Against All Odds—What's Our REAL Chance of Becoming a Successful Author?

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Many of you were here for last week’s discussion regarding What Makes a Real Writer? When we decide to become professional writers, we have a lot of work ahead of us and sadly, most will not make the cut.

I know it’s a grossly inaccurate movie, but I love G.I. Jane. I recall a scene during Hell Week (the first evolution of S.E.A.L. training) where Master Chief has everyone doing butterfly kicks in the rain. He yells at the recruits to look to their left and look to their right, that statistically, those people will quit.

Who will be the first to ring that bell? Who will be the first to quit?

Image via

Image via

Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is capable of sustained change. This means of ALL the people who want to run marathons, 5% will. Of ALL the people who join a martial arts class, only 5% will ever reach black belt. Of ALL the people who have a dream of being a career author, only about 5% will ever reach that goal and maintain it.

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At first, I was horrified when I heard this statistic. I want everyone to be successful! Surely if they had more tools, more chances, more affordable classes…

Human nature is a weird thing and, had I not seen this 5% rule play out countless times, I’d still be an unbeliever. Yet, like everyone is not meant to be a Navy S.E.A.L., not everyone is meant to be a career author. This is good news and bad news. Bad news is odds are against us. Good news is multi-fold. First, we control a lot of the factors that lead to success. Secondly, this job is NOT for everyone.

Believe it or not, what we do is excruciatingly HARD. Just like it is NOT normal for a human body to run long miles in freezing surf carrying a Zodiac filled with water, it is NOT normal to sit and write 100,000+ words. Most people—literate or not—cannot do what we do.

They like to believe they can…but they can’t.

One of the reasons regular people are so shocked to meet a “real” writer is that so few writers ever really reach the professional level. But, why? Why do so many give up the dream? What does the 5% writer do differently than hoi polloi 95%?

I’m an optimist. I believe all of us possess what it takes to be in that coveted 5%. Question is, can we overcome our natures?

Pros Like Validation But Don’t Require It 

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

Validation is different from feedback. We ALL love validation. We crave it. We adore it. But pros don’t require it.

When I first brought my glorious prose to a critique group, I said I wanted feedback. What I really wanted was for the group to tell me that my words were written in angel tears and that all the agents who rejected me must have been brain damaged.

I did not want to hear that I might not have a clue what I was doing. I did not want my pages handed back dripping in red ink. In fact, that hurt. A LOT. I had to learn to suck it up and press on. If one person had an opinion? Well, might just be a personal preference. When ten people gave the same opinion?

Houston, I had a problem.

Writers can work years without any hint of outside approval. Most people can’t sustain this and they give up. I found out last week that this blog has been named Writer’s Digest‘s Top 101 Websites for Writers for 2015.

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*happy dance*

But some of you might not know that I blogged for almost two years and no one cared. My biggest fans were the male-enhancement bots.

I so licked your blog. You make many grate poinsettias. Is it just me or are all your commenters brain dead?

Hmm, maybe he’s foreign? Or not *head desk*

How much do you LOVE the dream? Because I will tell you that if I went by outside approval, I would have quit YEARS ago. If I judged my future success by my beginning blog stats or early book sales?


I was starting to wonder if I’d made a serious error by leaving sales. Sales had a paycheck, a fancy title and a company car. No stranger ever asked me if I was a “real” salesperson.

I went a LONG, LONG, LOOOONG time when no one cared and worse, they thought I was a joke/lunatic/poseur/hack. We need rhino skin in this business.

When I started this blog seven years ago, there were all kinds of other bloggers who were bigger than me. Sadly, many of them are gone. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

Below is an image of my blog stats.

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Can you tell when I made it past “The Dip”? What if I’d quit? In 2009, I had a little over 6,000 views for the year (and I’d been blogging about 18 months by this point). In 2013, I had almost 450,000 views. But how many people would have given up when staring at those 2009 numbers (which works out to about 15 views a day)?

Pros Don’t Find Time, They MAKE Time

Time isn’t hiding down in the couch cushions camouflaged in Cheerios. We don’t find time, we make time. Often new writers will bemoan how they wish they could find time. 

Yet, I will posit this.

If today, I could guarantee you hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and all you had to do was finish the novel, how many would stay up late or get up early? How many would decide the family can go to the movies alone? Or that the floors are clean enough?

Often we procrastinate because there is no guarantee of success. Procrastination and perfectionism are frequently driven by fear of failure. If we never finish, we can never really fail. Our work is never out there to be judged.

As I like to say, “If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.” So what if you write a blog and no one cares? Join the club. My first blogs were dreadful. So the crickets and spam bots can boo you 😛 ? Write a crappy first novel. Then move on. Learn. Keep writing!

No unpublished blog ever went viral. No unfinished novel ever became a runaway success.

Pros Focus on What They Can Control

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Show me a struggling author and I will show you someone spending too much time shopping the same book. Instead of writing more books and better books, these writers are worried about querying the same book over and over, or (if published) they fret over sales, marketing, blog tours, or algorithms.

We cannot control what will be the next hottest thing. We can’t control the marketplace or the tastes of readers or whether matte bookmarks sell more books than pink beer koozies. This means we shouldn’t waste precious time on things we cannot control at the expense of things we can.

When I gave the 5% statistic earlier, many of you were probably discouraged. But let’s take a closer look at that number.

It’s been said that as much as 75% of the literate population would love to one day write a book. Out of hundreds of millions of possible authors, how many do you think actually take the idea seriously?


And of the tens of millions left over, how many sit down and write and finish a first draft?


Of the millions remaining, how many actually read craft books, get critique and keep revising that first draft until they have a polished draft?


Of those who finish that first novel then realize they have a train wreck and not a novel, how many suck it up and start over to write a better book that’s more likely to engage with readers?


Of those who finally write a decent book, how many take time to also build a brand and platform? How many learn to blog effectively in ways that reach and cultivate readers?


How many get in the regular habit of writing, researching and revising? They don’t just stop with the one book and keep on writing more books?


Of those who publish the first book and don’t instantly become zillionaires, how many keep writing and improving?


This profession is really hard. Toss a few hundred million people with a dream into one large funnel and most will not shake out at the end. Yet, if we look at the individual pieces of becoming “successful” it is astonishing how much we control.

Others whine, we work.

What are your thoughts? Does this 5% example make you feel a little better about your chances? Can you look at your own life and routine and maybe see some areas that you can come up higher? I am ALWAYS reevaluating how and where I am spending my time. Have you been allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by things beyond your control? Do you find that fear keeps you from finishing? Hey, I have been guilty of ALL of this, so we are friends here 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

***Congratulations to March’s WINNER of 20 Pages of Critique. Krystol Diggs, step into the arena! Please send me your 5000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. I look forward to reading your work.

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News.

