Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Myth of Overnight Success

It seems like every other day I read a story about a new debut author whose book is the hottest thing to hit shelves since the bible. Or I see a blog post about the 20 year old writer who wrote a book during Nano, queried in February, got their agent in March and a three book deal before spring was over.

Stories like this are like a dual-edge sword. On the upside, they give me faith that new authors are still getting published all the time and success is still something I can work for. On the down side, it's these tales of 'instant success' that make me feel like my own writing journey is floundering.

Success a bit more my speed :( CC

It's easy to forget that for all of those success stories we almost never hear about the years (or decades) of writing that came before them. Announcements of agent signing don't come with statistics about the number of books the author previously queried or the trash bin of form rejections they lived through.

Today I want to remind myself, and everyone else on this roller coaster publishing ride, that even superstars had to work to get where they are and overnight success is the worst lie we tell ourselves.

JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter in 1990, didn't finish it until 1993 and it took another 4 years before Harry hit bookstores.

Amanda Hocking finished her first book at the age of 17 and had it rejected over 50 times. She made her millions at the age of 26, 9 years later.

John Grisham started writing his first book in 1984 and it took him three year to write it. It was published in 1989 after going through 28 rejections.

So next time you get another form rejection, before pounding your forehead onto the desk, remember you are in good company.


  1. Good post! I will point my students to it, and it also inspires me to keep it all in perspective as I go forward.

  2. Very true! I'm not an overnight success by any means, but here's my story. I queried for a year before signing with my agent. I did write a book and get a contract for it in about 6 months, which is crazy fast, but it was the sixth book I'd written. The first book took four rewrites and even though it was contracted for publication, it will undergo another major rewrite before it hits shelves. Nothing happens overnight.

  3. Nice job. So true. Gosh, I don't even want to count up my rejects lol

  4. I think as long as long as a writer stays true to why they write, and why they want people to read what they write, the journey should be great no matter how many rejections a person gets.

    And of course, Self publishing is always an option. In today's world there is little reason not to go out and find your own audience. A person can do what all publishers can, it just takes time and effort.

  5. Ah, one more thing, stop over at my blog to pick up your very own Booker Award, and tell us which 5 books you've read recently!
    Catherine Stine’s Idea City

  6. Nice posts and so true. I got so many rejections before I landed a contract and it was a crappy one at that. Sometimes we are in a hurry to publish we jump through the first door that opens.


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