 4:02 am
    • Reply

    The oil drums one mile apart are MY benchmarks. The little blips in between are my friends, the blogs, the books, the “ah-ha” moments that get me through to the next marker. They are easy to lose sight of, but are forever milling around, willing to give that leg up when I need it. But they are there only when we look for them. Otherwise they get lost amongst the grocery list, the baseball games, the day job demands. But like the oil drums in the desert, they will keep us focused. We just need to believe and keep focusing on the end result.

  40. Great article, Kristen. It’s late on a Friday night and I’m sitting down to work on another story for my blog. I noticed your post and read it with pleasure. Keeping the faith…

  41. I guess I have a new barrel now. Give them what they are hoping to see. The insecurity and struggle never goes away for writers. We must keep pushing. Great post.

  42. This sounds amazingly like the 5% rule from my book Warrior Writer.

    The key to it is internally motivated change. Only 5% of people are capable of that.

    1. That’s because I learned all the best stuff from YOU. I think Vince Lombardi also mentions it and also Earl Nightengale. But I do remember it best from your book, “Who Dares Wins,” which is still one of my favorite success books. Guys, if you want great books to help you set goals and focus, get Bob’s books. They are how I was able to shove past the white noise and get focused.

  43. This post is full of truth and its very inspiring. It really is down to the person how serious they take their writing and how much work they are willing to put in.

    P.S. My favorite sentence you wrote was “willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings”. made me smile.

  44. Such an encouraging post. I smiled at the bit about how many people say they want to write a book! EVery person I meet says ( when I tell them Im a writer) “Ive got a great idea for a book, I’ve always wanted to write a book! Im going to write a book about my life one day…” OR they say “You should write a book about ME and my life blah blah blah…” So yes, the numbers of people who want to write and those who actually do are waaaay different!

    Thank you for an excellent piece.

    • Jessica on June 11, 2011 at 10:59 am
    • Reply

    As a math nerd, your stats are invigorating. 🙂

  45. And how many writers learn how to laugh along the way? 5% maybe? Thanks for the encouragement, Kristen. 🙂

    • Mark on June 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm
    • Reply

    After picking up writing as a hobby not a career choice I’ve been a round all the websites.

    There are thousands of ‘writers’ amateur and semi-professional torturing themselves. The angst ridden artist is a cliché. A successful writer I’ve conversed with on a personal level wrote, ‘writers write.’ He’s correct there are too many people in love with the idea of writing.

    I’ve been a snowboarder for 20 years. I’ve met hundreds of people over the years that have said, ‘oh I’ve always wanted to try that.’ My response is always the same, ‘if you wanted to do it, why haven’t you?’ Then follows the list of excuses.

    There are two types of people in the world, those that do and those that don’t. Successful people, do. If you want to write, get on with it and stop thinking of reasons not to.

  46. Great Post, I do read craft books and try to learn something new everyday just like your blog, I admit through health problems I don’t blog enough but recently ran a Flash fiction contest with some success which in turn helped the blog. I have not yet attended a conference but that’s not to say I won’t. I have published one ebook but now working on a novel. So you could say I have narrowed some of the statisics but not thee yet! Great post!

  47. Encouraging stuff :D. Thanks for the ray of sunshine, Kristen! I enjoyed this piece a lot.

  48. Lol !! need to check spelling before posting I meant I am not there yet!

  49. Yet another motivating and inspiring post! Your books are my bibles! Thanks Kristen!

    1. Awww. Thanks. Social media can be scary and this new paradigm of publishing offers just as much terror as hope. I just hope these tools empower you guys to find your way and remain fresh for the challenges ahead, :D.

  50. When I started my first round of querying, I ‘cheered’ myself up by taking the number of queries those agents said they receive in a week, adding it up, subtracting a generous estimate for multiple queries, then dividing by 50 states (hey – I was just trying to accept the difficulties, not being scientific) and came up with a mind-boggling number of queriers just in my town!
    Maybe I should have been more extreme in my deduction for multiple queries.
    Even so, as we all know, no amount of perseverance can replace the quality of the writing. Or, as I’m struggling with, the quality of the editing.

