Luck: The Most Fowl of Illusions

First off, I’m not actually a “published” or “signed” author or even as many would proclaim, even recognizable as a legit “author” by what most of society deems as being an actual author. So writing this little blurb(more or less a rant) based on our topic of the month at hand might seem a bit unnerving and silly.

I am however a writer; a self-published writer, but still a writer. Because what do writers do? They write. Sometimes until their genitals bleed. My “self-published” status is mostly due to the fact that I don’t actually intend on ever being “signed” or “published” by any of the big names or any names at all if I can help it. I don’t want a contract with deadlines controlling my every move, I don’t want someone telling me “what’s hot” or “this is what’s selling, so write about this”; in hindsight I would cease to be a writer, in turn surrendering over my material. I don’t want “what the public is currently into” to dictate what I have to write about in order to make a buck. And after a hundred demanded rewrites and re-edits, whatever words I’ve splooged would cease to actually be my material. Of course the aforementioned is not how the gun show plays out every time, but it’s just not the road I want to go down. It’s not the kind of risk I’m fond of taking when my words are on the line.


With that said, luck has absolutely nothing to do with my writing/publishing process…I simply get inspired by life, write my ish with whatever verbatim my literary libido prescribes, get a few opinions from close friends, edit the piss out of it once, twice, thrice…(maybe this is where luck comes into play, as in editing my own work it is impossible to catch every single little tid bitty of a lyrical error)…and finally upload my manuscript and cover designs to Lulu’s media platform and BAZINGA….out comes my spawn in the form of a paperback šŸ™‚

Simple, methodic, religious, and a bit tedious at times…but it’s better than being just the flavor of the week. I prefer doing all the work myself. 100% control is my bitch….perhaps to a fault, perhaps not; I haven’t decided, maybe it’s best not to decide. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all and it’s completely andĀ irrevocablyĀ irrelevant; I’ll leave it up to Black Jesus to decide.

Of course, my literary loves, this does not mean I respect you professionally-signed peeps any less or at all; I love you all because we all share a love for the written art. And while I don’t give “luck” Ā a second’s thought in regards to my writing or everyday life, I do believe that being optimistic plays a key role in our respective literary worlds. In the end, I like to hope that luck plays a very minor role in our respective positions…as we are all artists, and as artists we must create from life…not depend on luck.

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Throw the dice, find a four-leafed clover, don’t forget your horseshoe … oh yeah … and the BIG secret

teehee … Now we’re either on the edge of our seats waiting for the big, top secret to success. But first …Here are some crazy business/publishing/reader facts just to make you feel like crap:

  1. Our readers: 1/3 high schoolers don’t read another book after high school. And 42% of college grads can be lumped in the same box. 80% of US families DID NOT buy or read a single book last year. 70% of American Adults havenā€™t set foot in a bookstore in at least 5 years.
  2. 70% of books published do not earn their advances back. (meaning 70% of all books on the market lose money for their publisher)
  3. According to R.R. Bowker, there are about 175,000 books published each year. That is an average of 479 books each day, or about 19 books every hour. (Kind of makes me feel NOT so special right now)
  4. According to Publishers Weekly, there are more than 86,300 publishing companies worldwide. Self-publishers make up the vast majority. In fact, self-publishers make up about 86,000 of that figure. There are about three or four hundred mid-sized publishers and six large publishers that are well-known. These figures give you a good idea of how difficult it can be to have a book accepted by a major publisher.
Uff … Take a seat. I know. We have these incredibly high hopes for our books and our author platforms. We’ll be the next … fill-in-the-blank.
So what’s that secret? It depends on how you define success.
As for success in my career, that’s tricky. True: I have four published books and am writing my fifth (under contract). But my numbers, by any measure of “success” aren’t successful. In fact, my sales are … not good. Honestly, I owe my career to my relentlessly supportive agent and first novel, FREEZE FRAME, that won the IRA (international reading association) Best Book for Children and Teens in 2009. This was a big deal award and I’ve been riding that out on every novel ever since. Again, though, I’m NOT a “successful” author because I simply don’t have sales … I’ve never earned royalties on any books (to date) and have never gone into a second printing on any books, not even FREEZE FRAME … I feel successful in my career, though, because I’m able to do what I love. Also, it’s a hard world to break into. Just having one novel on the shelves is a gift!
So, let’s ignore the numbers. After that ramble. What makes any writer successful?