    1. I found this very useful. I recently blogged about losing my second literary agent

      and have found this blog post inspiring – time to write another novel I think

      thanks again

      1. You’re welcome. Glad it helped.

    • R. A. Meenan on April 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm
    • Reply

    Love this. And I needed it, since I just put on the difficult, barbed wire hat that is the Editing Hat. My professional editor is brutal, but awesome. XD

    Next stop – Finish book one and immediately jump on book two. I know I can make it!

    Thanks for the encouragement, Kristen. =D

    1. Aw, editing is hard enough without putting barbed wire on your head. Maybe a different hat would help—Oh. Wait. You meant that that the editing hat is like barbed wire. ooooooh. *ahem* Never mind. Here I was going to help you! “Stop the bleeding!”

      Keep going, RA! 😀

  2. As someone who firmly lives in the camp of “beat your head against the wall until the wall breaks,” tending to ignore those little eggshell pieces of my skull, I found a perverse sort of hope, here; your stats pic and the “don’t stop” message following especially reminded me of my own situation (my first year I had about 2 views a day. The second? About ten. This year? Pushing 30. It’s going up! Yay!)

    Too many people just give up when something isn’t easy or doesn’t go right at first; being a “high functioning depressive,” I get that… but at the same time, I don’t. If you do nothing at all, you’re absolutely guaranteed to succeed at failing. Trying anyway, even if the odds are against you, is how you beat those odds… because the odds were calculated counting the people who looked, said “Nah, too hard,” and walked off.

    Great post.

  3. Reblogged this on Muffy Wilson.

  4. I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

  5. Your blog post came at the right time. The Universe works in mysterious ways. I’ve been procrastinating today because I’m afraid to take on the edits from my editor. What if I can’t do it? What if I suck as a writer and she’s just too polite to tell me. I’m self-pubbed so I’m paying her, she might not tell me I suck…. But I keep showing up. It’s been 11 years. I’ve written three novels that are hideous and three more that I’m publishing. I try and learn something new about the craft all the time, I’ve read your fantastic book about social media, I blog, I’m working it. Slowly. Painfully, and some days thinking I’m wasting my time, but today, because of you, I’m straightening my shoulders again, and I’m going to hold my nose and jump into the murky water of my edits. Call for help, if I don’t come up for air.

    1. Stacey, I could have written your response, word for word (11 years – 3 in the drawer, one is ‘out there’ and working on my other two now) Also self-pubbed and paid an editor – now facing her notes. Good luck! I’m with you.

      1. Kimberly, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Good luck to you. Too bad we couldn’t work together!

        1. I know! I just enjoyed a trip through your blog. Very enjoyable! I’ll keep an eye out for more.:-)

          1. Thanks! I’ve visited your blog. Looking forward to more of your words!

  6. Very encouraging post. Not ready to ring that bell yet : )

    1. Hey, sisseh!

  7. This is all so true. I have seen the stats on my blog and G+ page skyrocket by just being consistent, mixing up my content and more importantly…engaging. All those tips may not sell any books, but it puts you in front of the people that buy books. Unless you are in front of the people that buy books, you aren’t selling any. My only other tip is promote other authors and pay it forward. Many hands make light work 🙂

    Thank you for the incentives, Kristen!.

    I reblogged to mine here:

    I gladly reblogged to my Blogger site:

    Love and Huggs….Muffy

  8. If I HAVE a black belt, does that increase my odds of being a successful author? 😉

    1. Actually it DOES. If we are a 5%er in other areas of life, we generally are more self-disciplined and can delay gratification. There is a reason so many Navy SEALS become successful authors, CEOs and entrepreneurs. Also how many NYTBSAs were doctors, veterinarians, lawyers, etc.?

      1. Woohoo! GO ME!!! lol 🙂

      2. And NURSES! OMG the number of successful former nurse authors! Makes life difficult for authors who used to be bums but we persevere

  9. Reading this made me feel professional! I’m quite a ways through your list of 5%s, and while I’m not there yet in a couple at the end (especially brand-building), I haven’t give up! Book 1 is slowly finding its audience, Book 2 is underway and I keep trying at the blog. Thanks for the pep talk, Kristen!

    • prudencemacleod on April 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm
    • Reply

    Yep, as my daddy used to say, “Sure looks like quite a task,doesn’t it? So stop whining and start working, you’ll get there faster.” Yup, dear old dad was all sympathy. hee hee hee

  10. Kristen, another great post and so needed. Thank you!!

  11. Reblogged this on Going Out On A Whim and commented:
    You hit the nail on the head in probably 95% of the cases where one doesn’t quite finish their manuscript. You can’t fail if you don’t finish. Thank you for a kick in the butt. 🙂

  12. Reblogged this on Veronica Blake, Writer.

    • Marian Griffin on April 6, 2015 at 12:34 pm
    • Reply

    I checked your blog earlier this morning and found I was distracted and not paying attention. So I did something else and came back now. WOW! What a direct hit for me. I’m part of several of those 5 percenters and now encouraged to continue on. Thanks for the uplift.

  13. I need to get back in the saddle with blogging. I now have a pen name (this) and set up Twitter and Google accounts for it, so I will feel more comfortable blogging and sharing – the downside is now having to build a network with the pen name. But! I have three novels and three novellas finished in my series. I have given up finding beta readers (except for one), so I am now on Scribophile and the Critique Circle. I have gotten two critiques on my first chapter so far on Scribophile. One was just basically “it’s awesome,” and the other actually gave me constructive feedback. I won’t complain about the first, though, since I was afraid I was going to get horrible critiques. 🙂
    I don’t care about being a millionaire… if I can make enough to quit my day job, I’ll be happy.

  14. It’s funny how ‘aspiring authors‘ show up at my book signings and congratulate me for completing my books…
    It’s also funny how they complain about their ‘day jobs’.
    My day job was crucial to my becoming an author, and not just because my co-workers inspired my saga’s protagonist. Twenty-plus years (at one employer!) of working with the public was the perfect training ground for the publishing industry.
    Once you divide all those 5%‘s out, most ‘aspiring writers’ really should just buy Powerball tickets, given those odds. It’s the ‘perspiring authors’ who have the best chance to make it. 😉

  15. Great post. Too many authors give up too soon. Very few people have instant success, and the one thing you can’t control is whether people buy your books. The key is to deal with the stuff in your control and keep going. Thanks for sharing your blog stats. Great example of how it takes time to gain traction.

  16. Loved this, Kristen. Thanks.

  17. My son and I share a major accomplishment although I give him a hard time about his. We have both had a hole in one at golf but I have had two and he has only the one. I tell him there are many who are members of his club but fewer who are with me.
    My second published book will launch on April 14th so I now consider myself a bonafide author! Thanks for your help in motivating me and teaching me what little I know about using social media.

