Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Getting Lucky In Publishing


How often have you been told that getting published is as much about luck as skill? How many stories have you heard about kismet stepping in to land the right project on the right desk, or a friend of a friend mentioning a novel to the right person and BOOM, six figure contract?

What if I told you ‘luck’ is actually something entirely within your control?

‘Luck’, by definition, is a deviation from the expected projection of outcomes.

If you bet on a horse with 2:1 odds and it doesn’t place, you would be disappointed. If you bet on a horse with 56:1 odds and it won, you would be excited. That’s good luck. There was only a very low chance the horse would win, yet it did.

Some people think luck is a tangible and mystical force, but you should think of it more like a mathematical term to describe something fortunate or unfortunate that happens despite statistical likelihood.

Which means that luck is highly susceptible to manipulation.

Luck is comprised of two things: opportunity and attitude. Both need to be in your favour for good luck and I will show you how:


You have to be in it to win it.

Heard that before? Of course you have, it’s the cornerstone of lottery ticket sales. However the odds are very poor in lottery—much, much worse than in publishing. Opportunities in publishing mean being informed and proactive.

One of the best things you can do is join a large, active writing organisation that puts out monthly newsletters with an ‘opportunities’ and ‘competitions’ section. They should list what publishers are open to submissions, writing competitions, internships, residencies, courses, workshops, writing groups, events, book launches and a myriad of other related things.

Actively pursue these things. Enter competitions. Go to workshops and talk to everyone—tell them about your novel and ask them about their work (both literary and day job). Find out about niche anthologies and submit to them. Lots of publishers, particularly in romance and horror, do Christmas collections and will start looking for material before June.

The more you are in, the more chance you have to win.


No, I don’t mean ‘the law of attraction’ type stuff.

Believing you will win does not make you win. You don’t draw good things to you with a magic happiness vibe. HOWEVER, believing you do can give some people the attitude adjustment they need—thus for some people it can be a self fulfilling prophecy.

Human beings have very large communication centres in our brains. We sacrificed a lot to develop them (mostly sensory abilities and bite strength, FYI). People are far more sensitive to verbal, non verbal and even written communication than we realise.

If you are relaxed and positive and believe in your work, other people will to. Note I said ‘relaxed and positive’, not ‘manic and pushy’. Manic and pushy comes across as ‘hysterically terrified of failure’, which doesn’t inspire confidence in anyone.

If you’re relaxed, positive and selling yourself well, people will remember you. Then they will become that friend of a friend who told their publisher cousin. Or even the agent who picked up the next best seller in a coffee shop.

If you’re really bad at this, and let’s face it, lots of writers are introverts, take some public speaking classes. Few people are born with the ability to sell themselves. Nearly every celebrity you see being interviewed was taught that ability in a classrooms setting. You can be too.


Luck is about opportunity and attitude. Expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible and don’t be an asshole when you meet people. Learn to promote yourself properly.

Also, stop buying lottery tickets.

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