Expecting Instant Success With Your Book?
We’ve all heard the phrase “overnight sensation” where someone, semmingly out of nowhere, emerges on the scene to big fanfare. What most fail to realize is that so-called instant success was a result of years of hard work that finally came to fruition.
Most first-time authors have the expectation of hitting it big and becoming the next big thing. And it should happen yesterday of course. And while you should have big expectations and you should definitely be prepared (as much as possible) for success don’t be surprised and don’t become too frustrated if it doesn’t happen right out of the gate.
Michael Jordan is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player of all time. Yet, he was cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn’t considered good enough. But he kept working at his game, improving his skills, and eventually he led the Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA titles.
According to buzzfeed.com Toni Morrison published her first novel at age 40 as a single mom. Morrison completed her first novel, The Bluest Eye, while she taught at Howard University and raised two children after a divorce. The novel tanked in sales and garnered mixed reviews. It was only in her mid-forties that Sula and Song of Solomon set her on the track of becoming the only recent American author to win a Nobel Prize.
Dorothy Allison was 42 when Bastard Out of Carolina came out. She had worked as a mop racker, waitress, nanny, feminist bookstore founder, maid, salad girl, Social Security clerk, rape crisis center phone counselor, and substitute teacher. She basically lived 12 lifetimes before she wrote a National Book Award-nominated novel.
George Saunders was an environmental engineer before he became a best-selling author. Though now hailed as one of the world’s finest short story writers, he came to literature slantwise, after studying geophysical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, then working as an oil surveyor in Sumatra, a doorman at Beverly Hills, a roofer in Chicago, and a knuckle-puller at a slaughterhouse. His first book, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was published when he was 37.
Contrary to what many would lead you to believe, a great deal of authors and other artists had their breakthroughs after their mid-thirties: Don DeLillo, Paul Cezanne, Cheryl Strayed, Sapphire, Phil Hartman, Lucille Ball, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Kelsey Moore, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maya Angelou, Joseph Conrad, Paul Gaugin, Leonard Cohen, and others.
“Overnight sensations are generally years in the making”
It will take perseverance and hard work. Overnight successes are generally years in the making. But success can happen. LiteraryRejections.com recently offered up an extensive collection of the some of the biggest errors of judgment in publishing history. For their complete list visit http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/.
After 5 years of continual rejection, the writer finally lands a publishing deal: Agatha Christie. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.
The Christopher Little Literary agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.
Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” A rejection letter sent Dr. Seuss. 300 million sales and the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.
“You have no business being a writer and should give up.” Zane Grey ignores the advice. There are believed to be over 250 million copies of his books in print.
140 rejections stating “Anthologies don’t sell” until the Chicken Soup for the Soul series by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen sells 125 million copies.
Having sold only 800 copies on its limited first release, the author finds a new publisher and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho sells 75 million.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Perhaps the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, there remained little hope her personal thoughts would see the light of day. Eventually, Doubleday brings the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million.
Thor Heyerdahl believes his book Kon-Tiki: Across The Pacific is unique. 20 publishers disagree. The 21st takes it on and sells 20 million: one million for each rejection.
“Unsaleable and unpublishable.” Publisher on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Random House takes a chance on it. It sells 7 million copies in the US alone.
To deal with publisher rejections, Hugh Prather decides to write a book about them in his early struggles and Notes To Myself sells 5 million.
30 publishers tell Laurence Peter that his book The Peter Principle will never sell. In 1969, a mere 18 months later it is a number #1 best-seller.
So how many of these great works wouldn’t have seen the light of day were it not for the refusal of the authors to throw in the towel? It took hard work and an unfailing belief in the worthiness of their words and, eventually, success came.
Your level of commitment to the sharing of your message with the world via your book and other mediums will be the primary determinant of your success. Just don’t become too discouraged if that success doesn’t happen overnight.