Many new writers have a passionate dream of being a full-time, well-paid, maybe even famous author…until we see the odds of reaching those dreams. Then? All our enthusiasm and optimism suddenly leaks out *farting sound of deflating balloon* leaving space for doubt, anxiety, and defeatism.
Granted, odds of author success will be different depending on the dream, what our idea of ‘success’ happens to be. The odds of ‘being published’ today are far better than when I started out, but ‘being published’ is no longer the single largest challenge we face.
If we want to replace the day job with being a full-time author–whether that is on a self-published, indie, legacy, or hybrid track—we have some tough work and tougher decisions ahead. I do have good news, though. While our mind can be our greatest enemy, it can also be our greatest ally.
Perception dictates reality.
This means we need to get our head in the game and make certain we’re framing our goals in a way that increases our odds of realizing our dreams.
Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors? Sure. But, in my eighteen years of experience, I’ve found that’s actually quite rare.
Why most writers fail to transition from amateur to pro has less to do with lack of innate talent and far more to do with a lack of a professional’s mindset and work ethic. We can’t keep amateur hours and hobbyist habits and expect to reap professional rewards. That’s basic logic.
Blind luck is an option. It’s a sucky one. But it is still an option. For those who want more than blind luck, how does this all shake out?
So glad you asked!
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 Power Ball.
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 then hit by lightning…on the same day. Plenty of people told me the odds. Encouraged me to get a ‘real job’ instead of chasing rainbows.
Between the negative voices in my head and the dream-killers posing as ‘concerned friends and family,’ it was all I could do not to give up before I began.
After countless rejections, stories that fizzled, and failure after failure I hit a low point. Then, I realized my perspective about my odds of succeeding were skewed in a self-defeating direction.
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 fairly accurate (and encouraging) picture.
The 5% Rule
It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change. In lay terms, we call this GRIT. Though grit is simple enough in concept, training grit into our character is a lot of hard work—which explains why it’s called grit not a sparkle unicorn hug. Developing grit is a bumpy ride with more lows than highs, which is why long-term grit is a rare.
Thus, with that in mind…
When we start out, we’re up against presumably tens of millions of others who want the same dream we do. Yes, tens of millions. It is estimated that over 75% of Americans claim they’d one day like to write a book (and this is just Americans).
That’s a LOT of people.
From one angle, it’s easy to believe our friends and family are right. We DO have better odds of being taken hostage by feral circus clowns than earning the title New York Times Best-Selling Author.
Yet, I believe this generality isn’t entirely accurate because it fails to take into account the choices we make. These ‘odds’ aren’t factoring in how many variables are within our control.
Let’s say we accept we’re up against presumably tens of millions of others who desire to write a book/become a famous novelist.
Ah, but how many even start? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step and write even a single page?
Feeling Lucky? Upping Our Odds
So only 5% of the tens of millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the millions.
But of those millions, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH that novel? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to set firm boundaries with friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?
Okay, well now we are down to the hundreds of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that’s required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry/reader standards. How many who write a novel will hire a seasoned content editor to make sure it really is…a book?
Or, if they don’t hire a content editor, how many join a critique group for professional feedback?
Ah, but this is where it gets tricky…the place where many writers who make it this far get stuck.
Aspiring Writers vs. Pre-Published Authors
The best dose of humility I ever received was in my first critique meeting with ACTUAL authors (as in NYC published). I thought my novel was the best thing since puffy kitten stickers, and OMG so did everyone else!
It was AMAZING. They all wept because they’d failed to bring enough star stickers to paste all over my pages! No rose petals to throw at my feet! No lyres to sing songs of my book’s greatness!
More like I spent an hour ugly-crying in my Honda, wondering if throwing myself off the library would kill me or merely wing me.
Despite the sound beatings, I sucked it up and returned week after week. I kept at it and improved despite having to sweep up my pride and self-esteem at the end of every meeting.
This said, how many take the step to attend a critique group, and then stick to writing even after a blistering critique? Many blistering critiques?
This marks a major fork in the road. The critique stage is the dangerous level. We’ve made it SO far…but can end up jammed in the funnel.
Talk is Cheap
As a neophyte, I truly believed everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors. I was saying it.
