If there are no guarantees in the world of publishing, is it possible to plan for writing success?

What do you mean there are no guarantees?

“When I get my book published, I’ll quit my job and write full-time.”

Have you said it, or thought it?

“Oh, you’re a writer. Going to be making the big bucks, eh?”

Ever been asked that?

If only!

We’ve all heard the story of the writer who got the book deal because the publisher saw their blog and offered them a major advance; or the author who pitched an editor at a conference and got a mega deal; or the debut novel that went to auction and earned the author over a million dollars in an advance.

Those are outliers. Most of us have to be in this industry a whole lot longer to get anywhere near that level of writing success. Even then, it takes a lot of pieces to fit just right.

  • Our query letter, synopsis, and first pages have to catch the eye of agents
  • Those agents need to request to see the full manuscript
  • At least one of those agents needs to fall in love with the story so much that they want to represent it
  • The agent also needs to see that there is a market for the book, and know the right editors to send it to.
  • Editors, need to fall in love with it enough, see enough of a market that they will turn a profit on it, and believe enough in it to fight for it with the editorial board and the marketing department.

There are too many opportunities for things to go awry and a lot of other people’s opinions involved at every step. And we all know opinions can change by the day, depending on our mood, what is happening personally, and professionally.

We cannot rely on the opinion of others to give us the gift of writing success.

OK. So what’s the point of even trying?

Remember those outliers I talked about at the beginning? Their results are the outliers. How they got the deal, or the millions in sales, is the outlier. What they did to get there, is what all of us need to do.

And that is to be prepared.

The best way to be prepared? To plan, of course!

You can’t plan for an agent’s opinion of your book, but you can plan to get more favourable responses by knowing which agents represent your kind of stories, and which ones don’t.

If you want to become an indie-superstar, you can’t guarantee that you will find your readership instantly, but you can plan out your books, your writing schedule, and release dates, in such a way to attract more readers quickly.

Are there pitch opportunities at a conference or convention you will be attending (on line or in person)? Great. Plan ahead. Have your book done. Work out your pitch. Study the guest list (if it is available) to see which editors and agents are going to be there. Sign up for a pitch slot if they are offered. If they aren’t, hang out in the convention bar and room parties, network, mingle, buy them a drink, don’t push yourself on them. Should the agent ask you to, then by all means, pitch. If they don’t ask, you can always query after the conference and say, “I met you at…and we talked about March Madness. Thought you’d be interested in…”

Yes, you can plan for writing success

It’s a lot like that saying, “Aim for the starts. Even if you fail, you will have landed on the moon.”

Every step you take along your plan toward writing success, is writing success in and of itself. I talk more about defining success in my upcoming masterclass on the secret to writing success. But the important thing right now, is to start planning. 

When you plan, and take action on that plan, not only are you prepared for the opportunities that will come your way, you can make your own opportunities happen.

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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