  1. I love my job.
  2. I work hard. I sit and write. I write badly. I revise. I listen to critiques. I re-write. I stare at cursors blinking on the screen. I procrastinate. But at the end of the day, I write.
  3. I’m hungry. As opposed to “life success” … my career success hinges on this. I need to feel the hunger, the drive to write better. To come up with more interesting characters. To read and read and read and study so I can write better. Hunger is KEY to success. I don’t sit back and think a muse will come. I sit and work my tail off until at least one sentence in ten pages is worth saving.
  4. I share. So many people want to “guard” the gates. Keep secrets. I recommend agents and editors to writers. I pass along information. I try to help my writers’ group with critiques. I support libraries, teachers, and anybody who loves books. I will give a SKYPE visit to anybody who donates to my charity of choice: FIRST BOOK.ORG, instead of asking for payment.
  5. I’ve been able to write what I love. I’ve had editors and houses support my crazy ideas and back me up even when the numbers weren’t there. Lots of people work to make this happen. Lots of people take leaps of faith. I’m just lucky to have had this, time and again.

Ignore the numbers. Define “success.” And enjoy the ride because, well, it’s a tough one but worth it. Even if you get ONE SINGLE LETTERĀ  a year from a kid who says, “Wow. I haven’t read a book in ages. I loved your book.”

One letter? Success. Big time. That’s the secret — that one letter.Image

An Expected Journey

This year in May, my dream of becoming a published author will come true. But this isnā€™t something unexpected. This is something I strove to accomplish. Something I wanted so much that I never gave up on it. A goal I kept running toward no matter what obstacles got in my way.

It wasnā€™t easy, though. My debut novel is actually the fourth book I wrote. The first three didnā€™t quite make the cut in the eyes of the agency gods. Or was it I who didnā€™t make the cut? The early, naĆÆve, amateur version of me? Probably.

But the point is: I never gave up. I wiped away years of tears, swallowed back rejection after rejection, and tried to get my breath back after those close calls didnā€™t pan out. And I just kept on writing. And learning and growing and learning some more. Because thatā€™s what writers do.

And all the while I had one goal set: The peak of the mountain that I climbed my way toward despite the rocks crumbling over my head and the slipping of my feet. I knew I could only get to where I wanted to go if I didnā€™t stop. Because if I stopped, Iā€™d just let myself slip back down the mountain to remain at the bottom, perhaps occasionally looking up and wondering if I would have ever made it to the top or not. But I didnā€™t stop. I expected to reach my goal, somehow. And I kept going. I persevered.

Did luck have anything to do with it? Yes, of course. It is this careful combination of luck and perseverance that gets us to where we want to go. And itā€™s getting me where I want to go.

This journey was not unexpected. The twists and turns and ups and downs, perhaps. The ā€˜whenā€™ of it was always a question, of course. But the journey itself was absolutely expected. And Iā€™m almost there.

Publishing–How much is luck?

Being that it’s March, this month’s topic has to do with publishing and luck. Or in other words, how much luck to you need to get published?

I’ve never considered myself an overly lucky person, quite the opposite in fact. I often tell people, if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

It’s true I’ve been published–but luck had nothing to do with it. Obsessive persistence? Yeah, that sounds about right. It seems like you’ll hear all over the internet about the overnight success stories–the people who got and agent in a week and a publishing contract shortly after that. I am not one of those people. Here are my numbers:

It took me two books, two years, and over two hundred rejections until I signed with my first agent.