But did they mean it? Did I mean it? Good question. But first a test…
How many of you reading this refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring author?’ Raise your hand. No one can see. Now, if you raised your hand, slap yourself HARD and never use that title again.
If we don’t take ourselves seriously, why would anyone else? So long as we refer to ourselves as ‘aspiring’ we’re locking into a hobbyist/dabbler mentality. To go pro, we need to think pro.
From now on, I recommend pre-published author or emerging author. I use pre-LEGEND 😛 .
Anyway, for years I faithfully attended various critique groups. I had a blast…once the swelling went down.
Over time, however, I noticed that many of us were more in love with the idea of being a New York Times Best-Selling Author than actually doing the work required to become a NYTBSA.
I was BIG TIME guilty, because I didn’t understand critique groups can become too comfy. I started novels I never finished, complained NYC just was publishing junk, prioritized my writing after laundry, dishes, cleaning behind the refrigerator…feeding orphans in Somalia on and on. After ALL that was finished, THEN I would write.
Lots of talk, no walk.
Truth was, I was an amateur because I thought and behaved like an amateur. Since I didn’t approach my craft like a professional, I was at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.
Suffice to say, good critique groups can help us grow in our craft but they can also become a place where activity and productivity are easily confused. This is the most common place for a funnel traffic jam, so stay frosty 😉 .
Back to the REAL Odds
So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel and survive evisceration from a hard-core critique, how many commit to learning the craft and developing their skills? Maybe take some on-line classes, read/study a stack of craft books or—WHOA—perhaps save up to attend a major conference?
You guys are good….5%.
And of those who attend a conference, how many, when an agent asks for their pages, actually follow through?
Believe it or not…5%. Most chicken out.
Alas, of that percentage of writers who rally the courage to send in pages, how many will land an agent right away?
Out 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? Maybe even hire a professional hit man (editor)?
How many are willing to let go of that first novel, take it as a learning experience, and move on? Write until they finish a truly good book?
Of the writers who land an agent or are brave enough to go indie or self-publish, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform? Comprised of cultivated followers/fans?
Again? Probably 5%.
***More hard news. Publishing a book is not enough. There is no ‘write it and the readers will come’ no matter which publishing track we choose.
Odds Favor Those Who Suck It Up
Thus far, we’ve weeded out all the ‘aspiring writers,’ which means the competition is not near what it appeared to be when we began. Alas, so many writers make it this far and believe gimmicks, shortcuts and algorithmic alchemy can deliver success.
*shakes funnel* *muffled screams*
Of those published authors on-line, how many are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset? Versus taking the easy way and buying followers and spamming everyone in sight?
Of those who self-publish, how many will keep writing more books and better books until they hit a tipping point for success (instead of
beating marketing one book to death)?
Of writers who self-publish, how many will invest in professional editing and cover art?
Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see how many variables we actually control.
- Taking the Decision Seriously;
- Setting Boundaries;
- Developing Discipline;
- Training/Improving Skill Level;
- Writing the Book;
- Finishing the Book;
- Editing the Book;
- Learning the Craft;
- Investing Time and or Money Into Professional Training;
- Following Through;
- Pressing On in the Face of Rejection;
- Writing Another Book;
- Finishing Even MORE and now WAY BETTER Books;
- Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career.
I am not saying that finishing a book is easy, because…
None of This is Easy
Just because something is simple in no way makes it easy.
This job is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most other ‘writers’ will never be genuine competition. If we fixate on all the tens of millions of other ‘writers’ we are up against, we set ourselves up for failure. We place ourselves in danger of becoming overwhelmed and eventually giving up.
If, however, we will choose to focus on decisions and actions we control, our odds of success drastically improve.
Toss in tens of millions of people with a dream, and only a very small number will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most of us, the harder/smarter we work, the ‘luckier’ we become.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
Yes, I just quoted The Hunger Games…cuz it can feel that way.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Does this dream now seem a bit more achievable with this ‘fresh’ perspective? Have you been psyching yourself out? Bought the lie that your dream was silly? Have you fixated too much on factors outside your control instead of focusing on what you can control?
Hey, I’ve been at this a LONG time and still need the reminder. It’s why I’ve blogged on this exact theory multiple times and updated it. We ALL need a pep talk now and again.