  18. Today was beautiful outside. I wanted so much to go for a walk. Instead, I edited my manuscript and read your piece afterwards. Time will prove whether or not I have what it takes to make the 5%, but at least I know I won’t be the first to ring the bell today.

  19. Awesome post, Kristen! I’ve been reading you since 2012 and you’ve provided loads of motivation and inspiration. (Your book — We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media — was great, too!)

    So glad your blog made the list. It certainly deserved to!

    Here’s to your continued success in 2015!!

  20. I think this may possibly be the best motivational post I have read in a long time. Better it spurs each of us to focus on the goal and not the pain. We are not competing against anyone but our ourselves and our own doubts. We are either our worst enemy or our best friend. Thanks for the wisdom. And congratulations for being one of the 101! 🙂

  21. Oh my, Kristen, the 5% rule is so very true – and I’m doing my darndest to be one of those! This past year I have finished 3 inter-related novels [65K each] about 3 BFFs and their bumpy roads to their happily-ever-afters; done rough edits on all three. They now need more revision and much polishing. I also am checking the timelines for major events correct in all three novels (almost done). Currently there are several ‘practice’ awful dreadful but finished first novels sitting quietly under the bed where they belong – maybe I’ll take an idea or two out of them in the future. Occasionally they whimper and whine that they tried their best.

    Time for more perspiration in the work of writing, editing, revising, submitting – rinse & repeat. Thank you for being so humourous and pointed in your post here – kind of like being given a friendly hug with a very sharp poke in the ribs! Okay, okay, okay – I’m back to writing/editing again!
    Merci once more.

  22. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Are YOU a 5%’er or do you prefer to go with crowd? 😀

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your stats for 2009. I’ve been blogging for just over a year and my next stats target is a consistent 15 views a day. I’m currently getting my first book ready to send to a developmental editor and publishing later on this year.
    Thank you once more for a much needed pep talk. 🙂

    1. Often people look at my blog TODAY and get discouraged. NOOOOO! I remember hesitating before deleting spammers because then I wouldn’t have ANY COMMENTS AT ALL! *weeps* So I hope showing my stats has encouraged you 🙂

      1. As a newbie blogger, I needed to hear this. I also liked your point about writers not writing new book but trying to sell the same old ones. I work in academia and I see it there too. Very useful advice. Thank you.

  24. Reblogged this on Natter and Review and commented:
    Wonderful advice for anyone who wants to write successfully.

  25. This is awesome! And you can thank Liz Schulte for helping put me in front of this post.

    It’s all so true. I wanted to be the next J.K. Rowling, wrote one book and thought I was the most awesome thing to happen since Harry Potter (bwahaha!), and no one loved me. Wrote two more books, got a handful of fans and still the population at large didn’t care. Wrote a fourth and still met disappointment on

    I’ve since written a fifth I’ve decided to take the traditional route to publishing, and am working on a sixth in the process. My happiness no longer lives or dies with my best-seller ranking. I’ll keep writing and sharing no matter how much money I make (or don’t). I’ve grown so much as a writer and a person.

    So, if I get picked out of the hat, wahoo! If I don’t, I wish the person who does the best of luck!

  26. Good one, Kristen. I think when it comes down to it, the 5% are those doing what they do because they love it and/or are driven to it. Hence, we leave the 95% to rot (okay, maybe that’s a little strong :-p) in their clubhouse while we celebrate our success–doing what we love.

    Enjoy an awesome day! Lilith

  27. Since I’m still trudging along, I’ll give myself a pat on the back. I still get distracted and procrastinate, but just yesterday I was back into the book tearing it apart and seeing it with new eyes. My goal is to self-publish this year, good or bad and move on to the next book. I’ve got my blog going and my twitter account. Since my horoscope once told me that I was the kind of person who would sit at a bar and bore everyone with “I could’ve written the great American novel,” I better get back to work. I’d hate to realize I’ve become that person.

  28. Eh, I never worry about the ‘chance’ thing. It doesn’t matter because all the statistic is describing is the fact that most people won’t take the dream dead seriously and do anything they can for it. 5% doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be lucky enough to make it; 5% means I have to want it really, really badly, badly enough to do all the things to get it. It’s not that I have a 5% chance to become a pro, because that makes it sound like it’s up to luck and I could accidentally become pro. It’s that I have to work my butt off or I won’t get it.
    I want it really, really badly, and I’m doing (almost) all I can to get it; I admit to procrastinating, but not so much that I don’t write! I still write a lot. Just not quite as much as I should. Chance only comes into it if I give myself a chance or not.
    All the same, really loved and appreciated this blog post! Describes well what giving yourself that chance means!

  29. I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much! How do the dismal stats make me feel? My drive to be one of the 5% kicks into high gear. I love being the few, not with the crowd. Like anything else, it takes determination, perseverance and a lot of hard work. In order to make it, you have to want it really, really badly. Hemingway was on the money when he said, “There is nothing to writing, All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed”. He knew what he was talking about and I keep bleeding out words and stories. 🙂

  30. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You made me laugh. Again.

  31. Once again a great blog. In one of your prior bogs the comparison was made of a writer as someone starting a business. Here again we need to understand what is being undertaken. If you want to write and get paid immediately; then your options are limited to working for someone who will pay you for your efforts. If you want to be that entrepreneur who will go it alone, then there are many other factors to consider.
    Any new endeavor takes time to develop, and there is no assurance that it will succeed. One needs to have resources available when going the entrepreneurial route, in order to remain afloat until some modem of success is achieved.
    I have a firm belief that the staying power comes first from loving what you do. The other factors have to do with luck, hard work, adaptation to change, ability to persevere, and maybe even take on other challenges as life dictates being lived.
    As with all things, it is the journey. Make sure you are on the one you want most. How do you know? Easy, quitting is not an option.

    • Wendy Dewar Hughes on April 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm
    • Reply

    While the stats are interesting they don’t have to define your life or career. When you can ask yourself, “What am I here for?” and “Why am I doing this?” and come up with a satisfactory answer, that’s enough to keep on the path. I think that’s the key—continue doing what you do because it is what you do.

  32. This is exactly what I needed to hear today, post Easter/ Spring mania. In fact, this is a keeper. I need to read it EVERY day.
    Thank you Kristen

  33. Congratulations on the Writers Digest award!

  34. I read this twice. And I am planning to read it every week, as a mantra.

  35. In answer to your question, “Does this 5% example make you feel a little better about your chances?” Yes, but mainly because I originally heard something similar, it was 1 in 1,000, so the odds just went up dramatically!

  36. Love the G.I. Jane reference . . . which is really weird ’cause I was thinking about that question today . . . Congrats on the Writers Digest Award. Super awesome! You’re blog is very inspiring to us newbies. Going to strive to be the 5%!