Yeah. You read that right.

From there it took three months of revisions, five acquisition meetings, a dozen rejections, and a year on submission until I landed my first book deal. It would then take another two years before my book would sit on a store shelf.

Now I’m what you would call a midlist author. I’m not a NY Times bestseller, my book didn’t make any lists or win any awards. But more importantly, my sales have been good and the major reviewers have been kind. KATANA sold out of its first print run and did well enough for my publisher to offer me a third book contract.

Would I call that a success? You bet your buttons! Would I call it luck? Only if you consider luck to be a combination of tears, blood, sweat, and alcohol.

How Do You Keep Going Until You Find Your Luck?

“Some writers hate the idea that luck plays a big part in success, but it does. But I’ve found that the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
–Joe Konrath


My path to publication began with a New Year’s Resolution. It went something like this: I think I’ll write a book this year (to the tune of: la la la, won’t that be fun??Ā ;)) At the time I had no idea how much work it was going to be. I just knew I’d always wanted to write a book & I finally had an idea for a story tickling at the back of my brain.

It was a challenging year, but I wrote the book. I finished! In fact, since I was very much learning to write on the fly, I rewrote it several times. It won some awards…but never sold. Flash forward a dozen years and I’ve written ten books (depending on how you count all those rewrites and partial books ;)).

In that time, I’ve published one haiku, one YA short story, and a novella. šŸ™‚ On the surface that could be very discouraging. All those books. All that effort. Was it time wasted?

No. I learned a lot.

  • Ā LearningĀ is never a waste of time.

So I want to talk a little about how do you keep going until you find your luck?

I can’t tell you how many roadblocks and detours I’ve come across on my writing journey. I can tell you there have been a lot. I’ve reinvented myself several times and changed genres. (Or perhaps not so much reinventing as evolving as my interests changed.) All the while, I’ve tried to keep learning and am always trying to stretch myself. IĀ think that’s what Mr. Konrath was referring to in his quote on luck: You can’tĀ controlĀ luck, but you can increase your odds of success by working hard.

  • You certainlyĀ can’t succeed if you give up.

Here are a few other things that have helped me keep going, even through times of discouragement:

  • Take yourself seriously.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.

What do I mean by that? I don’t think of writing as a hobby. This is my job. I work hard at it. I finish my projects.Ā I take myself seriously.

But I also try not to take myself too seriously. EveryĀ disappointmentĀ can feel like the end of the world, and I have to remind myself that it’s not. The mostĀ importantĀ things in life are theĀ peopleĀ in our lives: our family and friends. The kind of people we are. A rejection from an agent or editor (or a bad review!) is just a blip.

  • So that person didn’t connect with my story-I don’t likeĀ everything I read either.
  • I have readers out there somewhere, and, with time, I’ll connect with them.Ā 

So I brush myself off and keep going. šŸ™‚

  • Be willing to reinvent yourself.

My goal all along was to publish novels with a traditional publisher. And not just any traditionalĀ publisher.Ā I was kind of snobby(?) and wanted to publish with a Big Publisher. Part of not taking myself too seriously was being willing to try a small press. That’s how I got my first novella published. And, you know what? It was a great experience. I learned a lot. I’ve tried theĀ traditionalĀ route for my novels and have had many “close calls,” but in the end those deal didn’t comeĀ together.Ā I could have continued on with querying and waiting. I could have given up.Ā 

(I did consider it–there were some tough moments–but, honestly, how could I give upĀ somethingĀ I love so much??)


April 2013

Instead, I decided to consider my options. I wanted my booksĀ published, I wanted to connect with readers,Ā and I wasn’t getting any younger. LOL So when the rights to my novella came back to me,Ā I took a chance and self-published it . And I LOVED IT! So, yet again, I’veĀ reinventedĀ myself. Next month, as an indie author, I’m releasing my first novel, AIRE. (See my new cover?! Squee!! Thank you, Lisa A!)