I look forward to helping you guys become stronger at your craft, and next time we’ll resume talking abut structure. Those new to my blog, I hope you’ll check out this series. Look to the column over there–>
For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my On Demand Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .
I’m offering The Art of Character (March 22nd 7-9 EST). More advanced material, and lots of FUN! Just because we’re tackling advanced material, doesn’t mean we can’t make it a party. As always, recording is included with all classes FREE of charge 😉 .
Also, my Bullies and Baddies: Understanding the Antagonist is a great follow up, and this class will help you plot faster and tighter than ever. It’s being held March 29th (7-9 EST).
I love hearing from you!
And am not above bribery!
What do you WIN? For the month of March, for 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).
***February’s winner is Gabriella L. Garlock. Please send your 5,000 word Word document in a doc.x file, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins to kristen @wana intl dot com. Congrats!
By the way, yes I also offer classes, and so does my partner-in-crime USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds does, too. We both want y’all to write amazing books because that means more word of mouth sales, and a world with better books.
As ever, you put this whole crazy enterprise into context. Thank you…
Yes, yes, yes. This! Hard work and continuous learning. I’m in it.
Thank you so much…. I’m at chapter 7 in my first book. It was going great. What I have written so far is soooo awesome! My best friend for 30 years was the only reason why I would put pen to paper I never dreamed of writing a book. When I would tell him all my stories he kept telling me dude you have to write a book. He’s done this for years and I just told him he was crazy. So I finally took it seriously and began. I told him we would be 50 50 business partners with my writing. He would handle the whole business part of the Venture in I would just write because that’s all I want to do is write. He works a 60 hour a week job so he won’t have time to get my book in front of people. My wife is awesome at things like that so I called him and told him that I’m not going into business with him. I told him I already have a publisher I already have someone to do the artwork on the cover I already have someone to edit the book so I don’t need him. He obviously was very pissed. It was the first time we’d ever fought in 33 years of friendship. I almost scuttled the whole book and stop writing because it wasn’t worth our friendship. When I hung the phone up from that conversation I felt like I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t believe money came between our friendship. But by the grace of Jesus Christ we have worked it out and I’m just going to pay him a finder’s fee. I was so upset about this that my head was messed up and I couldn’t even hardly write it all. So now I’m starting to write again. Your blog was so inspirational and gives me a lot of hope that I will one day be a New York Times bestseller. I was so deflated. But now I know I will succeed and I will be a best-selling author. It was by the grace of Jesus Christ that I happened upon your website and blog you really really really changed my perception of success. I was feeling really low and you really picked me up and energized me. Thank you so so much and May Jesus bless you?
Thank you for some wisdom that is more than just a pep talk. You remind me of Thomas Edison who said something like, “Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”.
This reminds me of my father. He was a music teacher. He always had Thomas Edison quoted on his blackboard as having said, “Talent is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration.” I guess Kristen is splitting it down the middle at 5%. The main point I take is success requires a ton of hard work.
I’m so glad I found you yesterday! And signed up. If I hadn’t I would’ve missed this stellar post. I’d accepted a while ago, “just learn because you love it”. I “just do it” (to quote Nike) and follow all the necessary paths. Considering I type with one finger and, due to my kind of stroke, (only 10% of people survive) and I need to fight my brain just to lift that finger, I’m committed. You could say I too have had that moment where you appreciate life more and don’t want to squander it watching (too much) tv. And to read your post? Priceless.
Loved the article. Trying to achieve one of the 5%.
Thanks for the pep talk, Kristen. Much appreciated. Great pitch in your video! Hahahahaha! And “being taken hostage by feral circus clowns,” hilarious!
So so glad to see/read the pep talk…
Two sides to my world: writer and editor. On the editor side recently, it has been lotsa newbies asking where all the big lists of copy editing jobs are and won’t someone give out the links? Lotsa I write and I know I can edit, too, but can someone help me learn how? Even more, I found the job boards, but they all suck, how do you who are successful do it?
After over 20 years of struggling, where not a soul told me ‘how’ to do anything, except what rules I needed to learn and apply, not only to editing, but to writing — it all be the same, baby.