  51. This post makes me want to join NaNoWriMo and at the same time cry. It puts everything into perspective for the serious, undetoured writers. Good Luck future bestsellers.

  52. Love this post, and so, so true. Thanks for putting it into perspective, Kristen! 🙂

  53. Didn’t look at it that way… I just thought it’s the statistic. Didn’t realize it’s because people don’t push hard enough. I believe I had what it takes to make it.

  54. Great post.

    The issue is the perspective. To be successful in any job, you need everything written above and maybe more. It’s not only about writing, it’s about every success in any job. Choose what you’re good at it and apply all the above mentioned in the article. Then you have a probability of 80% to be successful in a job.

    Many people think of writing through a perspective of being something alien. It’s not.

    But it’s like every other job, you can be good at it or bad at it. If you’re good at it, you’re going to be successful eventually. If you’re not good at it, then you should choose another area. Though being good at it, is not enough. Not all people can be rocket scientists or alpinists. However, if those who CAN be a rocket scientist or an alpinist, don’t follow rules as those mentioned above, then they’re not going to be successful.

    Thank you Kristen for another interesting post 🙂

  55. Hi, Kristen–what a great post! Sobering yet inspiring. Sobering in the sense that 1. hey, maybe my chances of success are not so completely overwhelming, beyond my control and scary as I fear, and 2. maybe the giddy and somewhat (ahem) unrealistic perspective I have of my fabulous word craft could maybe be improved with consistent, persistent effort. Love it–

    And also wanted to say, your course on Social Media for the LIRW was fabulous and inspiring! And how great that so many in the class stayed together afterwards, and are working on their blogs and supporting each other–WANAminions rock! If anyone gets a chance to take a class with Kristen, do it!

    • Andrea on June 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you.

    Just…thank you. I needed this today.

  56. Wonderful post, Kristen. Thanks for all the great info and inspiration!

  57. Big Black and Red Pom-Pom Cheer for Tiffany!!! *shaking the poms madly with a screaming “Woooo-hooooooooooo!”*

  58. I hate these new WordPress comment boxes…that last one was for Tiffany White (way up there like 20 comments ago).


    2011 was the year I decided to show up for my writing and, luckily, one of the first things I did was start on Social Media. The second biggie was take a class on Author Branding by Kristen Lamb. The third thing was to start a blog.

    The three of these were all such important steps because they forced me to do what I was NOT doing, which was to focus on writing every day. That is the real game-changer for me – the daily writing and the accountability. Since you helped with the last two game-changers, Kristen, I can only say THANK YOU and promise to include you in the book acknowledgements when it gets pubbed. (Notice, I said “when?” :-))

  59. Thanks for inspiring and encouraging all of us would-be writers. The five percent makes the dream seem more attainable – thank you!

  60. As always, I love your posts. This one makes me feel good because I really, really want to learn the craft of writing more than anything, and I think so many end up washing out when they realize this whole novel thing isn’t as easy as it looked.

  61. I love, love, love this post!!!

    I tried to explain this idea to some skeptical family members when I first got series about writing as a career. They held onto the argument “what are the odds” and “you’re up against hundreds of thousands with the same idea.” I kept saying that those same hundreds of thousands wouldn’t persist. If I kept at it and kept honing my craft, I would be down to a much smaller pool of competition. That and there’s room for many, many books…not just one. However, I was far less successful at convincing them. ‘Sokay though. I know what needs doing. 😉

    I’m still learning the skills and discipline necessary to succeed. I am always inspired by your work eithic and your words, Kristen! You’re one of my writing heros. 😀

    1. yes!!!

      nothing like donkey-stubbornness to help one survive a family “encouragement”!!! ._.;

      trust me, i know the feeling! but when u finally make it, it really worth the trouble 😉