I couldn’t be happier about Ā taking this new path. Will luck find me? Oh, who knows! šŸ˜‰ I do know I’ve worked hard and willĀ continueĀ to work hard. I’ll takeĀ myselfĀ seriously (but not too seriously), and I’ll enjoy the journey.Ā 

Do you have a mantra or quote that helps you get through the tough times? Please share in the comments!


Updating to add: Enter to win a free paperback copy at Goodreads!

Thick Skin

Unlike many of the other seasoned authors with which I share this stage, this publishing process is my first (of what I hope will be many). Now, I never imagined that at the age of twenty-one, I would be on the threshold of such a grand accomplishment, but then again, stranger things have happened. And, to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what I was doing when I first started crafting and writing Shattered Illusions. I was still in high school. I was young(er) and naive, and though I had long grown out of the notion that the world was a magical place in which dreams miraculously came true, I had faith in myself and in my ability to bring my book to the world.

I did not write Shattered Illusions with the idea in mind for publishing. At least, not until I got to about half way, and I realized that my days spent writing were much more serious than I originally thought them to be. Writing Shattered Illusions gave me the freedom to be myself which I had not known existed before. That is not to say that it was easy, because it wasnā€™t. Even now, in the final stage before publishing, itā€™s difficult, perhaps more than it was before.

Many people who I love and cherish dearly were the first ones to tell me that becoming a published author would take a lot of hard work, persistence and resilience. Many of them told me that it wasnā€™t even worth the pressure, and that instead of spending my time writing, then querying, then publishing, I should focus on things that other people my age were focused on. One of my closest friends even went as far as to tell me that she believed it was hopeless and that I should just give up. She did not want to see me get hurt, and so she felt that it was worth abandoning something that I was incredibly passionate about. The worry was not about whether or not the book would succeed or fail, it was a matter of whether or not the anyone would actually want to publish it. Though I continued to prove all of them wrong, it hurt to know these people were telling me to give up on my dreams, because it was easier to live a boring life, than a potentially exciting life where one may occasionally experience pain or discomfort.

The publishing process was not necessarily the difficult part in my case. In my case, it was learning to be resilient in the face of negative reviews or nasty remarks. If this process has taught me one thing, it is that at the end of the day, regardless of what anyone says to me, I have to look within for my happiness. If the goal of publishing was to gain the attention and love of everyone around me, I would have given up a long time, because that is not the case. At the end of the day, my opinion is really the only one that matters. Itā€™s definitely nice to hear positive feedback from people who have already read the book, but those words should not become the defining factor, the be all and end all to my decisions. Itā€™s a tough world to break into, and itā€™s incredibly difficult to stay afloat if the tiniest remark or query causes your boat to flood.

Iā€™m not saying that it is in any way easy to bounce back after hearing negative remarks. One reviewer went as far as to beg me to ā€˜find another profession, because writing was obviously not my calling.ā€™ It didnā€™t matter that I had received plenty of positive reviews from seasoned writers. That comment was like a stab in the gut, and for days after, all I could do was cry, and stuff my face with chocolate. It was not a pretty picture. But, I also realized that hundreds of people had gone through this kind of rejection, if not worse. My high school English teacher once told me that he framed the first rejection he ever received, because it meant he was a real writer. I have yet to frame the negative feedback and hang it on my wall to display, but I have definitely come a long way from lying in fetal position on my bathroom floor, crying my eyes out as though a boy just stomped on my heart. I can preach until tomorrow, but when it comes down to it, negative reviews suck. Still, I have learned, through many a harsh remarks, to bounce back and come up smiling.

This has been the greatest lesson in my young life thus far. How to chuck the negativity out of my life, in this sense and in many others. Itā€™ll be quite a while before I can say that none of these things bother me, but Iā€™m getting there.