Jon Gibbs (jongibbs) wrote,
Jon Gibbs

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How do you define luck?

I’ve had some interesting reactions to Monday’s post.
Judging from some of the comments and emails I got, my tongue-in-cheek list of the ‘good fortune’ unknown authors need if they ever want to attract an agent and/or publisher gave some folks the impression that I don’t believe luck is involved in the process, but that’s not the case. I do believe providence plays a role.
The trouble is, I think an awful lot of people blur the line between ‘good luck’ and ‘the right approach.’
Imagine a complete unknown wrote a novel, Dracula vs. the Daleks. For argument’s sake, let’s assume it’s of acceptable quality. To me, ‘good luck’ would be this scenario:

Our unknown writer accidentally leaves the printout of Dracula vs. the Daleks at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. The very next person to sit at that table just happens to be a literary agent, who just happens to be on the phone that very moment with a publisher, who’s asking if he/she has any novels featuring, vampires, evil alien tin cans, and sink plungers.
Our unknown author returns, looking for the manuscript, just as the agent skims through the final pages. The agent heaves a tearful sigh and slips a contract across the table.
Now, it’s possible things like that really do happen (and if/when they do, few would claim it was anything but fortunate), but what if our unknown author didn’t leave the manuscript? What if instead, this happened:

After many hours spent researching potential agencies online, our author comes across the official website of our donut-loving writer’s-rep. The ‘What we’re looking for’ page describes cross-genre novels that sound just like Dracula vs. the Daleks. The agent’s news section gives details of a talk he/she’s giving at a local(ish) writer’s conference. Our unknown decides to go too. They meet. The author makes a well-rehearsed pitch. The agent asks for sample chapters, which result in the offer of a contract. 
Is that good luck?  Sure, providence played a small role, but I’d say it had more to do with taking the right approach, wouldn’t you?
By all means keep your fingers crossed, but stick them in your ears if someone tries to tell you only the fortunate few get published, ‘cause once you start thinking luck determines the outcome of something, it’s awfully tempting to excuse yourself from doing everything possible to shorten the odds. 

Tags: fiction, writing

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