Luck and self-publishing

So, Joe Konrath is on track to make a gazillion dollars this year, and (as he often does) he's citing luck as a factor in his success (via PV).

I think it's important to acknowledge that luck is a factor in life, as opposed to thinking that you're one of God's little favorites or something. Live in a country where indoor plumbing is the norm? Luck. Parents sent you to school instead of putting you to work the minute you grew big enough to fetch and carry? Luck.

Konrath's success? Errr, I'll grant that he didn't get spectacularly unlucky, but I think the major luck portion was his decision one day to throw some books up on Amazon. Of course, he was someone who constantly tried different things to distribute and market his work, so...that was really him making his own luck there. You're a lot more likely to find a gold mine if you're willing to dig holes.

Another factor that I think is really important to his success is the fact that he puts out a lot of titles (a strategy that also works for Dean Wesley Smith). As the Washington Post described in its profile of Nyree Bellevue, "the right recipe [is] a small but devout core audience; a readily available backlist for new readers to discover; a knack for writing fast; and an inherent appeal to a fan base that read[s] voraciously."

Is this something that is easy to replicate? Oh, hell no--a 200-title or even "just" a 40-title backlist? Are you crazy? That's, like, decades of work!

And it took him decades--like Monty Hall, Konrath is an overnight success who took 20 years. The reason he looks like a lucky-duck overnight success is that he's only getting his payday now. It took him years to establish that core audience, and it took him years of practicing writing to get to the point where that 40-title backlist wasn't just a load of unreadable crap.

Writing is work. Publishing (even self-publishing) is work. Konrath is successful because he worked very hard for a very long time. He was lucky in that he didn't get run over by a car and killed when he was 10 years old or something, but everything else--work.

And I leave you with a quote from a recent blog post by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch that I think is germane: "I have no idea why people want to hang onto the stories of failure, the impossibility of doing well without cheating or 'getting lucky,' but they do. They want it all now and they don’t want to work for it. And when you tell them they must work for it, they get mad."

ETA: And now I've got Malcolm Reynolds' "You rely on luck, you wind up on the drift" speech stuck in my head. Great.