I was reading the comments over at J.A. Konrath's Newbie Guide to Publishing blog. If you don't read this blog on a regular basis, I highly suggest you take a look. Joe is doing the indie book community a great service. His views are pretty opinionated, but so are mine so I can't really call that kettle black.
Joe got me thinking today when he mentioned how luck is responsible for publishing success. I'd have to say that in some cases this could be true but since we can't control something as random as luck I think we should examine those things that we can control.
When I think about what it takes to be successful, in publishing or anything my formula includes:
Skill and Talent are closely related but not precisely the same. Skill is something that can be taught. Think of it is as the mechanics of writing. You have the ability to increase your skill. Take classes, read books, write more...all of these will make you a more skillful writer.
Talent is, IMO not something you can learn or teach. It is the ability to create something from nothingness. It is the artistic component to writing. In short it is the ability to conceive of a good story and memorable characters. To me it is the art of storytelling. Unfortunately, this is not one of the things you have control over.
Persistence is definitely something that you have full control over. You guarantee 100% failure if you give up. But persistence isn't hitting your head against the wall with he same results. Sometimes you need to adjust. If your first book isn't making it then persistence may mean writing a second or a third. Michael actually gave up writing for 10 years and if he hadn't picked it back up he would not be as successful as he is now.
Marketing does not mean spending thousands of dollars to introduce your book to the world. It is the acorns from which might oaks grow. You (or someone on your behalf) must do marketing because even the best book in the world won't be read if no one knows it exists. The good news about marketing is you just need to get the ball rolling. Once enough people discover your book and you have skill and talent, then they will spread the word for you.
You would think that timing is not something you have control over, and in many respects that is true, but when related to persistence you actually do have some control. The timing for a book may not be right at a certain moment in time, but times change and if you are persistent your chances of hitting the right book at the right time goes up substantially.
If you hit on all 5 of these cylinders you'll be successful. I believe that firmly. It's not a matter of luck. But what if you don't have all of the above? Are you doomed?
Not really...your job is just a lot harder. The more of each of these components you have in your arsenal the better off you are. I myself weight them as follows (especially when I'm looking for a new author for Ridan).
1 - Talent - since this is the biggest factor that will contribute to words of mouth sales which is the ONLY way to be successful in the book business.
2 - Marketing - you have to prime the pump and once you reach a following you can coast a bit on this.
3 - Persistence because there will be so many times along the way when you feel "it’s not worth it" and want to give up. The only thing that guarantees failure is running out of persistence.
4 - Skill - doesn't concern me too much because it is easily dealt with by others (copy editors etc.) Someone less skillful just makes my job editing tougher but it’s not a total deterrent. Besides, if the story is good, people are willing to overlook a misplaced comma here or there.
5 - Timing - I don't try to follow trends in the industry as they are too hard to predict. Instead, I believe that a good story is timeless. After all Casablanca is as good to watch today as it was when it first came out.
Anyway, that's my thought for the day. I'm interested in your take on the subject.