  37. Such a great post! Thanks, Kristin! You gotta love writing to keep doing it in the face of all the obstacles.

  38. How did u make that jump in stats between 2009 and 11? And congrats on being named in writers digest. Awesome!

    1. I blogged more often and broadened my topics. It’s why I tell you guys that it is okay to blog about writing, but branch out 😉 .

  39. I love this and thank you. I can see the hurdles I tripped over and how I can look forward to the next. At this point I don’t care if I claw my way to the next or if I sail. I just want to get there.?

  40. I was just thinking about this today. I have written more than 500,000 words that I never sought to publish…and never will. Five full length novels (not to mention to countless essays, short stories, poems, etc.) that served only one purpose: experience. It kills me to see people want to do very little work on their FIRST manuscript and expect to “make it.” Very few people marry their high school sweethearts. Writing is no different. It may take a lot of bad dates before you meet ‘the one.’ Or in our case…create it!

  41. Reblogged this on Mandy White and commented:
    Truth: “Often we procrastinate because there is no guarantee of success. Procrastination and perfectionism are frequently driven by fear of failure. If we never finish, we can never really fail.”

  42. Reblogged this on Amy Reece and commented:
    I wanted to share this amazing blog post with my readers. I highly recommend following Kristin’s blog.

  43. Reblogged this on A Shot and a Half Pint and commented:
    Such great advice for those of us who hope to “make it” as a professional author some day. Like anything worthwhile in life, doesn’t come for free, people!

  44. Words to live by. I know of a lot of authors who could benefit from reading this.

  45. This is it:

    “Writers can work years without any hint of outside approval.”

    We must toil without recognition or compensation. Writers must have super, extra-strength, stubborn, inextinguishable belief in themselves.

    Delusions help too.

  46. I find this oddly reassuring! Love this post!!

  47. Reblogged this on ked and commented:
    Definitely worth the read. Favorite excerpt: “… I said I wanted feedback. What I really wanted was for the group to tell me that my words were written in angel tears and that all the agents who rejected me must have been brain damaged.”

  48. Actually, your 5% rule made me feel great! Without giving you a list, I realised I’m already one of them… hooray! What a motivating and energising post, thank you!

    • Lisanne Harrington on April 6, 2015 at 2:51 pm
    • Reply

    This is such a timely blog for me. Having had my first novel accepted by a publisher (when I say first novel, it’s not the first one I wrote. God, that one was awful!), I’m now thinking seriously about websites, blogging, platform, etc. But what I really need to concentrate on is WRITING. Everything else will fall into place as long as I remember that. I know I need to think about those other things, but the writing is the most important part.

    I AM THE 5%.

  49. I don’t talk about it much because I don’t ever want to discourage anyone, but one of the things I think will fix the current market glut of writers and the difficulty of standing out is this 5% rule. The current shift in the industry to self-publishing and digital media is in a gold rush period that will taper off, even as more new writers come along, if only by virtue of rising to the top of the algorithms by continuing to show up, as you say. I don’t think of it in terms of competition so much, we don’t need to be wasting energy worrying about how well others are doing, but it helps me stay focused on showing up and keeping on working on my own books and career rather than worrying. How much happier will I be for having shown up for 10 years in another 5 years? I’ve already passed nearly every threshold other than finding that broader audience, since I insist on writing metaphysical stuff that tends to take longer to take off. I’m sticking to my dream, and have already exceeded most of my early goals. I have no complaints. This business is hard. So be it. 🙂 That will make success that much sweeter.

  50. Great article, Kristen!

    After reading it, I actually DO feel better.
    But I do have a question…

    If 5 000 000 000 people in the world are literate,

    and 75% of them want to write a book, that’s 3 750 000 000,

    then — according to this rule — 187 500 000 take it seriously,

    9 375 000 finish the first draft,

    468 750 polish the first draft, (That’s where I am now, but I can hear the train coming!)

    23 438 realize it’s a train wreck and write a better book,

    1 172 build a brand,

    59 get into the habit of writing, researching and revising,

    and THREE people get to be successful authors.

    Now, my question is: YOU, ME, and who else?

    Just kidding of course!

    Thanks for the blog post. I enjoyed it and found it really encouraging!

    All the best,


    1. Oooh ooh! Me, me, me!!! I’m going to be there at the finish with y’all.

      1. @pontiuscominius – LOL! Go for it! Woohoo!

        1. You’ll be in the acknowledgments, Mark.

  51. Reblogged this on Michaelphelps1's Blog and commented:
    very inspiring! thank you, KRISTEn and THANKS to CHRIS GRAHAM, The Story Reading Ape.

  52. Others whine, we work.
    I whine while I work. 😀

    I know I could make more time if I could drag my sleep-deprived butt out of bed earlier in the morning, or if I stayed up way later, but sleep is essential and I already don’t get enough of it. Surely my health will one day improve, and I shall stay up late writing all the words then. 😀

  53. Reblogged this on Chronicles of a Nerd and commented:
    Great read!

  54. Reblogged this on jademphillips and commented:
    This is one of the most helpful and information packed blogs for authors EVER. Check out Kristen Lamb’s post on the real chance of becoming a successful author!

  55. What an inspirational post. I’ve been writing professionally for four years now, and unprofessionally for… Well, for forever. Though I’d like to think I’m in the 5%, I needed to see this today. Just validates all of the ups and downs and why I continue to write no matter what. Thank you dearly and I love The Rise of the Machines. Flew through it in no time flat. Thanks again and I hope one day I’ll get to hear your feedback on one of my books. Lots of love!

    • margaretpinard on April 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm
    • Reply

    Aghhh, this makes me feel better, Kristen! I’ve been getting about 300 views per month for-like-ever, and while I’m still hanging onto the blog, I’ve moved ahead to writing my fiction and self-publishing, pushing that danged wagon up the hill on my own. I’m finally taking the step to get someone else’s professional help on the blog/social media side to see what I’m not getting, too! #allcylindersnow 😉 Thanks for your inimitable, encouraging voice!

  56. Reblogged this on Deborah Smith, Author, Publisher and commented:
    Another great post from author Kristen Lamb

  57. Your blog inspired mine today! I included a link back to yours within it:)

  58. “All your bases are belong to us.” At least the the bot messages make for entertaining reading, kinda like the auto correct on your phone:) Great article. Every Like, Follow, or Share feels like success. Success is truely born from persistence and hard work.

  59. I often look at your topics, think they look interesting, then file them on my computer to read later. Today I read the whole thing and want to say thanks. I’m inspired. It was (as others have said) exactly what I needed to hear today.

    • Stephanie Scott on April 6, 2015 at 4:33 pm
    • Reply

    In a nutshell, yes this post makes me feel better.

    Also, this: Show me a struggling author and I will show you someone spending too much time shopping the same book. Instead of writing more books and better books, these writers are worried about querying the same book over and over, or (if published) they fret over sales, marketing, blog tours, or algorithms.

