Define lucky. I can’t speak for all, of course, but lucky is defined differently for different people in different situations. Sometimes luck is luck, and sometimes it is the result of some pretty intense effort—though, not necessarily on the exact same thing.
You’ve likely heard me say before that your effort might not open “the” door, but it could open one that leads to “the” door. Let me give you an example.
Before I sold my first book, I volunteered to do interviews with editors and agents for a writer group’s newsletter. I’d done quite a few of these interviews when I did one on an editor who liked it and shared it with other editors in her office. One of those editors said, “I like her writing.” The editor I’d interviewed told me about the conversation and suggested if I had a book to submit to that second editor I do it. I did and submitted, and she bought the book.
Who would have thought that a non-fiction article would open “the” door? The interviews took effort, but each one was a learning experience. I did the work, but I gained knowledge and insight from the work, too. That was a win. That on this interview the editor liked it and showed it to the second editor—that was lucky. But unless the “unrelated” effort had been made in writing the non-fiction article, the opportunity would not have been there for the “unrelated” novel door to open.
That’s what I mean when I say, what you do might not open “the” door, but it might open “a” door that leads to “the” door.
Then there is the impact of what you write on readers. Often, when an author writes a story it is on a wing and a prayer that it will help someone, somewhere, in some way. Maybe to show them a challenge that was resolved constructively. Solutions exist! Maybe to take their minds off their troubles for a while. (Don’t underestimate the value of that! Or the value of pure entertainment!) An example.
You are in a hospital room, sitting at the bedside of someone you love. Your loved one is dying. In and out, and sleeping a lot, but you fear leaving the room for fear you won’t be there when needed. You have a book in your hand. For a few minutes, you escape all the grief and fear and upset in the hospital room and take respite in the story. How much is each of those minutes of respite worth?
I had such a story relayed to me by a reader. I’ve never forgotten it. And to this lucky author who wrote the story in which in that reader found a few minutes’ respite, I can tell you the value to me: priceless.
We write our books and set them free in the world to do what they will for those they touch. We know that not all readers will like them. But we also know that some readers will love them. And we know that regardless of what kind of story is written, it will be a story that ends up in someone’s hands at the time when they most need it for whatever reason is significant to them. That makes us all lucky authors.
Bear in mind that especially early on in authors’ careers, most hear “no” a lot more than they hear “yes.” They hear “revise, edit, rework, rewrite” far more often than “this is great” and frankly that no-to-yes ratio pretty much holds true throughout authors’ writing careers. There’s always tailoring to be done. Perspective and focus shifts to be made to best suit the needs of the publisher, who isn’t typically looking at one book but how each book fits in with all the other books published.
Some authors resent the process. Lucky ones don’t. They grasp early on that publishers spend a fortune to figure out what sells well for their publishing house, their imprints. Selling books is their job, so naturally they do all they can to craft and shape and license books that appeal to their readers. Actually, editors’ careers depend on them doing this, and doing it well.
The lucky author is one who has a gifted editor who sees the author’s vision and enhances it without writing a totally different story—their own vision of the book. It’s amazing how well this merger typically works because it is a complex creative process. The best editors have that gift—to see the vision and enhance it. They are not frustrated authors. Any author who has such a gifted editor is lucky. These are matches made in Heaven, where the best talents of the author merge with the best talents of the editor to produce the best possible book with the brightest prospects for mutual success.
Authors who have readers who invest in them are very lucky. Readers are open about what they like and what they don’t—their preferences. But authors often don’t ask readers’ opinions, and that is a missed opportunity for “luck.” One of the best lessons learned is to ask questions and to really listen to readers’ answers. They often have outstanding feedback and they share the most amazing stories and ideas.
Now many authors complain about the time it takes to be active on social media. And it is time consumptive. No author can actively engage on all the different platforms—not and have time to write, much less have a life. But an author can choose a platform or two that is compatible with the author and be active on it. Why do it?
First, you get to know the absolute best people. You’ll see the best in humanity. Is the worst there? Yes, but you are free to not engage, or to set your own terms on engagements. By interacting, you stay more current on the situations people are facing. Many are the same and change little from generation to generation. But how people react to them changes often.
You get to know people, and they get to know you. Sometimes you goof around with them, sometimes you share stories from your life, and they share stories and bits of their lives. Attachments grow to bonds, and investments are made by the author and the readers. There are a lot of good people out there. We hear about the jerks often, but the good people…they awe and humble you. They inspire you.
I post a lot of quotes. Have for years. I have always loved quotes. They’re short and to the point, and others like short and to the point also. I expected people who enjoy the things I enjoy would chat and visit. I didn’t expect so many of them to be amazing human beings. We celebrate together, cry together and support each other. Oh, everyone runs into a jerk now and again, or someone having a rough a day who blows off some steam, but those should never dampen enthusiasm. They’re a blip on the screen compared to all the good.
Understanding all this, I still did not expect the enthusiasm over a really short post I did where I was celebrating finishing a new book. It went something like, “Yay—it’s finished! The new book is done. Color me happy!” Something that that. Not exactly earth-shattering news, but genuine elation that a project had been completed. That’s something an author typically celebrates alone. Well, that little post set my phone to pinging like crazy. All kinds of people were congratulating me on finishing the book. Many took the time to include animated gifs. It was exciting to have people celebrating with me. It was humbling, and honestly, I was awestruck by their generosity of spirit. Taking time from their lives to join in on something that was important to me.
For many, this might not seem like a big deal. But it was huge to me. It is huge to me. Anytime anyone gives you their time, they’re sharing something significant to them. Something they can’t get back. Something precious to them.
That’s why I was humbled and awed. And grateful. And that’s why I’m the luckiest author in the world.
I could go on for hours with stories about all the ways authors are lucky. But the bottom line is pretty simple—and very consistent. Some authors make their luck, some stumble into it, some go door-to-door seeking “the” door more than the old Kirby vacuum salesmen. Most authors experience a combination of types of luck over the life of their career: a little of all possible kinds of luck.
I suppose I’ll close with this: you see the value in being open to all kinds of luck. Not just for authors, but for you, the human being living your life. Maybe you hadn’t seen how important you, your comments, your feedback, and your posts are to those who read them. And maybe you hadn’t grasped how much your interactions with others mean to them—but now you do.
I hope that’s the case. If you’ve gained insight, you’ve defined lucky. My wish is that you apply these things to you and your life and that your bottom line is you consider yourself lucky. And since I wish (and dream) big: I wish that you see the wisdom of investing in making others feel lucky, too.
Whatever you do, remember that the ripple spreads wide and it goes on and on…