Luck & the Writer

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Some of you may have seen author and blogger J.A. Konrath's recent blog post about self-publishing called Your Marketing Plan Won't Work.

Your Book Marketing Plan Won't Work

It caught my eye, as in 2019 I've forsaken writing the sixth story in my Cornish Detective series in favour of marketing the first five titles—there's not much point in baking another cake when the rest are going stale on the shelves! :rolleyes:

I like Konrath's grumpy, unfiltered and confrontational style of commenting on the publishing industry, and recognised much of what he says in his assessment of what worked to sell his own books. He sums up by saying:


My career has been all over the place, and I've tried so many new and different things. I've learned from my many failures, and if I had to do it all over, I'd tell my younger self:

"One brand, one genre, stop experimenting, stop being a perfectionist, and just write five good books a year in the same series. Make sure they are professionally edited and formatted, have great covers and descriptions, keep length under 75k words, and make sure they have updated, clickable bibliographies in the back matter, pre-order pages for the next release, and newsletter sign-up forms."

That's it. That's the sum total of my years of knowledge and experience.

[read the comments below the article]

Broadly, he agrees with the oft-quoted William Goldman:
Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”

(from Adventures in the Screen Trade)

Like Konrath and crime writer James Oswald, my self-marketing is relying on blogging and having a website devoted to my crime series, with a view to building a mailing list of potential readers to send a newsletter to; my social media presence will be minimal. I intend to follow Oswald's tactic of making the first book free, self-publishing the sequel at the same time at an attractive price—hoping to get the ball rolling.

Who knows if it will work?

As Konrath says:

It still comes down to luck.

Stop worrying. This is all out of your control.

Stop trying to find the answer. There is no answer. No answer, no logic, no reason, not even any scientific cause and effect.

It's all luck.

I've long had a stoical approach to life, which has come in useful over the last six years since I returned to creative writing. Editing and querying require infinite levels of perseverance.

As for luck, I don't know, for it's an elusive sprite that lands on some people while avoiding my own arm!

I'll keep on keeping on, even though I miss writing, for I reckon that building an author platform online will be more of a help than a hindrance. As champion golfer, Gary Player is reputed to have said: The harder I practice, the luckier I get.

How much do you think that luck counts in your writing career?

Gary and J.K. would say such things, wouldn't they? The fact is for most people talent alone is not enough and luck plays a part in everything. Life would be deadly boring if it didn't and everything happened in an orderly fashion governed only by merit.
I believe in the power of knowing someone in the industry. I've noticed in a considerable number of published writers careers, who do fairly well but not extraordinary so, they have themselves worked or had dealings with the industry.
I think a lot of actions can help improve one's relationship with Lady Fortune (or Lord, let's not be sexist ;) )

Putting in the time and effort to get really good at what you're doing.
Research into the industry, the readership etc. and therefore more effective targeting.
Networking (as Eva says).
Karma (or positive vibes or whatever you want to call it). Making a name as someone who is helpful is going to up your appeal to a potential colleague.
Investment (paying money to join a useful organisation or use the services of an industry professional can be very helpful to a nascent writing career, I suspect)
Luck does play into it but I disagree with the author about marketing. It works. Here is the simple breakdown of the self publishing game. Marketers have moved in. Many years ago, one could throw a book on Amazon, and with luck and a few friendly blog post, they could make a living. Now, you list your book and its drowned out with the other thousand new listings for that day. A new career is over before it begins. The marketers are pumping out quik books and throwing loads of cash behind it.
A side note : Amazon is an algorthim machine. Forget everythign else you may have heard and remember that.
I've read numerous articles on the earnings of self published authors, key data that is surprising. One author for example makes 600k USD a year. Studying the data further, they also spend 200k on advertisement.
From Coke to Microsoft to Volkswagen these corporations still spend millions on marketing. Why? Because it works.

I know there is always that one man who never spent a penny. Everyone has that story. But its always "one".

So I will throw my two cents in, from running my own businesses in the past and my knowledge from it. However great or helpful that may be. Of course there are others with vastly more experience, so do with it what you will.

You do not need a website at this point. What will it do? It only increases an extra step between you and the consumer buying your end product. You will spend money and countless hours writing content in the hopes of catching readers and then trying to redirect them back to your series. With each step (click) the sales rate falls. This is true in any business and I suspect its true with self publishing.

What you need to do is make sure your product is perfect. Cover and blurb to current market trends. Sales pitch (the blurb) making readers drool with greed to buy it. if that is taken care of and done so objectively, that is, without emotion then you can advertise.

If you care for any more advice, feel free to message me. I have gone on long enough : )
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Hello Litopians everywhere