You cannot edit, unless you know books, why some books are better, why other books draw you back again and again, why some books suck on the first page…
So, this post helps. I believe I’m part of the 5%x100 (as opposed to truly successful 5%x1,000,000 people), and I still craft every edit proposal as though I won’t eat tomorrow if I don’t get the project. I still work to write a proposal that concentrates on communicating with that particular author, and their particular fears, hopes, dreams, and willingness to work hard on their book.
Nothin’ comes easy, but some things do come together suddenly, if you push yourself hard enough.
god, I’ve seen the battered ballerina feets before — it’s so so gross…
Thanks as always, Kristen, for helping us all out.
So grateful you’re willing to put in the time/work to give us a reason to keep striving! (Now all I need is caffeine and the occasional paper bag). Thanks, KL.
Also, if you are submitting short stories, send them to pro rate venues only. None of those semi-pro or free. It’s just like calling yourself aspiring. I remember going through the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and see the statistics for the pro markets. It said my chances of getting in were very slim, but I’d see a non-paying one with a better chance. I didn’t understand–not for years–that I was subconsciously telling myself that I was good enough to submit to pro. That kept me at the same level for years because I could get published in the non-paying and it felt successful when it wasn’t. I took some workshops that really pushed on some weak skills, submitted to Fantasy and Science Fiction–and got a personal rejection. Since then, I’ve had personal rejections on every story. Then I was invited to a story call for veterans with a literary magazine. I looked at a sample story on their site. I was writing well above the level of what they were published. It was astounding to discover how much changing that one mindset made.
I LOVE Jamie Patterson!
Focus on what I can control. Yes. Thanks for the pep talk.
“a hobbyist/dabbler mentality” Too close to the bone. It’s hard work and lowering its priority makes it easy to put off big decisions — weigh them forever. Get pages written. Put words on pages. Better yet, putting feelings on pages, disguised as words. Thanks, CE
A great reminder. Everyone out there seems to want to write a book, but it doesn’t mean they will. I think it was Stephen King who had that pyramid illustration of it in his ‘On Writing’ book. Thanks for another excellent post 🙂
I love the 5% rule. I’ve been around the block enough times to have heard it before, but I always enjoy another visit. When we realize how few people will actually do what it takes to be a successful author, it feels as if we have a chance to get to the top of the jungle gym. The thing that worries me is the millions of books available on Amazon. Your book(s) have to be found through all that. Of course, an author has to do the hard work to get heard, but that’s a lot of noise. And there are plenty of “authors” who write books, don’t do any of the things you talked about and still slap their book up there thinking it’s perfect and a NY editor would never understand them. I’ve seen it. Instead of author, I prefer to call them writer.
I’m hoping that perseverance wins out in the end. Because I may not be the best writer, but I sure as heck am the most stubborn. I’ve learned my craft, attended countless workshops, including some of yours, and published 4 books. Three indie, one traditional with two more traditional on the way. I’d say I’m somewhere near the 5%.
Thanks for letting me comment.
Hola Kristen, Thank you. You write so much ‘common sense’ which most would-be and actual writers should recognise… Even though I’m in the ‘twilight zone’ of life, I’m just as curious as I ever was. Trouble is I just love the writing itself but am as technical as a flea on a bad day. And there’s the rub! Procrastination – I’ll admit – also comes into the equation. So much to ‘keep up’ with on Twitter and Facebook, OAPSCHAT, Sixty & Me, etc.,But it’s all a friendly/learning curve and I still find time to write (being retired).I’ve managed to have seven books published so must have done something right; three sold well (two mainstream VERY)but the others need a few squibs. Who knows if I’ll finish the one I’m now writing?! I’m keen to make it as literary and ‘read-worthy’ as possible. Meanwhile, I embrace all the words of wisdom and know-how that I can.All good fortune to you.
Thank you Kristen, for this.
I appreciate your reminders, that the work IS worth it, and the time you took to outline the types of steps involved in the job!
I wondered, do you have any tips for finding a good editor to hire?
