Friday, September 13, 2013

“Lucky!” A Friday the 13th Meditation on Authorial Luck

by Sophie Perinot

“Lucky!” The day you finally (countless queries into the process) snag an agent, you are going to hear it.  Ditto if you Indie publish something that climbs the ranks of the Kindle paid list.

I am not discounting for a moment the role of luck in authorial success or more broadly in life.  Sometimes it is just a matter of luck whether or not your e-query winds up in spam or in an agent’s mail box.  And I am certainly a BIG believer in BIG picture luck—constantly reminding my daughters that it wouldn’t matter how smart they were if they’d been born into a brothel in the third world.  So, no matter how unexceptional Mr. Putin thinks we are, I am profoundly glad I was born in the USA.  BUT, relying on luck can be a dangerous thing.  So can dismissing the accomplishments of others as grounded in good fortune.

Luck is a pretty passive concept folks.  And publishing . . . especially in its current change-a-minute permutation is all about action.  Yes people, we are waiting for lightening to strike in terms of sheer statistics but the truth is it is going to take more than luck if are going to fulfill your writing dreams (whether that means finishing a manuscript, getting a deal with one of the major houses).  If you are in the right place at the right time it will avail you nothing if you don’t know how to capitalize on say an agent’s interest, the six weeks surrounding the release of your first book, or being featured in O Magazine.
The answer is obvious, work.  Work like your life depends on it (your authorial life does).  And work smart—take criticism, read about the industry, set goals and meet them.

But there is something more.  Don’t fall into the “luck” trap and its ancillary belief in bad luck.  When you reach a goal (or when a friend does) do NOT dismiss it with a “lucky.”  Spend some time analyzing it—what did the author in question do that may have made the difference?  When you face disappointment don’t dismiss that either.  It is very tempting to say, “it was just not my day,” or “well it takes a lot of queries to get a request.”  Be willing to dissect failures as well.  It DOES take a lot of queries—but if you’ve sent a lot and you are not getting requests assuming that you haven’t queried the right agents or that it is all some random lottery isn’t going to help you, while scrapping that letter (or seriously considering your project’s marketability, gulp) may make a huge difference—even if you walk under a ladder on your way back to your keyboard.

So on this day—when bad luck is traditionally believed to be lurking around every corner—set your superstitions aside, cast of the crutch of “lucky” and take a positive step down your personal authorial path.  Heck, Friday the 13th would be an excellent day to send out that next batch of queries, hit up a big name author for a book blurb, or work on that next manuscript.  Speaking of which . . . you’ll know where to find me ;)

Sophie Perinot is spending her Friday the 13th holed up in a corner of the 16th century working to finish her next novel. Her first novel, The Sister Queens, was published by NAL/Penguin in 2012 and is on sale in bookstores (brick and mortar and virtual) everywhere. Learn more about TSQ here.


JeffO said...

As many like to say, "Make your own luck!"

Sophie Perinot said...

Exactly Jeff, exactly!

Arlee Bird said...

Odds for success increase with action. If you're sitting at home doing nothing and something big happens I guess you might attribute to luck. Or maybe more like a miracle.

Tossing It Out