  62. Thanks so much for the inspiration. I love this blog. Are you tired of hearing this yet? You provoked a blog post from this. Love the Sahara metaphor:) You and your book have been mentioned and your blog linked! 😛 Come on lucky hat! 🙂

  63. these are lots of replies! ._.;

  64. This was very inspiring. I love the quote by Robert Mayer which is what made me find your blog. Only have been writing for a few years but I’m totally psyched now. Thanks
    Wow! 74th reply

  65. Reblogged this on deadlyeverafter and commented:
    I found this very interesting on the heels of Backspace. What are you going to do to be in that 5%? –Kristen

    • Pat on November 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm
    • Reply

    My flipflops have holes and the mini skirt is held together with a pin, I’ve been at this so long, but somehow, I’m still here, still bashing.
    However, the goal posts seem to move periodically. Now I need not just a damn good book, with an equally good synopsis, but a huge platform and the ability to sell my book as well. I refuse to strip naked at Wimbledon, and it’s been done anyway, but I do feel that if my name were famous in some other way or I decided to write porn, the odds would be less stacked against me.
    And yet, I still write, I’m three months into the ‘platform’ thing and refuse to shut up. I guess I’m just a bit thick and incredibly stubborn.

  66. Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds!”

    If nothing else, finishing your novel is the perfect b.s. call.
    Once you do, you find out who your real supporters are.

  67. Right on! Here’s a toast to us 5%ers.

  68. I’m finding this post a bit late…I only began my career as a novelist a year ago and after three rewrites, I am finishing up somefinal revisions with my editor. I’m now in the process of establishing a social media presence and came upon this post. Yes, I was Googling challenges to becoming a bestselling author. I have lofty goals, even though my book is only about to be completed. I’m going to check out your book on Amazon, especially since I just launched my author blog and I’m trying to figure out my brand. Too bad I’m late to the contest…would have loved the critique!

    • Finley on December 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm
    • Reply

    Hi. I appreciate your article. I have been writting books since middle school. I don’t write for the intent to get published but that would be nice! I just have a little library of books I’ve printed in hardcover formats. I’ve just always told myself it’s unrealistic to write just for money or to be published, but just to finish books and then submit to publishers or whoever. But I appreciate your article, it helps!

  1. […] Lamb wrote this piece about the odds of success, and one of the things that stuck out for me was this: ???This job is like one giant funnel. […]

  2. […] Kristen Lamb was a roll this week, which is not unusual for this highly-talented queen of social media. Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing explores what qualities and skills it takes to become a successful full time author and just so we know the odds, (and they aren’t bad if we know what to prepare for) Kristen clues us in at What Are the Odds…Really? Taking a Hard Look at Success. […]

  3. […] who are striving toward a goal, remember the journey deserves to be commemorated too. To paraphrase another recent post by Kristen Lamb: During the long trip across the desert, you don’t need to look further ahead than the next […]

  4. […] Kristen Lamb likens a writer’s journey to a journey through the Sahara where the French Foreign Legion placed oil drums every mile to help travellers navigate the desert wasteland.  She says by taking this journey one oil drum at a time, we can reach our goals of becoming best-selling authors.  […]

  5. […] What Are the Odds…Really? Kristen Lamb takes a hard look at Success and what it takes to get there. […]

  6. […] who are striving toward a goal, remember the journey deserves to be commemorated too. To paraphrase another post by Kristen Lamb: During the long trip across the desert, you don’t need to look further ahead than the next […]

  7. […] once read a fascinating blog post by Kristen Lamb that asked the question “How likely are you to actually succeed as a writer?”  Kristen’s answer is that if you stick to it and see thing through to the bitter end, then […]

  8. […] To read more about writing success, read Kristen Lamb’s blog. […]

  9. […] But this is coming from someone who is determined to get her books published. […]

  10. […] are pretty slim and just as likely.  Kristen Lamb wrote a very good breakdown of what it takes over on her blog.  The point here is not to get bogged down in the idea of being a best selling author and just […]

  11. […] becoming a mega-successful author is your goal, there are some things you can do to increase your chances. Good […]

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