I hope you know how much your blogging means to struggling new writers. We often get discouraged and despair of tipping the scales against all odds and becoming best selling authors. And then you come along with a post like this one, kicking us in our collective asses to press on harder and at the same time giving us a way to achieve our goals if we work hard. I have come 95% of the way along the path you’ve outlined in this post. I finished a book. I published it. People bought it and it got good reviews. I wrote another, better book and published it. I obtained the services of a professional editor. I wrote a third book better than the others with her help and put out improved second editions of my books with her help. I became discouraged when none of my books had hit the bestseller list yet and my work on my fourth novel faltered a bit — I called it writer’s block but now I see it was more shameful than that. Some of your posts during that bleak period helped me pick myself up by the bootstraps and get going again. I finished my fourth book and I think it was way better than all the previous ones. I’m working on the final editing of my fifth novel now and, because I still haven’t hit the bestseller list, was beginning to doubt myself. The devil on my left shoulder was telling me my writing was all crap. Then the angel on my right shoulder (you) told me to stop being a silly lazy ass and get back to work. I also thought of readers who have followed me through four books of a series. My fifth book is the last of the series and my conscience tells me I must not leave my Constant Readers dangling. So back to work I go, thank you Kirsten, my Angel.
Loved your articles as I always do; knowing I am not alone is half the battle. Happy Writing!
Good article as always!
Thank you for this. If I may add my two cents’ worth, at the end of the day it’s not having my work on a shelf that gives me the utmost satisfaction but the joy of creating something. At least to me, that thumps all.
“How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to set firm boundaries with friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?”
This bit hit a little too close to home for me D;
I treat my primary hobby, karate, very seriously. I go to the dojo 3x/week for 1-2 hours at a time, and the only acceptable excuse for skipping class is actual illness. The result? I got my black belt four months ago.
Flip to my writing. You know, the ‘hobby’ that I actually want to make into a career. I put it off when I’m tired, or when I’d rather read, and I recently went an entire month without writing at all out of some misplaced conviction that I have no talent and will never be a good writer (yup, time to go read that article about people lacking the talent to be authors;) ). End result? Still not even ready for a content edit.
I love posts like this. Magically becoming super-talented and hitting bestseller lists is a unicorn dream. Putting in the hard work to improve and keep going is achievable.
I recently encountered VIM: Vision, Intention and Means. It’s far too easy to get stuck on the Vision and not carry on to consider whether you are really intent on achieving it (committed) or not, and if so, how you’re going to get there.
I’ve published one book and I’m working on a second book, while keeping a wary eye out for black bears and lightning. Wait – there are no black bears in New Zealand! What will that do to my odds of success? Maybe I can arrange to be mauled by a Captain Cooker instead, or an unusually savage possum…
Really well put together. I wish every new and emerging author would read this and embrace it. I’m certainly going to recommend they do so, but I fear only a small percentage will. How small?
Thanks for the positive words. I rolled when I saw that you use the term Pre-Legend. I advertise myself as “Biker – Writer – Legend” I’m just getting started in the writing world. I have a handful of short stories in ink. There is no other feeling in the world like seen your name in ink.
Thanks for this post Kristen, I really appreciate it. I’m going to be needing a copy of this next to my computer as a constant reminder. 😉
Oh, I needed this spanking this morning!
Yes, yes, yes, marvelous! Thank you.
I love this! And I needed the pep talk again today. Thank you! (Can’t wait to see you this fall on the cruise!)
Great article, Kristen! As a publisher for a dozen years, I learned a long time ago that what you wrote here is absolutely correct. Thanks for putting this out for all of us to read. And I absolutely believe your 5% is right on target… every step along the way.
Kristen – Thanks for always nailing the nuances of all of this in a way that makes so much sense. Being in the 5% of anything IS an accomplishment and so much is attributed to the journey. Believing and taking action are the steps to getting there. You ROCK lady!
Love reading your posts Kristen. Just the smack up the side of the head I need! 🙂
Kristen, I love how you tell it so honestly. This is an uphill swim, and as you lay out, writers must have that grit. I would add though that you gotta love the journey and especially the writing. While busting through, don’t forget why you’re doing it. Don’t forget that it is the love of storytelling and expressing creativity that makes it all worthwhile. Don’t forget to simmer in the joy of writing. The effort to become a success can suck all that joy out of us. Thank you for your candor and humor, girlfriend!
Well, I am definitely a 5-percenter!! Been through any of those 5% stages and feel so much better about what I’ve done so far.
I’ll be posting this insightful blog to my website and sharing it with other aspiring writers I work with.
Many thanks, Kristen.
