The truth is this: nobody is born famous. Unless you’re the offspring of Michael Jackson the likelihood that you sprang from the womb with a star on the Walk of Fame is unlikely. So why do so many people act as though they are already part of the elite groups of authors? You know, the ones who actually make a living doing what they love: writing. It’s true. Something like only 3% of authors actually makes a living on their writing alone. Most of us make more money doing consulting, speaking or whatever else and the writing, i.e. our book, is our business card.
I have my own theories on why this number is so low. I think it’s because so many of us get into this industry without realizing how tough it is. We think that we write the book and the rest will just happen. I once said in a presentation that publishing isn’t the Field of Dreams, just because you wrote it doesn’t mean people will beat a path to your door. You have to tell them, and tell them again, and then tell them some more. You have to love your book so much that even if no doors are opening for you, you still knock. Or, if needed, you climb through a window. You work tirelessly accepting every opportunity that comes your way and making the most out of each interview. You say “thank you” for even the smallest opportunity because the savvy author knows that today’s “nobody” could be tomorrow’s Carson Daly.
I was asked to write this piece, I don’t very often take to task what needs to be done in order to succeed, mostly because I think there are enough of us out there banging that drum. Then I got an email from an author who had attended a session I taught and she said “I listen to you because you walk the walk, you’re an author yourself and you do what you tell us to do: grab every chance you can to get your name out there.” It’s true. Sure, I’m in publicity and yes, yes, I have the emails of Oprah’s producers (even a cell phone number or two, ooooh) but truth is, there are a million steps between you and your proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and you have to traverse those steps each and every day. And I am right there with you, sharing the road to success. Have I gotten there yet? A lot of people tell me I have, but success is a journey, not a final destination. For me, I love and appreciate every opportunity I get. Sometimes I’ll even get emails from people who say, “I’m sure my blog is too small for you to consider appearing on, but I thought I’d ask you anyway.” You know what? Nothing is too small. And for such a humble pitch, I’ll clear my schedule.
We work with a variety of author-related sites and we get interview requests for our authors; the other day I was scrolling through a list of authors who got requests for these sites but never turned in their completed interview. Out of ten on the list only one had turned in their stuff. The others blew off the request, said they weren’t interested or just forgot. I guarantee you ten years from now, that one author will likely be famous; the others will be back at their jobs wondering why the world never read their book.
I love this industry and I’d never want to be anywhere else. For all of its challenges and obstacles there’s nothing like being in publishing. But being an author requires a dedication the likes of which you could never imagine. It also requires a daily dose of humility. Never believe the bio they read about you before you get on stage, never let a stunning review go to your head (though it’s ok to jump up and down, call your mother, dance around your office and show all your friends) and never, ever assume that just because you managed to put pen to paper that you deserve fame. No one deserves fame, it’s earned and for many of us, always elusive.
A few weeks ago I was at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. I had just headed into the store to do my presentation when I heard a voice call out from across the store: “It’s really you!!” he said. A man rushed up to me, holding my book in his hand, “I’ve been following your work for years, you are such an inspiration,” He said breathlessly. I looked around to see who he was talking to, Cameron Diaz? Was Julia Roberts here? Sure enough, he meant me. I was floored. He went on to thank me for my work, my website, my radio show, and our Book Marketing Expert Newsletter. Finally he took a breath and asked me if I would sign a copy of my book (I still find this incredibly thrilling, by the way). I told him how much I appreciated what he said, he seemed surprised. I just smiled and said: Thank you, because you remind me why I do this, each and every day.
Always be amazed and appreciative of every chance that comes your way, the industry doesn’t owe you anything but a book. You got that. Now what will you do?