Most writers would like to think that our brilliant writing, clever premise, and skillful plot manipulation are the primary things that lead to a book selling. We want to believe this, perhaps even need to believe this, because it helps us feel that we have some control over our writing careers, such as they are. If it’s all about skills, we can just work harder to become better writers, thereby increasing our chances of being published.
That said, as many writers can tell you, luck is a big component to the publishing game. You have to write not just a good book, or a great book, but the right book. Then you (or the right agent) have to send it out to the the right editor at just the right time. If this weren’t true, then how would any of the great classics of literature have ever been rejected even once? If all it were about was the quality of the writing and the story, every great book would immediately sell, leading to accolades, fame, and wealth for the author. We know it ain’t so.
Yet sometimes I encounter writers who would have you believe that it was only their hard work that led to their writing successes. As though they alone controlled the outcome.
Today, I read a news story about a CNN producer who has won the lottery twice. She tells her own story here. Part of the story is touching, because she apparently won $100,000 the first time, just at the moment she most needed it. Those are wonderful stories, when crisis is averted by a sudden windfall.
The rest of the story is pure aggravation. Here is what she has to say about why she won:
“I believe that this blessing came to me because I have worked very hard.”
I have scratched lottery tickets before. It’s not that difficult. It certainly doesn’t qualify as “hard work.” Somehow, this woman believes that she won the lottery because she deserved it for working so hard. These are the words of someone who is either delusional or lacking in logic. Unless one is cheating, one wins the lottery, because through a process of random chance, one has purchased a winning ticket. It has nothing to do with hard work or being deserving.
The same is true with writing and publishing. To get published, you have to write a book (or in some cases, hire someone to write your book.) Hard work helps with this, because writing a book is not as easy as buying a lottery ticket. That said, the rest of the equation is all about getting your book into the hands of the right editor at the right moment. This rests a very great deal on chance.
What say you? How important is luck? In publishing? In winning the lottery? In everyday life?