Luck Be A Lady

Talent plays a very small role in a writer’s chances for success. I’ve read wonderful stories that will either (1) never be published or, even if published, (2) will never be financially successful.

Oh, persistence helps, along with a good story, knowing the market, and knowing how to present your work to agents and editors. But, luck is, more often than not, what gives the writer a Best Seller.

There’s the luck of having a story that meshes with the current hot topic. (Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a good example of this.) There’s the luck of sending your story to an agent who (1) just happens to love that type of story, and (2) just had lunch with an editor looking for that type of story.

There’s the luck of your book getting into the hands of someone who can give it national publicity. (President Reagan commenting that he enjoyed Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October.) Or the book being picked up or given to someone (an actor or a TV personality) who not only decides the book would make a wonderful movie, but has the clout to get it made into a movie.

There’s also bad luck. I remember back when I was writing for Harlequin a shipment of romances headed for the west coast was lost due to a train wreck. Because category romances have a shelf life of roughly 30 days (before those paperbacks are replaced by the next month’s releases), the train wreck caused those authors to lose thousands of sales, and those were sales that could never be made up. (I was lucky. My book was published a different month and was on the shelves nationally.)

There’s a bad luck scenario going on right now. Books being released this month and next are caught up in the Coronavirus scare. Book tours are being cancelled. Book stores are closing, or if not closed, have cancelled book readings. Book clubs are cancelling meetings. Through no fault of the writer or publisher, the books being released right now (especially books by unknown or lesser known writers) will not get the exposure they need. Chances are, those writers are going to find their sales numbers are lower, and low sales numbers affect a writer’s future chances of being published. (Editors look at a writer’s previous sales numbers to determine the writer’s future money-making potential.)

Of course, luck has two sides. The good luck side of today’s situation is —

  • Writers who have books ready to publish (or already published) that give advice on how to deal with situations like this usually see an increase in sales.
  • Being isolated at home will give people more time to read, and, nowadays, being able to download books and read them electronically has eliminated the need to go to a bookstore.
  • Sales of books that help readers forget all the dire news on TV usually spike. (Romances always seem to do well during these times.)

All writers can do is write the best books they are capable of writing and hope Lady Luck is with them.

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12 Responses to Luck Be A Lady

  1. You are so right, Maris.
    It is up to the author to do all he/she can (publicity for instance) to overcome those obstacles that fate has strewn in our path.
    All the best, Annette

  2. Lucy Kubash says:

    I keep thinking how it is almost like when 9/11 shut down the publishing world for some time. I’m doing some promo now and wondering if anyone is even paying attention. All we can do is try.

  3. Clarice Cook says:

    Great article, as always, Maris. Thanks for putting it in to words. The unknown is always lurking somewhere and we always need a back up plan. The unknown can stop us in that hurry scurry and help us line up our priorities.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Good point, Clarice. There’s always something popping up that we haven’t planned for. As you said, we need to focus on what’s the most important, not dwell on little inconveniences.

  4. Paula Geister says:

    I had thought about how book sales can follow trends in publishing, but not how national and world events can affect writing/sales.
    While this post seems to be targeted at writers of books, I always read your blog because I never rule out the idea of writing a book. Mostly, I write (and have success at) writing magazine articles. When I first decided to write as a freelancer rather than as an employee for a magazine or newspaper, I had “luck” early on and this is my favorite story about luck playing a part in getting a sale.
    Doing business at my bank one day, I overheard another teller talking to a young man just out of high school about his upcoming triathlon. “Wow,” I thought, “that would make a good story.”
    I was in time to catch him as he was leaving and asked about his cycling then inquired about his willingness to be interviewed for a story. I ended up writing a story and selling it to three different sports magazines. “Luckily,” every editor I pitched to said “yes.” I say that was also luck because, being so green, I didn’t realize you don’t use the phone to pitch a story.
    I’ve always believed I was lucky in the beginning of my freelance career and it has served to encourage me ever since.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Paula, your triathlon story is definitely a case of Luck being a Lady…and that you took advantage of being at the right place at the right time.

  5. Hi Maris,

    My latest blog is “Luck and Lit.” In it I mention the following:
    According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.”

    I think hard work pays off and brings luck.

    • Maris Soule says:

      You are so right, Jacqueline, regarding being prepared. It doesn’t matter how lucky you are if you’re not ready to take advantage of a situation when it occurs. I’ll have to go read your blog. (I usually do. Must have missed it.)