Monday, July 9, 2007

Just how LUCKY are you?

posted by Aunty Cindy

Last week, I ambled through the living room while DH was watching a TV program about “luck” and I saw just enough to start me thinking about the luck factor in publishing. Like that infamous “rotting rhino under the rug” this seems to be something that writers and publishers know exist, but they don’t like to admit it. Is that because admitting that publishing involves a certain amount of luck is like admitting it’s not really within anyone’s control? Forgive me, that snorting sound you hear is me trying to stifle my gaffaws.

Like it or not, selling really does boil down to getting the right manuscript on the right editor’s (or agent’s) desk at the right time. All three of those factors involve a certain amount of luck.

Allow me to illucidate:

I just wrote a vampire, girl-detective time-travel romance (not really this is just an example). Unfortunately every major publisher in NYC has just come out with a time-traveling, girl-detective vampire book and NOBODY is buying them. BAD LUCK!

My time-traveling girl-detective is really a BOY and a werewolf. The agent/editor is UBER EXCITED over my fresh new idea! GOOD LUCK! (In more ways than one, but this is just a silly example.)

My wonderfully written, delightfully fresh and innovative novel features a hero who happens to have the same first name as the agent/editor’s ex-husband. (Do NOT laugh! I actually had an agent tell me that she rejected a book because the hero had the same name as her ex! Of course, I’m sure she didn’t tell the poor, unsuspecting author this tidbit.) BAD LUCK! Sad but true!

Okay, I don’t honestly know if it would be GOOD LUCK! if your hero had the same name as the agent/editor’s latest crush. But I suppose it couldn’t hurt.

The editor has just made an offer for a book and has now filled all her slots for the next three years. Or the agent has just accepted her 77th client, a NYTimes best-selling author whose agent was hit by a bus and was therefore, “between agents”. BAD LUCK! Especially for that former agent. ;-)

The editor just had an author MISS a deadline, or become unable to fulfill his/her contract. (resisting the urge to repeat the hit-by-the-bus scenario) And lo and behold! My manuscript is on the top of the heap on his/her desk and is JUST WHAT S/HE WANTS, or at least close enough. AMAZING LUCK! And hey! It HAS happened! Just not to me or anyone I know.
The agent just went to lunch with an editor who says, “If only someone had a wonderfully written time-traveling werewolf story.” Then the agent returns to his/her office and my proposal is on the top of the heap on his/her desk. Maybe not quite as AMAZING LUCK as the case above, but CLOSE ENOUGH!

Okay, maybe these examples are a bit extreme. But there is a luck factor involved with publication. And while some of it is within the writer’s control (Probably NOT a good idea to mail your proposal right before the holidays or right after a major writing conference like RWA National.), plenty of it is NOT (rampaging buses, ex’s names and all)!

Hmmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to delete that chain email I got the other day.

But it's NOT TOO LATE for YOU! There's still time for you to post a comment and win! Check out yesterday's post.


Christine Wells said...

Aunty C, there wouldn't be so many amazing writers still unpublished if there weren't an awful lot of luck involved in selling a manuscript. I so agree! And as a writer I think it takes an awfully long time to realize what a big part luck plays. At first, you tend to expect the system to be fair. You don't think that after months and months of sitting in the publisher's slush pile, your wonderful ms might get read by a summer intern with a hangover who happens to hate Mexican Food, which your heroine loves, and so throws your ms in the rejection pile straight away.

It's a subjective business where supply far outweighs demand and that's why it is so tough to succeed in it. I feel very lucky I happened to snag an editor who seems to get my writing and my sense of humour. I have wanted, time and again to ask her, Are you SURE?? But I'm smart enough by now to hold my tongue! Thanks for a great post, AC.

Keira Soleore said...

Let's not forget: said agent and/or editor has PMS and just as she is walking into her office building while trying not to get wet from the sudden summer storm, a car whooshes by and sends a spray of muddy water onto her pristine pink suit that she'd bought just this past weekend for that special two-hour lunch today.

And your manuscript is at the top of the heap on her desk. BAD LUCK!

Caren Crane said...

My favorite (personal) bit of bad luck was that the reader loved my book, the editor loved my book, the sr. editor and editorial staff loved my book, but the Marketing department didn't know what to do with it.

They had already bought a book with a similar set-up (though completely different sort of story), so they had blown their Marketing genius on her book. And, truthfully, the marketing for her book would have been perfect for mine. Bad timing--bad luck!

Still hoping the timing will be right for that book someday. :-)

jo robertson said...

Cindy, ROTFLMBBO (that's my big butt). Even funnier the second time around!! And so TRUE. Luck is an important factor that we don't often acknowledge.

I think we believe that if we give credence to that "luck" factor, we'll denigrate all the wonderful writers who ARE published. But, actually, it gives hope to the wonderful writers who AREN'T published.

Okay, that's my statement and I'm sticking to it. Being, as they say, AYP!!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

What's the old saying? "If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all?"

Wrote 2 American historicals, just in time for the bottom to fall out of them. One made it all the way to the Editorial board of one company.

Wrote a Harlequin Intrigue just in time for them to consolidate and down size their lines.

Am afraid to try my hand at Paranormals!! :)

but as Miss Scarlett would say, "there's always tomorrow."

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

I'm afraid I'm with you, Suz, my only luck IS BAD LUCK!

And BIG LOL Keira on the PMS comment. Been there, done that myself!

I was kinda reluctant to bring up the luck thing (but that never stops Aunty!) because it can sound like such a cop-out. But it DOES play a factor sometimes and there's not a thing we can do about it except...TRY TRY AGAIN!

Tomorrow IS another day!

Donna MacMeans said...

I agree that luck is a major part of publishing, but I think luck improves if your manuscript is truly wonderful, and fresh, and publishable. Luck plays a role in getting your story to the top of the pile when the editor needs it, but market research helps you find the editor/agent who will fall in love with your story. Luck helps you be at the right place at the right time, but luck improves if you're actively submitting and not waiting for the reading public to come knocking at your door.

You're right. It's important to do all that you can do, polish, edit, submit...but a rabbit's foot never hurt anything (but the rabbit) and a lucky submission dance - hey - I swear by it.

Caren Crane said...

Ooh, does that mean Donna is giving "lucky submission dance" lessons at the conference? You may have to get a conference room for that one, Donna!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Lucky Submission Dance lessons?!?! I WANT a video! Tape it for me, will ya Caren?!?!

Joan said...

Hello from Dallas,

AC, this is a perfect post to read as I'm sitting amidst the swirl of conference. (and it's only Wed. morning...nothing official yet!)

But I've already been to the bar and a steak house where this very topic was discussed by those of us on "the cusp".

Maybe that's why I haven't won the lottery yet...I'm saving all my luck for my publishing career.

I think I'll throw my dice now.

(oops, hit an editor) :-)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

(AC waves MADLY to Joan)

Yes, this being on "the cusp" SUX! But we've got lots of fine company with the other AYU Banditas. Plus we have our pubbed (or soon to be) Banditas (Anna, Tawny, Christine, Donna and Christie) as inspiration to prove we CAN do it!

Don't hit the editors too hard, maybe just stun them enough so that you can BOWL EM OVER with your great manuscripts!
hanging in the too quiet lair