Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Saturday, December 5, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Many authors have an idea of what it takes to become an overnight success. They slave away over their keyboard producing the next Great American Novel, then they get a literary agent or publisher interested in their work. The publisher immediately rushes the book to press and the book flies off the shelves on its release date.

Let me just say right now, this rarely, if ever, happens.

Many bestselling authors have worked for several years to become overnight successes, and they each faced their own share of trials and tribulations. Here are a few examples.

John started working on a novel while he was still attending college, but the writing was going so slow and he decided that the plot was so bad, he just abandoned the effort. The writing of his second novel went better, and he decided to contact literary agents and publishers with a copy of his manuscript. Each week, John received rejection after rejection in the mail. Finally, one publisher agreed to publish John's manuscript. However, they wanted him to make some changes to it, and 20 percent of the novel had to go. When the novel was finally published, a mere 5,000 copies were printed.

The novel? A Time to Kill by John Grisham.

Steve started writing article and short stories and sending them to magazines when he was just 14 years old. He was writing them, but nobody was publishing them. Each submission was met with a rejection slip. Undeterred, he kept on writing, even self-publishing his own newspaper called "Dave's Rag."

Eventually, a magazine published one of Steve's short stories, "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber." After completing his first full-length novel, Steve eagerly sent it off to a publisher. It was promptly rejected. Steve took the rejection badly, and filed the novel away. After graduating college, Steve kept writing short stories for men's magazines and worked at a gas station pumping gas for $1.25 an hour.

Steve eventually took a job as a teacher and started working on his next novel. After writing a few pages, he decided the story wasn't any good. He crumpled up the pages and threw them in the trash. His wife later found these pages and read them, and urged her husband to keep writing the story, which he did.

The book was Carrie, and the author was Stephen King. He eventually sold the novel to Doubleday for $400,000, and he quit teaching to write full-time.

Jack and Mark are classic case studies in dealing with rejection. They shopped around their idea for their book to every publisher they can think of, and they weren't just rejected a few times. Their book was rejected by various publishers 123 times. The authors were told the title was stupid, and that nobody would read the book. They were told it was an idea that wouldn't sell. Jack and Mark finally took their book to an American Booksellers Association convention, and shopped it around to nearly all of the 4,000 booths at the trade show. Finally, they found one company which agreed to publish the book.

The authors were Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and the book was Chicken Soup for the Soul.

It can be argued that these are some of the most successful American writers in recent history, but their road to success was not an easy one, nor did success come quickly. In many cases, these writers worked for years before they found success. That is a fact that is often overlooked by aspiring writers who hope for the same level of success.

If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. You only fail when you stop trying.

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