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.