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  • Robison Wells

No One Gets There On Their Own

So #Storymakers21 is here and something has been on my mind, because I've been talking to some other authors and a lot of them have been feeling rather deflated, and a lot of it comes down to one thing we don't like to talk about: luck.

We like to think that writing success is a meritocracy, where we work hard and then we achieve great success, and working hard will always equal success, or at the very least, working hard will equal moderate success. But the truth, as I have learned over my many years in the writing business is that just about every author who has had some degree of success has had some degree of luck.

I can't personally think of an author I've met--and I've met a lot of big authors--who has made it to where they are because of simple skill and hard work. Along the way, luck and good timing come in to play. ALWAYS. I would cite examples of other authors--big name authors--but I don't want to single anyone out or say they're not where they are because they're simply lucky, so I'll just use myself as an example:

I'm by no means a super successful author, but I am a moderate mid-lister who wrote full-time for several years and who makes a significant portion of my income based on the fact that I sell books. My first book I sold was sold based purely on good timing. My editor told me: "This isn't as well-written as we'd like it to be, but we're looking for humor right now, and we think this is a very funny book, and we're willing to work with you on getting your writing skill up to par." IT WAS THE FIRST BOOK I EVER SUBMITTED TO A PUBLISHER. I LITERALLY WAS NEVER REJECTED.

When I went national, I had two fortunate experiences: I happened to write a book that got categorized as dystopia (though I don't think it's dystopian but that's a side topic) at a time when dystopia was really big. And my brother had an agent, and she happened to like my book, and decided to represent me. I LITERALLY NEVER QUERIED ANOTHER AGENT EXCEPT HER. And the book did really well, and sold for a six-figure advance, and it continues to sell and puts money in my bank account twice a year.

I went through a period where, due to mental health reasons, I wasn't producing the greatest work, and my agent (WHO I GOT BECAUSE I WAS LUCKY) found me paying gigs, ghostwriting for other authors, and even landed me my upcoming co-writing deal with James Patterson.

Now sure, we can say "well, your first book WAS funny, and that was all your effort" and "well, your first national book was very good, and that was because of the countless rewrites and revisions" and "well, you wouldn't have landed the James Patterson gig if he didn't think you were a good writer", but my point is simply this: SUCCESS, FOR *EVERYBODY* IS A COMBINATION OF HARD WORK AND GOOD LUCK.

I don't mean to downplay the hard work of fellow authors who worked their way through literally hundreds of rejections. I don't want to downplay the skill, talent, and dogged determination of any of my fellow writers. But I do want to say this: if you are a writer, who has any kind of success in this business, at some point you got lucky. And to think you did it on your own, that you are self-made and owe everything to your own merits, you're wrong.

So if you leave the conference thinking "I work SO HARD, why do I not have the success that other author has?" or "Why do so many of my books get rejected when I slave over my craft?" please know that you're doing everything right, and maybe the winds of fate simply haven't materialized over your head yet.


DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that my successful friends are not deserving hard workers. I'm merely saying "you didn't get there on your own. No one gets there on their own."

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