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First Get Good, Then Get Lucky
If you’ve been a writer for any length of time, you’ve no doubt read many books that tell you how to write bestselling fiction. You’ve also no doubt been assailed by at least as many marketing experts telling you the best way to market your novel so it will become a bestseller.
I’ve been writing all my life. My first attempt at fiction was e-published in 2010. For ten years now I’ve been actively honing my fiction writing and marketing skills in pursuit of ever-elusive success. I’ve read a lot of books and investigated a lot of book marketing programs.
Here’s what I know for sure – nothing.
Most of what I’ve learned is what doesn’t work. Here’s a few of them:
- social media
- free books – as in zero price point
- email lists
- social media – yes, I know I’ve already mentioned it, but social media deserves to be reinforced because not only does it not sell books, but for the delusional among us (myself included) it’s seductive, addictive, and a huge time waster – time that could be better spent actually writing something worthwhile instead of responding to virtual fans in the internet void.
So how do you become a bestselling author?
You get lucky.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, The Story of Success, success follows a predictable pattern. It’s not the brightest who succeed, nor is it the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf.
Success is bestowed upon those who have been given opportunities – and have the strength and the presence of mind to seize them – plus accidents of time, birth and place matter greatly.
Let me repeat that; success is less about talent and more about opportunity plus it’s greatly influenced by accidents of time, birth and place.
In a word, luck.
There’s no master plan, no formula, it’s all a fluke, pure and simple serendipity.
So, is luck all it takes to be a success?
No, you also have to be prepared so if you do get lucky and get invited to the ball you actually know how to dance.
There’s this little thing about having to do 10,000 hours (ten years) of practice to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything. According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, etc., this number comes up again and again.”
Excellence at performing a complex task, like writing a good novel, requires a critical minimum level of practice and that’s all there is to it.
You first must get good, then get lucky.
So, if you’re an indie author about to self-publish your first novel and you haven’t logged 10,000 hours of practice your chance at success is negligible, nil, nada.
Worse yet, if by a fluke you do get lucky without being good you’ve likely blown your big chance.
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Rod Raglin