The harder I work, the luckier I get.
With my patient mentor Phil Neumark leading the way, I bicycled 54 miles yesterday, the last leg of my Midwest tour. Hot, a few hills but good shoulders and a bike path part of the way, altogether a fine ride. After biking 73, 60, and more than 90 miles on previous days, it was relatively easy. Arriving on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, made me appreciate how Lady Luck had smiled on me: I had biked more than 270 miles in four days of riding and arrived safely.
(Riding a bike makes you appreciate things like seamless, light-colored pavement, a rare combination. A national bike path is in the works, adapting unused railroad tracks when possible. Wouldn’t it be great if it was covered symbolically yet practically in light green pavement?)
Madison is a very nice, beautifully situated city surrounded by lakes. Although it’s the state capitol–with a beautiful, art-filled building to attest to it–more than 50,000 UW students—Go Badgers!–make it more gown than town. And the first six, tree-lined blocks of State Street are college-town central: a collection of shops, restaurants, bookstores, and Yellow Jersey, an excellent bike shop from which I Fed-Exed my bike back to Citizen Chain, another fine bike shop, in San Francisco.
Courting Lady Luck
To have the best chance for maximum sales, your book needs a lot of luck:
* The right idea
* Writing that makes every reader a salesperson
* A passionate agent who can
- Make sure your book is as strong as it can be before submitting it
- Get the best editor, publisher, and deal for it
* An editor who can
- Help you improve your book even more
- Be a passionate in-house agent for it
* The publisher that can do the best job
- Copy-editing, designing, producing, selling distributing, and reprinting your book
- Selling subsidiary rights
- Collaborating with you to market your book to the trade and consumers with the right promotion plan
* The right response from booksellers
* The right time for your book to be published
* Selling reviews in the right places
* The right media breaks
* Word of mouth and mouse from readers
This magical combination of elements rarely coalesces on first books. Authors usually reach the bestseller list by writing a series of related books that build an audience for their work. Then they write the breakout book that lands them on the list, and by that time, they have enough fans to keep them there. Sue Grafton’s first hardcover bestseller was H is for Homicide, the eighth book in the series. (Part of the price she paid to get there: five of her first seven books were never published.)
A bonus: once you’re a best-selling author, you can write other kinds of books, and your fans will make them bestsellers too.
Eight Steps for Seducing Lady Luck
* Use books you love like yours and their authors as models for your books and career.
* Learn about writing, publishing and promotion, and from your mistakes.
* Have a dream: a clear, motivating vision of the success you want.
* Create a plan for achieving it.
* Dedicate yourself to producing your best work.
* Be passionate about your books.
* Get the help you need with writing and promotion.
* Let nothing stop you.
New writers succeed every day, and you don’t have to hit the list to be one of them. I hope you have all the luck you need to become as successful as you want to be. You can do it! Make it happen!