Thursday, September 01, 2011

How To Succeed

I get pummeled with email, often from people either thanking me or asking me things.

Here's a quick encapsulation of the questions I get, and how I'd reply if I had the time.

Q: What's the secret to selling a lot of ebooks?

Joe: There is no secret. Write good books, with good descriptions, good formatting, and good cover art, sell them cheap, and keep at it until you get lucky.

Q: I have an ebook, but it isn't selling well. What should I do to market it?

Joe: Write another ebook, and another, and keep at it until you get lucky.

Q: I've changed my cover art 56 times, but sales are still flat.

Joe: You need to keep writing until you get lucky.

Q: Joe, I've followed your blog, and you're the reason I decided to self-publish. How did you get so many sales?

Joe: I kept at it until I got lucky.

Q: Joe, you're a pioneer. A hero. A guru. You deserve all the success you've gotten. To what do you attribute your success?

Joe: I simply got lucky.

Q: You talk about luck a lot. How do I improve my chances at getting lucky?

Joe: Keep writing good books, with good descriptions, good formatting, and good cover art, and sell them cheap.

Q: Aren't talent and hard work more important than luck?

Joe: They can help you get lucky.

Q: I've done everything you say, but I'm still not selling. What's the problem?

Joe: You haven't gotten lucky yet.

Q: Isn't the self-pubbing road was paved with riches?

Joe: No one deserves to make money writing. The world doesn't owe you a living, and you aren't entitled to huge sales. You simply need to work at it, until you get lucky.

Q: How long does it take to get lucky?

Joe: It took me twenty years and over two million written words.

Q: What if I never get lucky?

Joe: Then you didn't try hard enough, or long enough. Or maybe your writing simply isn't good enough.

Not everyone can be a Major League Baseball player. It takes a combination of traits, including luck.

But everyone seems to think they can be an author, simply because they can string some words together.

Some poorly written ebooks will sell well, just like some poorly written legacy books sell well. But if you write shit, you're harming your chances at getting lucky.

I believe cream will rise to the top, and shit will sink. Ebooks are the perfect opportunity to test this theory, because there are no longer any barriers to entry. Prior to ebooks, legacy gatekeepers decided what got published, and even then many good books failed to find an audience because they never had the proper chance to.

Ebooks have an infinite shelf life, and ebooks stores have infinite shelf space. If your book is good, it has forever to be discovered.

Forever is a long time to find an audience.

Q: Can it really take forever to be successful?

Joe: I wrote the book ORIGIN in 1999. It's the book that landed me an agent. She tried mightily to sell it on three separate occasions, in 1999, 2005, and 2008, garnering more than fifty rejections by every major house in NY.

Right now, ORIGIN is ranked #274 in the Kindle store, and has received over one hundred 5 star reviews. I've sold tens of thousands of copies.

It took more than ten years for ORIGIN to find its audience. I'm going to write a sequel to it, because I get so much fan mail about that book.

You can quit if you want to. Or you can stick with it until you get lucky.

The are no easy answers. No quickie fixes. No direct paths to success.

No one is forcing you to do this. You have to love it, and to believe in yourself. Even when you fail.

Especially when you fail.

If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough.

And if you aren't trying hard, it's going to take a lot longer to get lucky.