    I hear this advice repeatedly from successful authors w/in RWA. The best way to increase sales is to write and publish more books.

  60. Reblogged this on Abdullapheez's Blog.

  61. From Winston Churchill:

    Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race

    1. Gave me chills. One of my ALL TIME FAVE quotes!

  62. I had just decided this weekend to do a 4th draft of a novel I thought was finished – to make it right. Thanks for affirming that decision.

  63. ‘We don’t find time, we make time’ – great quote!

    • Sarah Aspen on April 6, 2015 at 6:04 pm
    • Reply

    Believe it or not, what we do is excruciatingly HARD. Just like it is NOT normal for a human body to run long miles in freezing surf carrying a Zodiac filled with water, it is NOT normal to sit and write 100,000+ words. Most people—literate or not—cannot do what we do.

    I loved this, I didn’t know it would be so hard before I started, but now that I’ve finished my first draft of 105,000 words, I’m glad to now it’s as hard for everyone else as it was for me. If I’m insane enough to have come this far, I’m not stopping now.

  64. Validation vs. Feedback – so right! 🙂

  65. When I wrote and blogged…and bred Salukis…to please everyone else, crickets took up residence in my ego. They subdivided my conscience and sublet the basement of my self worth.
    Then I decided to do all the above to please ME, what I believed in, what I felt was right. And I please myself. Lo and behold, I started to please others.
    My own garden party

  66. Good timing on this article, as always. It’s like the Universe sends them to me at just the right time! Thank you, Kristen

  67. And… sometimes… some books are simply unsaleable…
    let’s face it.. there are things that NO ONE wants to read, anyhow

  68. As always – I love your posts. They keep me from ringing that bell! 🙂

    • Judy Manske on April 6, 2015 at 8:08 pm
    • Reply

    I am blind, and thought this was the reason it was so interesting to write. I find it is though, for EVERYONE, a struggle at first, and I thank you for your articles. I am able to keep on running the race, and jumping those hurdles, because I realize they aren’t about my blindness, they are just about the joy of writing! It would be nice, however, if I could see some of the hurdles, so I could jump over them, instead of falling over them! 🙂 I have finished my first novel, and am polishing it. I have also started on its sequel. Thanks for your inspiration!

  69. Ruminations of rejection and failure had my mind spiraling in the wrong direction within the past week. Then I wrote a note to myself, literally, to remind me that I’m one good break from becoming very successful. That’s true for me and for every one of us. Thanks for another inspiring post, Kristen.

  70. I just published my fourth novel and I’m 25k into the fifth. It’s hard. Stil hard. But I’m not quitting 😀

  71. This is marvelous. Thank you. And now I’m going back to work. 5%. Booyah.

  72. Reblogged this on Laurie Boris and commented:
    Wise and inspiring words from Kristen Lamb:

    “Show me a struggling author and I will show you someone spending too much time shopping the same book. Instead of writing more books and better books, these writers are worried about querying the same book over and over, or (if published) they fret over sales, marketing, blog tours, or algorithms.

    We cannot control what will be the next hottest thing. We can’t control the marketplace or the tastes of readers or whether matte bookmarks sell more books than pink beer koozies. This means we shouldn’t waste precious time on things we cannot control at the expense of things we can.”

  73. The 5% figure doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I would have guessed it to be a smaller number, more in the range of 1%-2%. I’ve been at it off and on for about 12 years. When I first started trying to write some twelve or so years ago, what I was trying to do was awful, terrible, no good, and to make it worse, all I wanted was validation, I simply couldn’t take the feedback. At some point, I fell into that 95%, and set the writing aside. Not completely, but I stopped making it a priority. Then some six years ago I decided to double the size of my house. I did it without any experience. This isn’t an uncommon situation for an Alaskan, but for many of us, the house remains in an incomplete state for many years. An extended period of incomplete house wasn’t going to do my marriage any favors, so it ended up taking me two years, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. During this time, I did very little writing, but I learned something extremely valuable about persistence, hard work in the face of exhaustion, and also about taking advice. A few years ago I took up writing again seriously, and this time with a very different perspective. I’m committed to spending 1-2 hours per night working on some facet of writing. Some nights I just stare at an awkward sentence for that hour because I’m too tired to make real progress – but I do it to keep the habit. Having moved past the need for validation, trading it for a need for real feedback, has also resulted in a dramatic improvement in my writing and how I think about writing. So, I suppose the 5% figure doesn’t really influence me one way or the other. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and when I think I’m done, there will be even more work. Anything hard that is worth doing fits this profile, and I’m okay with that.

    1. Well, I run a chance of y’all screaming for the hills with 5%, can you imagine if I said 1%? LOL. It depends on the level of “success.” Writing professionally versus, perhaps, being the next JK Rowling. Good job! Funny how other life experiences can teach us so much.

      1. I suppose I wouldn’t have felt particularly warm and fuzzy if you had said 1%. Not that I would have stopped what I’m working on. After all, chances are solid 0% of making a career of writing without the effort.

  74. Awesome article! I’m 17 and I’m already working on publishing my second book! I have two blogs running at the moment, one where I review movies and one where I talk about writing. They don’t have a ton of views, but I’m going to be in that 5 percent and keep following my dreams, whether I gain an audience or not 🙂

    1. Merge your blogs. You will thank me later ;). YOU are the brand, not the topic.

  75. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  76. Amazing! I’m pretty sure I read this at the perfect moment. Thank you. I’m going to go back to working on my next ms and tomorrow I’m going to revise my schedule so that I can improve my output and increase my focus on the things I need to focus on. My writing and honing my skill.

  77. Reblogged this on M.T. Miles.

  78. Never give up–a great message! You are an angel, a muse, a critical friend, and a candle that brings light to the dark corners of a writer’s mind at just the right moment. Thanks for another inspirational post.

    1. The mind is a POWERFUL thing. I do my part to keep you guys pressing. The world needs more great writing 🙂

  79. I recently self published my first book. Someone asked me today whether I thought I’d make a lot of money from it. My answer was, “well, I’ll make more money from it than if I didn’t publish at all.” One book is just a step towards the next better book. And better than if I didn’t try to publish at all.

  80. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Learn new things and apply.

  81. I’m that 95% in more things I’d like to admit. But with writing, I’m the 5%, and I fully intend to stay that way. It’s hard and I rely on the “when I have time” excuse too much still, but I’m not giving up. When I was preparing to publish my first book, I knew I was in for a trilogy. Whether book 1 ended up getting zero reviews or a hundred, I knew I was going to write books 2 and 3, and I’m sticking to that decision. And I’m sticking to my blog. I’ll keep on blogging, and hopefully over time more people will find and enjoy it. Thank you for this post, it really was inspiring. I think I’ll edit my current draft a bit right now (I’m at work but it’s a slow day, so maybe no one notices…)

  82. Reblogged this on my personal thing and commented:
    That’s interesting. I haven’t heard those statistics before. Thanks for the post 🙂

  83. Fifteen hits a day sounds good from where I’m sitting. But I keep showing up! And the practice in writing to regular deadlines has got to be good for me.
    I feel like the tortoise – I keep moving, but it bugs me how slow I go!

