Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Luck Has to Do with It

I subscribe to several different writer’s e-zines, including the weekly email notice from Writer’s Market. This week Senior Content Editor Robert Lee Brewer wrote a short piece slamming writers who “are convinced that finding success is like winning the lottery,” writers who think their struggles as writers are at the whim of good or bad luck. He basically says these writers have not met with success because they are lazy, have not invested the time and energy necessary on revision of a manuscript or that they didn’t work to “build a platform.” He claims that “Most success stories come from writers making their own luck through working at their craft, networking , and persevering.”

Give me a break, Brewer! It most certainly is like winning the lottery. It has everything to do with luck. I spent years marketing my self-pubbed book The Call to Shakabaz and I have still not sold out the first printing, despite the fact that it’s a damn good book that has won a heap of awards. But let’s face it, without money to invest in marketing, there’s only so much a person can do. Marketing is a bottomless pit. Building a platform? Working hard? I built my hands raw. I have blogged, social networked, produced an e-zine, written for online media outlets, followed leads, posted articles, pulled content out of thin air to draw traffic to my website. I have mailed promotional copies of that book all over the universe, followed every lead, gone the extra nine yards a million times and I have not won the lottery with that very excellent book. So don’t talk to me about making my own luck.

Mr. Brewer, I got up at 5:30 AM every morning Monday to Friday for six years to work on writing a novel before waking my children and getting them ready for school and going off to my 9-to-5 job. I have now spent over 15 years working on that novel. I have revised that manuscript more times than the Raiders have bungled a football game. I could wallpaper a house with my rejection notices from agents and publishers for that book. Finally, last year, I placed the book with a publisher and it is now in production to be published in 2012. Trust me on this one, Mr. Brewer, it has everything to do with luck. The market is so saturated with good writers jumping up and down and screaming and yelling and shooting off flares while trying to get someone to look in their direction that it takes way more than talent and perseverance to get noticed. Do I feel lucky that one of my books was finally discovered by a publisher? Hell yes. It is like winning the lottery.

Don’t tell me Mr. Brewer that you really believe that people who work hard and persevere will get published. How can you be that naïve? That’s the American Dream myth. And you know what George Carlin says about that: to believe it you have to be asleep. It just doesn’t happen for everyone. It doesn’t happen for a lot of everyones. So quit telling people that luck has nothing to do with it. You’re telling a lot of people who have worked really hard that they bungled it and deserve to fail anyway.

Mr. Brewer will never read these words because no matter how much energy I have put out to the universe to “build a platform,” I’m lucky if even a handful of people read my damn blog each week. And none of you are Mr. Brewer. (I couldn’t even find contact information at Writer’s Market to send a link to my blog. Well-insulated.) I can testify that sometimes people take a leap of faith, shoot the moon, put their heart and soul into it, and they don’t meet with success. Just working hard doesn’t necessarily land the prize. Doing all the right things doesn’t necessarily make it happen. A lot of people have mortgaged the house to market their book and then lost their house. And I would be terribly bitter about that if not for the fact that I learned long ago to appreciate the wonder of the journey itself and to stop placing so much emphasis on “success,” which is all relative anyway. Even so, I still have my moments when I pray for that elusive miracle lurking around the corner. So count yourself lucky, Mr. Brewer, and don’t tell me I have not reached my goal for lack of effort.

You handful of people who read all of this blog, I love you. Thanks for listening. You are my wonderful journey.


Robert Lee Brewer said...

If your book is getting published in 2012 after all those years of hard work, then yes, you did it through hard work. It didn't come by luck.

My From the Editor was directed toward writers who don't try--using luck as an excuse to not make a commitment to their writing.

Like you, I work on my writing and submitting between working and fathering four boys. So I definitely understand the challenges in making my own luck.

I'm sorry the words rubbed you the wrong way; they were not intended as a slap to writers who are still on the journey. I just don't like seeing writers give up on the journey because they think it's only a matter of luck. It's not just luck.

Keep writing! :)

Amy at Woza Books said...

I am genuinely appreciative that you took the time to find and weigh in on my blog about your column. I agree with your premise that very few people will ever make it without putting in extraordinarily hard work. No whining. Just do it. My point is that the hard work and perseverance, even the talent, are not a silver bullet. A lot of people who are gifted and work hard will never see the light of day. And I do feel that I was very lucky with my book that will be published in 2012. It will be published as a result of a contest I paid to enter and won. Winning a contest? Gotta be some luck there.
Thanks for your encouragement. I need it for the other 4 books in my closet that have not found a home yet.