Episode 11: The Odds of Success
Can You Survive Being an Author?
Episode 11 – The Odds of Success
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All right. Welcome to the show today guys, can you survive being an author? Today we talk about the odds of success.
One of the top questions I get asked, “What’s the odds of surviving as an author?”
To answer the question, I did a bit of research. Through my research I discovered the road to success for an author is long…many rejections…and at times, depressing.
Let’s take a look at these extremely successful authors who had I asked them when they started out if they could survive would probably have told me no, but today, their answer is a bit different.
Maybe one day I will have the pleasure of interviewing or meeting one of them… I’d pick their brains apart and ask as many questions as possible in the short amount of time I’d have with them. Until then, I’ll continue reading what others have asked and written about…
One of the best articles I came across and is brilliantly written, is called The Writer’s Odds of Success, by William Dietrich. And honestly, I can’t compete with a Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist… but I will go a different path based on the brilliance of Mr. Dietrich.
Why Write a Book…
Let’s discuss why, if the odds of success for an author are so low, why would a person want to write a book?
I truly believe every person in the world has a story to share with the world. The problem is, writing requires dedication, tenacity and a bit of luck. Anyone can write…to be great one must study and practice. So…
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and Forbes more than 80% of Americans would like to be an author, where actually 90% have a book they have dreamed of writing, but won’t. Google estimates over 130 million books have been published in human history.
Of the 90% who won’t write their book, and the 10% who will, only 3% of writers will actually write and publish their book. EEKS! That means that 97% of writers don’t finish their book.
So why DO people want to write a book, if they’re ultimately not going to finish.
Well, let’s take James Patterson who in 2012 made $94 million (ish), according to Forbes. He writes to entertain. He writes because he enjoys the art of storytelling. His book Killer Instinct co-written has a sales ranking of #737. He’s written hundreds of books…You go get em Mr. Patterson!
I believe, especially for me, I write to inspire others. I believe, as author Angel Santiago of To Be Forever said, “When people read what you have written a little piece of you comes alive within them and that is a beautiful thing.”
He was speaking of characters, though non-fiction writers I believe this to be true also…essentially when I wrote A Resilient Soul and Never Lose Faith, I wanted a small piece of me to come alive in others…so others could share their story too.
One of my all-time favorite authors, John Grisham has earned million’s, that is after his first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected 12+ times! Do you know what he did… he tried selling from the trunk of his car. Unsuccessfully.
So… what happened and how did A Time to Kill become a $30+ million dollar book made into a movie? He was tenacious and wasn’t about to let rejection keep him from doing something he knew provided entertainment and joy to others.
And thank goodness he was tenacious! His latest gem, The Guardians: A Novel is one of my favorites.
Tenacious & Inspiring…
Another one of my favorite stories is that of Stephen King. His first big novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times. He tossed it in the wastebasket but his wife fished it out. He’s one of the highest grossing authors of all-time. I’m not a fan of Mr. King’s books, except as door stops, I mean seriously, have you seen the size of them…but I will undoubtedly say he is a master of the craft of writing.
Creepy isn’t my thing…
He’s making millions being creepy, so good for him! Want to check out his latest book, head to Amazon and help him get a bit more cash in his pockets.
But…my absolute favorite story to share to individuals who want to write but are doubting themselves… who don’t think they can be the 3%, here’s an inspiration for all.
J.K. Rowling, the first author billionaire, had Harry Potter rejected by a dozen British publishing houses and reportedly got into print, for a £1,500 advance, only after the eight-year-old daughter of a publisher pleaded for it.
Now who is laughing?
I bet every one of the British publishing houses who rejected her story is in a pub somewhere wallowing in their beers. Just saying…maybe next time they’ll take a chance!
According to Mr. Dietrich’s post, Gone With the Wind, rejected 38 times; A Wrinkle in Time, 29 times; Lord of the Flies, 20 times; Chicken Soup for the Soul, 33 times; C.S. Lewis got 800 rejections, and Western writer Louis L’Amour 200. Even The Diary of Anne Frank got numerous rejections.
The point in all this is you can either choose to remain in the 80-90%, or become of the 10% who write their story, or better yet, become one of the 3% who writes and publishes their story.
Which are you? Take this example…
I don’t want to sound like writing a book is easy…
I also don’t want to say your book will sell hundreds or thousands of books. Actually, in 2006, Publisher’s Weekly said the average book sells less than 500 copies.
Now, I believe that isn’t a horrible number when you think in terms of how many lives your book has touched.
Think about this… 500 hundred books sold means that at least 1 person’s life was touched by your story (either fictional characters or as a non-fiction motivational story).
Now, those 500 books had to go somewhere, correct? We can assume that they didn’t get thrown away after they were bought.
That means, if 500 books were bought and then given (either given, rented, or sold) to another 500 people… Your story has now touched 1000 people, at least!
I don’t know about you, but to touch 1000 lives by writing my story – having a piece of me shared with others – HECK YES!
Will I become rich on 500 copies of just one book…
That’s all relevant.
Because what I know to be true… if I continue to write, I will become “rich” according to Forbes or the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And heck, maybe one day someone will interview me or write a post or news article about how many rejections I received, and how I am one of the wealthiest and giving authors of our time.
So, can you survive the odds? I’d love to hear what percentage you are!
Leave a comment and let’s talk about it. That’s all for this episode and post.
Remember this…You’re just one word away…
I appreciate each and every one of you for listening and reading the transcript or the blog post. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can always email me at email@example.com and I will personally reply (generally depending on where I am with my current book or project).
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The Writer Insider produced by Susan Kiley and edited by, David L. White.
“When people read what you have written, a little piece of you comes alive within them and that is a beautiful thing.”