  84. I must admit – I wasn’t looking at an incentive like being put in a hat when I decided to reply to this post. I just want to say thanks for posting ‘cos you’ve made me feel a heck of a lot better as a rookie blogger…

  85. The key words are JUST DO IT. I think I might need to invest in some Nike-gear ti remind myself everytime I find an excuse not to write or run, because I both want to write a book & run a marathon.

  86. This post resonated with me for two reasons: first, I have published a novel that has judo as its background, so discipline is a theme that runs through it; second, I am now trying to make time to write a new book, and it’s proving hard to push through. I’m not sure why that is – second album syndrome, perhaps.

    Either way, I take solace from the fact that we are in that five per cent. Achieving goals when it’s against the odds makes it all the more satisfying.

    Good luck to everyone.

    • MaryAnna Rose on April 7, 2015 at 5:18 am
    • Reply

    I spent (read: wasted) 30 of my writing minutes digging online for writing motivation. This is the last thing I read.
    But if I’d read it first, I would only have wasted 4 mins – the amount of time it took to read it. Thanks for the encouragement. And for acknowledging that yes, this is hard.

    Thanks for the honesty. And of course, I’d love to win the critique!

    • krazyslayer187 on April 7, 2015 at 6:08 am
    • Reply

    Thank you! I’m bookmarking this blog post because I know i’ll have days when i’ll need to re-read it. 🙂

  87. well I’m tempted not to comment since it’s pretty clear you have a ton of support already but I will tell you that as a semi-successful author, there are days when I want to be the 95% who can just sit down and enjoy a book without getting pissed off that it’s “major house published” while my 20+ languish at the mercy of my time and willingness to constantly promote them. I have taken a bit of a leap recently with something I hope/think will help me turn a corner in that arena but it was a leap lined with cash. While there is no secret formula (words per day/hours per week) there is one pretty frustrating thing that will thwart even the most stalwart word warrior: Money Must Be Spent. You must pay for decent editing, cover art and so on unless you are on the submission-go-round and in that case you must be willing to take (a lot of) rejection and keep moving forward.

    So as some folks have said above, make sure you love this process, this game, and are willing to get out there and promote yourself and your book(s), then go write the next one and spend some money on making it great (even before your submit it, if that’s your chosen path to publication).
    I consider myself in the 5% without a doubt but have to open my eyes every day, blink up at the ceiling and remind myself that it’s not about the “best selling author” designation (even though it kinda is). It’s about living the dream (or an alternating days: the nightmare).
    congrats on the blog’s recognition and all your many successes.

    1. Liz, I think we all dip back into the 95% now and again. BUT, the 5%ers realize it is a coffee break and get back to work 😉

  88. Wow, your words hit home with me. I recently finished my first full length novel and a novella but have come to a screeching halt when it comes to my writing. I need the proverbial kick in the butt and your post gave me much to ponder on. Thanks.

  89. I love this article! I’m writing my sixth novel, and although I’m far from what I consider to be a “successful author”, I also know that I’ll never be one if I give up. Thanks for the reminder.

  90. Reblogged this on .

  91. Great post. I like the statistics of the 5%. I wonder how many of the commenters will be apart of it.

  92. Reblogged this on K. L. Romo and commented:
    For those of us writers who need some encouragement –

  93. Reblogged. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Rachel Thompson on April 7, 2015 at 8:22 am
    • Reply

    What’s required? Force of will, focus, good mental habits. Small ego with strong convictions. A business plan supported by a self driven work ethic. A touch of crazy without cynicism.10% talent add 90% work. Active imagination with balls. “I don’t give a s**t what people think,” shelled over with a need for readers. Simple right?

    1. Simple doesn’t mean easy ;), but yes.

  94. This reaffirms my decision to abandon my first full length draft and hop on to something bigger and better. I’ll go back, but I have to continue to produce if I’m going to get better! When I’m better, I’ll go back to that part I’m really stuck on!

  95. Thanks for the encouragement.. The 5% thing really got me.
    Vicki at

  96. Words to live by. Don’t give up, never surrender.

    • Melody Stiles on April 7, 2015 at 10:01 am
    • Reply

    Okay. I needed to read this. I mean, I *really* needed to read this. Thank you.

    • BC Rice on April 7, 2015 at 10:38 am
    • Reply

    I wonder if that 5% rule can actually apply anymore in the self publishing world of e-books.

    Do you mean by 5% that only that many people will make a financial living off of writing novels? Because I’d expect the percentage is far lower. Closer to 0.2%

    Are you meaning that 5% of people will keep writing and publishing? Because I’d put that percentage much higher in the realm of self pubbed ebooks.

    Most importantly, if we honestly give what you’ve written here a legitimate case, then a “real” writer shouldn’t care what you wrote about chances and statistics, right? Because we’re doing it all anyway. 😉

    I think the sentiment is good, but in this day and age I don’t think I’ve met a person who wants to be a writer who hasn’t actually published something. Something like 90% of people who want to be writers these days publish something. Hence why advances from publishers have dropped to next to nothing.

    It’s gotten so bad that I don’t think the written pile of text is worth as much as it used to be. I think doing things like narrative podcasts and audio books are in much higher demand than are text-based works.

    There are still readers, but the majority of those folks reading now are writers. The same thing happened to the comic book industry. The only difference is that to package a comic script you need to be a good artist or you need to hire a good artist. So in that, comics still have some measure of a gateway. Ebooks have no such gateway, no hurdles, no obstacles other than typing words and then uploading them onto the Internet.

    To me, if I’m being honest, books are largely dead. There is still room for the major publishers to do their giant amount of spending to sell a title. But text-based entertainment is fast becoming the lowest (perceived) wrung, while simultaneously requiring the most effort from the audience. It’s a losing scenario in this day and age.

    All that is to say is make sure to tell your audience to cover their bases. Publishing text on the Internet is not going to cut it in the future.

    1. I don’t know if I agree with all of this. I think people are reading now more than ever. And, even if they weren’t, film is known for taking novels and putting them on the screen so there will always be a market for good storytellers. For instance, the hit show Hannibal wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for “Red Dragon.” Even the God-awful FSoG landed a three-movie deal. Game of Thrones is a successful mini-series, Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Harry Potter, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and on and on and on. Many of these film adaptations spurred fresh waves of new readers, people who might not normally read, but maybe wanted to check out Red Dragon or *gag* FSoG. I think consumption for entertainment is higher than ever. How people take in my story doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if they buy it in text or audio or courier pigeon, the royalties spend the same and it STILL has to be written first.