A friend posted the link to your article on Facebook and I’m so glad she did. The stats you cite are both devastating (the odds of getting published) and uplifting (to be among the few who actually persevered to the end). I plan on rereading. Thank you!
Such a valuable and enlightening heads up, Kristen. I feel as though I have been pushed through a mincer, but realise it was a good journey after all!
As usual, great blog from a perspective I’ve never really considered. Loved it, thanks Kristen!
Decided not to finish reading this blog post, because I better get back to writing. The first half of it inspired me to keep at it. ?
That was supposed to be an “!” at the end, not a “. ?”.
I love the way you whittle down the odds with all the 5%s. I know this is true, but I enjoy reading your encouraging reminders. 🙂
This is a great piece! Thank you for sharing your excellent thoughts and ideas, and your sense of humor. You are a gem among gems!
I’ve printed Pre-published Author and have it across the top on my screen.! Love your articles Kristen. I read so many on the craft of writing, but I’m always coming back to yours for keeping it real. No BS here, just honest advice and and fabulous information.
This was exactly the post I needed to read! I already feel stronger than I did earlier this week. I’m never giving up and you reminded me why I shouldn’t! I love your posts and the Pre-Published Author tag is GENIUS!! Thank you 🙂
I am a sponge and new to this world and devoured it. I needed the strightfowarness. I wanna be you when I grow up!
Awwww…me too! LOL.
I don’t care if it’s 00001% I’m not quitting. I’m sick of people (in this case a family member.) telling me they know *my* limits. Nobody decides my limits but me. I’m doing this.
I think the problem with many people who consider themselves authors is that they never quantify what their goals are. Are you trying to make $100,000 a year? For 25 years? Do you realize how much it cost to own a home, on a car, pay taxes?
Amazon controls the bookselling world. Amazon controls audiobooks. Amazon can alter the percentage that you get paid anytime they want. This makes the ads even more difficult to succeed. Is your definition of succeed, selling millions of books and making millions of $$? Do you realize how much you would pay in taxes even? So now what are the real odds of making it as a successful author? One and 10 million? It really never answered the question. You basically just said it takes a lot of hard work and few are willing to do that
Well, multiple factors are in play here. First, this is an older post, written before NYC publishing and B&N committed business suicide. This is why I frequently post on the same topics, especially when it comes to the publishing business. So first of all, some of this information is arguably outdated. We (authors) had a bit more control over the odds before Amazon took total control.
The second factor will be what genre are you writing. To be blunt? Romance is a good 70% of the market and odds are better for becoming successful in romance. Then thriller and suspense are next. They are commercial fiction, and (other than non-fiction), these genres sell very well to the masses of readers and ‘non-readers.’
Thirdly? There is just plain damned dumb luck. I have read books that were BRILLIANT and yet they languished in obscurity. Other books that I felt should have been burned simply because of the insult to my native language? Became 50 Shades of pop culture phenomena.
The point with this 5% exercise is to bring things into focus. If we look at the BIG, HUGE picture, it seems impossible. But break it down into pieces and it suddenly is at least doable. No one can control the stars aligning just right, but the problem is too many authors fixate on ads, newsletters, and marketing (all of which have a terrible ROI without an established brand and books for sale) without writing more books and becoming better storytellers. They worry about all the stuff they can’t control (dumb luck) when that time would be better spent doing the hard work.
As for the money side of things, as an author you are self-employed and you might consider becoming an LLC, because almost everything is a deduction. You can deduct a portion of your house payment, car payment, utilities, internet, phone, travel, all the expenses for ads and marketing and on and on. Get a good accountant–because I am NOT an accountant and laws vary by state and country–and you probably will pay very little in taxes because you can take advantage of a lot of the same breaks small businesses enjoy.
But yes, you are correct. In fact, it is odd you replied because I was just talking to a friend about defining success. If your goal is to simply write your life story to hand down to kids and grandkids? Then when you finish that book, have it edited, formatted, buy a cover and get it ready for POD? You are a success!
Yet, I see SO many authors (and been guilty myself) who CLAIM to want to be NYTBSAs but they don’t want to do the work or make the sacrifices LONG-TERM to get to that spot.
Thanks for the comment. I always love a great discussion and fabulous to meet you!