Luck is a stranger you meet on the road called Perseverance

fortunetellerYes, well, there is a such thing as luck. Like going to a bar with a friend and both of you meet your future husbands on the same night. What kind of crummy romance novel did that come out of, you ask? The crummy romance novel of my life. That actually happened to me. I’ve long since lost touch with that other couple, but I’m still married to that guy.

So, I guess, there have been zillions of times I’ve been lucky.Β  Close shaves, near catastrophes averted. That’s the kind of luck I’ll stick with.

But I don’t want to talk about that kind of luck. I want to talk about luck vs. perseverance in publishing.

But first, how do you define luck?

Getting signed on your first submission for a mega-deal with a top publisher and a king’s ransom sized publicity budget? Yeah? I am familiar with plenty of tales like that. And I guess those folks are lucky. They were in the right place at the right time and someone noticed. Some of those lucky people worked their buns off to get that lucky. Some didn’t work that hard and got lucky anyway.

So here’s my feeling about luck. Forget it. Because if you are one of those people who don’t work all that hard and get luckyβ€”then what? What will you do for your second act?

This is what I think luck in publishing is. Luck is finding your writer’s voice. And that usually isn’t about luck at all. That’s about probably three or four books in from your first. Drafts, and rewrites and miserable critiques from your critique group.

I wrote four entire books before I wrote BREAKING GLASS. The first three are in the dust bin, probably never to be heard from again. The fourth has been totally re-envisioned and has possibly found a new life. I know that’s not that impressive to some of you workhorses with six books coming out in a year. But I’m guessing it took years of effort to be able to write that fast and that well.

Once upon a time I had a thin prickly skin and wanted the world to know what a genius I was. That big break was going to come. Oh yeah. And it did. Sort of. I found a *big agent* who insisted that they could *make my career*. Right. That was almost five years ago. Said agent and I did not see eye to eye on what my career should be. The agent was very quick to tell me that I would *never design my own cover.* So that was that. The end of my so-called lucky streak.

It took me a good year to pick myself up off the floor and pull my shattered ego together again. I realized I had to get out of the Lucky Game–and just write. And write and write and write, until I bled words.

And here’s the rest of the story. It may not be that mega-deal of my once upon a time dreams, but I’m pretty sure it’s some really amazing luck.

In early 2010, I won first runner-up in a writing contest. Which got me noticed by a rather well-known agent. Who didn’t sign me, but actually helped me edit my ms. I queried my butt off that spring, breaking every rule in the book ( I sent out 90 queries at the same time). I got a 25% request rate, maybe because of the contest win? I have no idea. Maybe because I asked a few really talented query writers to help me write the best query I could manage? I’ll never know.

In the summer I had about nine agents considering my ms. But they were hemmng and hawing. Only one agent was ready to sign me without hesitation. That was the then, brand spanking new agent, Victoria Marini. She later confessed I was her second client. And given my past experience with a big shot agent, I was ready to give the little shot a try. Little shot, you’re thinking? Victoria Marini who is now practically a household name? I took a chance on her–she took a chance on me. We are both very happy with the arrangement.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. It took awhile to sell BREAKING GLASS. A few big publishers were really interested–BUT–they couldn’t get their associates to sign on. It was too weird, too this, too that. No one wanted to take a chance on anything in 2011.

Except the brand new publisher Spencer Hill Press. They fell in love with my manuscript. Just the way Victoria had fallen in love with my writing. They were small. They didn’t have the capital to do mega-anything except mega-enthusiasm. But, honestly, mega-enthusiasm should not be under-rated.

Yet, here it is a year later and SHP has tripled in size to become one of the biggest small publishers out there. So big, in fact, it is now officially a mid-sized publisher. And, what some of you may know is that Spencer Hill Press DID let me design my own cover. And then hired me to do about seven more for other authors. With more to come. Who saw that coming?

So–what IS luck, anyway?

Luck is a stranger you meet on a road called Perseverance.

You can’t really meet that stranger if you don’t drive down that road.
And if you do try to take a short cut, it might just be a one-night stand.

Thoughts? Reactions? Tales of your own you’d like to share?

BreakingGlassFRONTBREAKING GLASS releases July, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Breaking-Glass-the-book

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18 thoughts on “Luck is a stranger you meet on the road called Perseverance

  1. It’s funny how you can never envision at the start of your journey where you’ll end up, and yet this sounds like a great fit for you. Congrats!

  2. Lisa, I can’t believe anyone had doubts about your cover designs! I, too, signed on with a relatively new agent, although she’d been working for a big agency selling foreign rights. When she left the company to start her own agency, I followed her, and it’s been a complete hoot watching the growth of her business and her personal reputation. (Cheers, Kate Schafer Testerman!)

  3. Lisa is a ball of “don’t quit ever” … love that!! I love the title of the post, too! πŸ™‚ This is, by the way, how I got my husband to marry me. After following him around the world (up mountains, down river, backpacking, hiking, enduring 45 long hour bus rides etc.) for five years, he finally said, “Yes!” πŸ˜‰ Perseverance works!

  4. Lisa, this is going to be phenom! I can’t wait to read it. I know it’s gonna bust out and be huge! As for luck, I’m lucky with winning things lately, knock wood. And certainly I was lucky to have met my husband online!

  5. I LOVE your story, Lisa!!! And I am so happy to have met you. I guess that’s a bit of luck for me, eh? I can’t wait to read BREAKING GLASS. And well, you know how I feel about your art work. πŸ˜€

  6. If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;

    Kipling knows his onions. Great post, Lisa.

  7. Whoops–and Dylan, who is not a lady, but most certainly a gentleman. MAN–I love your Kipling!!! I think I should have that engraved or a least made into a needlepoint. Maybe you’ve just given me some inspiration, Mr. Jones.

  8. And Ellen–it should be clarified, that at the time I was not a book cover designer–just an illustrator and main-stream graphic designer. In fact, the person in question had never even seen any of my work. It was just a proclamation on the state of the publishing business circa 2008. My how things have changed since then, for all of us.

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