      But, YES, just running and uploading a book on CreateSpace is not enough. I think the slush pile has been dumped in the poor readers’ laps and that is why branding is critical. It helps followers narrow the choices. And people will cling like glue to authors they trust because there IS so much junk being published. But, that is a whole ‘notha blog.

      And advances have dropped because NY publishing has high overhead and they aren’t competitive in the new publishing model.

      Thanks for your thoughts 🙂 !

  97. Reblogged this on samueldimeji.

  98. Reblogged this on the fluxDominion and commented:
    Excellently put. It’s not that we are incapable of success, only that it takes a lot of perseverance, acceptance of criticism, and moving on.

    • normandiea on April 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm
    • Reply

    They say writing is a game of attrition, and you just explained why beautifully.

  99. “Of those who finally write a decent book, how many take time to also build a brand and platform? How many learn to blog effectively in ways that reach and cultivate readers?”

    Of all the pass-fail items you list, this is the one with which I have struggled the most. I have a blog (only a few generous souls read it), I’m bored by Twitter, and Facebook scares the crap out of me. By nature I’m not a self-promoter, and figuring out the whole “here-I-am” platform thing has been hard. But I’m beginning to think that it’s a major contributor to my inability to attract an audience.

    Aside from my native lack of talent, of course.

    A good article.

    • starcatdreamer on April 7, 2015 at 1:27 pm
    • Reply

    Believe it or not, this DOES make me feel better about my chances. Why? I’ve been a writer for quite a while, but over the past couple years I’ve been writing more, studying, writing, practicing, learning, writing, reading about the craft, delving into fiction, writing… Now I’m feeling really empowered and I have confidence I can succeed. I have two non-fiction books already published (one with a small publisher and one self-published), and these days I’m working on some fiction. I have two novel manuscripts drafted (one co-written with my partner, one on my own that I just finished) and am working on revisions. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I’m feeling inspired and excited! I feel like a “real” writer now, and also like a kid in a really cool funky toy store who’s just been informed that all the toys are hers to play with. I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and LOVED your book Rise of the Machines. Thank you so much! I’ve never commented before, though, because of the contest you do where you draw a winner each month – up until now I didn’t feel confident that I had anything worth sharing if I won. Not anymore! I have some terrific stuff in progress and would relish the feedback. The writing life is SO much fun. It took me a long time to get to this point – I’m 45 – but I feel like I have a writing career, and that I WILL be a success. Thank you for being such an ongoing inspiration.

  100. Loved this post. I found it strangely encouraging. Thank you.

  101. Another optimist! I share your optimism Kristen. I personally believe that writing and finishing a book is a fantastic achievement whether it makes it big or not. Keep it real that’s what I say. Do as much as you possibly can to get word out before release. Above all, enjoy it! I am absolutely loving writing at the moment and the thought of my first novel hitting the top ten on Amazon hasn’t really crossed my mind… Yet.. Be nice though wouldn’t it! 🙂 thanks again Kristen. Mark

  102. Love the post. I always could use a reminder that no matter how discouraging the numbers are, you get what out what you put into it. I just need to keep working hard and good things will happen. Great message!

  103. “Procrastination and perfectionism are driven by the fear of failure. If we never finish, we can’t really fail.”

  104. Reblogged this on reflectionality and commented:
    Procrastination and perfectionism are driven by the fear of failure. If we don’t finish, we can’t really fail.”

  105. Just what I needed to hear today :}

    • trevormdavison on April 7, 2015 at 4:54 pm
    • Reply

    I keep hearing that writers can’t make any money, and that you should never be a writer for the money, and while I know to keep my expectations low, this article gives me a lot of hope. I don’t think I’m the next J.K. Rowling, but I’m also not someone who aims for “average”. I’ve made it through a lot of those 5% hurdles already. Im committed to making it through the rest.

    1. Of course writers make money. Somebody is being paid for all the books, articles, mini-series, etc. 😀 Just a lot of people don’t stick to it to that point. Most give up.

  106. I must confess I have been querying the same novel for over two years. While I have written several articles, short stories etc. I have not been able to stick to writing my next novel. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  107. Reblogged this on The Big Bad Emotional World. and commented:
    One of my favorite blogs to follow and an amazing author..

  108. I’m sort of restarting my freelance writing business so this is hugely encouraging. Thanks!

  109. Having lurked for almost a year, this post finally pushed me into becoming a follower. 🙂 I’m on the very last chapters of my third book. I have such hopes for this one, and so my fear of failure is even worse than with the first two.

    -sigh- I shall now go and make some courage to make some time to make some words leading to The End. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Welcome to The Dark Side. We have cookies 😀 .

      1. Cookies? Chocolate? -drools-

  110. Hi Kristen ! 😀 I’ve been without internet access for a while and it is SO nice to be back! I have got some MAJOR catching up to do, and boy, is my backside in for it! 😮

    I did get some LONGHAND writing done while I on internet quarantine and I have a series that I am considering either writing as part of a blog or maybe turning into a Kindle project. The first, though, is a fictionalized version of a part of my life that I almost wish had happened. It’s a bit dark and some relatives will not take kindly to it, but there is a level of wider social commentary that I NEED to explore. Mother/daughter issues as related to parental stupidity. I keep hemming and hawing on that, but I think that means I SHOULD do something. Otherwise, I might have forgotten it already.

    Again, glad to be back.

    As for the WHY of writing? For writers that’s almost like asking a person, “Why BREATHE?” Because we have to.

  111. It’s so funny because I’ve written 4 novel length works, but only the last one feels like it’s worth anything. Now I’m caught between revising and writing a new story. Linked back at

    • kwiltnwriter on April 8, 2015 at 6:39 am
    • Reply

    Wow. Great post! Been feeling like a hack lately, but I have two finished books and about twenty more in the “scattered notes in a folder” stage. AND I’ve been blogging since 2005- so I’m not a hack after all! Happily putting your link into my blog!

  112. 7 books and 110 blog posts to date – definitely 5%!

    1. I’m with Han Solo, (Harrison Ford) who once declared, “Never tell me the odds.” I’ve seen some amazing things happen that I wouldn’t have put a five cent piece on. Best thing to do is just DO and keep doing. If you love it, something good has to come of it. And usually, when you least expect.

      1. I like Yoda’s – ‘Luke, there is no try!’

        1. “Do or do not. There is no try.” Have you ever seen Star Warners? (Animaniacs). Hilarious!

  113. Reblogged this on Sheryl Nantus and commented:
    An excellent post…. and one I needed this week! 😉

  114. This is such a great post. So real. I love it… therefore I’ll tweet it!

    1. Thanks, Roger! ((HUGS))

  115. “If we never finish, we can never really fail.” Thanks. I needed that today.

  116. I’ve reblogged this wonderful post, Kristin.

    I’ve become enamored of a particular blogger, a writer who is very good at looking at what it takes to write, to not give up because writing is hard work, and to feel energized with a renewed sense of purpose that leaves you feeling like a member of the elite corps of those who create something out of nothing.

    Below is a recent post of Kristin Lamb’s blog that I’d like to share with those of you who are writers. Hope you are as inspired by her as I am.

    • Glen Speering on April 9, 2015 at 5:19 am
    • Reply

    I loved it. It’s the same with anything though isn’t it? If you aren’t doing it for yourself, you won’t be successful. You have to be free from outside assurance.

  117. I feel there’s a message my muse is trying to send my way. Yesterday, someone told me I had to have faith and believe that things will get better. I told them I spend 40+ hours a week working, unremunerated. There is no-one with stronger faith than a writer.
    I finished my first draft of my first novel last week. It’s a little bit train wreck- ish, but all day today I’ve been thrashing out the plot and structure of my next novel, fired up with the excitement of writing a new first chapter.
    I am one of the 5%. All my eggs are in this one basket.

  118. This. It’s brilliant, it manages to slice through all my remaining layers of reluctance to deal with the marketing side of self-publishing. Pleased, too, to see that I’m a lot higher in the winnowing-out process toward making a living as an author than I realized. It gives me further incentive to keep going. I’m halfway through writing novel #3. First two have fab reviews and modest sales, but I know I simply need more books, the best books I can write. Have been reading you via RSS feed for a long time, but this post is a game-changer. Am about to attempt reblogging for the first time at Thanks so much for writing this.

  119. I must echo the sentiments of many of the other comments: this is such a timely post for me. I was just talking with my Handsome Sidekick, who was encouraging me to finish this book and move onto my second… I have to let go of the idea that this will be a masterpiece and accept that it’s going to be OK but probably not heart-stoppingly incredible. And that’s fine! I (hopefully) have many more years of writing to write that heart-stoppingly incredible book, and I won’t get there if I don’t finish this one!

    Many thanks for taking the time to write this.

  120. “Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is capable of sustained change. This means of ALL the people who want to run marathons, 5% will. Of ALL the people who join a martial arts class, only 5% will ever reach black belt. Of ALL the people who have a dream of being a career author, only about 5% will ever reach that goal and maintain it.”

    This will be framed on my desk. Thank you for a great article.

  121. Well I am reading this post at a perfect time, after having written a post about never giving up.
    This is very encouraging and yes, some might get discouraged – only 5%? But I’m thinking – I am a few pages away from finishing my first draft, so I have made it to the 5%… I know there is a lot more work left to do, but I’ll take this as a big stepping stone and feel motivated to remain in the 5% until I find an agent who will help me share my stories with those who want to read them.

    Thank you for the motivation and thank you for a beautiful post, peppered with some great humour!

  122. Very well said- and I see I’m not the only one getting spambots who like insulting my real followers by calling htem brain dead.

  123. Kristen, someone had tweeted this link and I thought “ugh” another downer about how impossible it is to be an author. But it actually made me feel better. I had my debut novel released in January. Took almost 5 years of writing, getting feedback, revising, polishing, querying. Rinse, repeat. I’m a very small fish in an enormous ocean, but I’ve passed several of the 5% barriers you mentioned. I’m now busy promoting novel #1 and working on #2 and #3. I think it’s a mix of optimism and willful ignorance that got me to this point and will keep me going. Thanks for this!

    1. It can be very overwhelming, so panning back and realizing we aren’t total victims of fate is necessary to keep pressing. GO YOU! Glad you masochist side gave in 😉

  124. Kristen, thank you for the fantastic post! It made me feel a lot better about my chances, because you’ve helped me recognize how much of the process I can control. I’ve added the link to my blog at, and I’ve also forwarded it to half-a-dozen writer friends who could use the encouragement. Thank you again for the post and for all the ways you help writers!

  125. Great article… When I feel discouraged, I work harder. Does that make me a 5%?

    1. Yep, considering most people quit 😉

  126. I liked what you said about not waiting for external praise. Bottom line: you have to love it.

  127. I loved your comment about just showing up. Sometimes that’s all it takes and eventually things start to happen. Another thing is to never stop improving. That’s always more to learn.
    Thanks for the great post.

  128. Glad I found this! I have the idea and a few pages, now just need to make the time to get to the end! I run marathons; hoping for a correlation!

  129. 5% doesn’t seem too bad.

  130. Wonderful piece, Kristen! “Angel tears.” *Snicker.* But you forgot unicorn farts. Those are key for a bestseller too,yeah?

    1. Unicorn farts are for another blog, but YES, they are the heart of great critique 😀 .

  131. Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
    Time managment is the hardest. I find if I don’t treat my writing like a job and give it the time it needs; the writing and re-writing doesn’t get done; or not as much. Staying off of fb, twitter, and other social media stuff is important too; which is a double edge sword. Don’t you need to be engaged on social media to some extent or is it better to just unplug and concentrate all of one’s energies and time into writing? I’m thinking the latter is the correct answer; especially for new writers like me.

  132. Just don’t stop. Don’t let anything stop you. Don’t be afraid to fail and have rejections. Authors were in that situation before they became successful author.

  133. Every time I feel like giving up, something Kristen writes makes me keep going. I am not saying I have the whole procrastination think licked, but I’m far more productive than I used to be. Kristen Lamb is my mentor from another mother, indeedy.

  134. Great post! I really needed that boost and for that ‘m so glad to have discovered your blog, Kristen.

    • Eloise on April 29, 2015 at 10:12 am
    • Reply

    I’m glad I read this. I’ve recently quit my full-time job in order to focus on writing and am absolutely determined to keep going until I succeed. Your post has encouraged me to nurture my willpower 🙂

  135. I never knew about the 5% thing, I always just said “most.” I also put a positive spin on it – maybe that was wrong of me. (I was a sales manager, so I had to keep the salespeople’s heads in the game.)

    Of all the people who want to write a book, most won’t.
    You did. That already make you rare and special.
    Of all the people who write a book, most won’t write a second one – and one book doesn’t an income make.
    You did. Now you are really in the rare air.

    You get the idea.

    Thanks for another great post.

  136. I could care less about 5%. Not that I think you’re wrong, but I refuse to let it apply to me. I’m gonna bust my ass until I’m a “professional” author, with professional defined as “bringing in enough money to cover half my monthly expenses.”

    Once I reach that point, I’m gonna bust my ass until my writing is covering all my monthly expenses.

    But right now, the short term goal is finishing the next book. (First two books are covering the cable bill. Small goals are awesome stepping stones to big goals.)

    I figure if you are going to worry about whether or not you are the 5%, rather than busting ass to make yourself the 5%, you’ve already picked which side of the percentages you’re on.

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