Some Succeed While Others Fail

Hello, readers. In tonight’s post, I want to address a paradox – why do some succeed while others fail when their approaches, talent, and commitment are the same? Is it luck, fate, or destiny, or is there something we’re not seeing? Hang tight as we delve deeper.

While I don’t purport to put myself on the same level as more accomplished authors, I often wonder how they became so successful after such meager beginnings, that, in reality, aren’t much different than my own. How on Earth does a debut novel become a bestseller? How does an author who has only written two books secure a movie deal? Those questions boggle my mind. Let’s look at a few examples of what I’m talking about.

In 2011, author Andy Weir self-published his debut novel, The Martian, on his blog. Three years later, his book was re-released by Crown Publishing Group after they bought the exclusive publishing rights. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, the film adaptation hit the big screens in October 2015. The movie grossed $630 million! How the hell does that happen?

Let’s look at another example. A.G. Riddle, who spent years starting up internet companies before retiring to pursue his passion for writing, has sold millions of copies of his books and received a seven-figure sum from 20th Century Fox for the rights to adapt Departure into a movie. Now, he has four movie deals pending. While you might not think that impressive considering how many movies are adapted to film, you should. I’ll explain.

Like many self-published authors, A.G. Riddle started with no writing experience; he simply had a dream and the determination to make it a reality. In March 2013, he self-published his first book, The Atlantis Gene on Amazon through the KDP platform where it quickly became a resounding success that kickstarted his career as a bestselling author. If you’re thinking that his success was the result of a slew of professional editors and expensive marketing campaigns, then you’re wrong. With the help of his mother, a retired eighth-grade teacher, he did the editing himself. For marketing, his girlfriend, who is now his wife, spread the word about his first novel on Facebook. So, once again, I ask, how the hell does that happen?

These are but two examples of moments where inexperienced, self-published authors have gone on to find fame and glory. Before I go on, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not discounting their talent as writers; both are gifted wordsmiths who create engaging stories that are worthy of praise. While I’m a big fan of both authors, I’ve read books by other talented authors who were never able to hit the best-sellers list or secure a movie deal. My question is why some succeed while others fail, so let’s get into that.

Right off the bat, we can discount experience as being a critical factor. Neither of the authors I mentioned had any experience in writing fiction. We can also discount the idea that marketing plays a major role as, at least in Riddle’s case, his success spawned from Facebook posts. Likewise, we can discount the idea that a manuscript that hasn’t been edited by professionals is worthless. So, why them and not us?

I can’t give you the answer to that question, but I can share my personal theory on the matter. Content and timing are everything. At the time that A.G. Riddle published The Atlantis Gene, the content of his story, though fictional, was relevant. The same could be said of The Martian by Andy Weir. If either of them had been writing about life during the gold rush or the civil war, they might not have gained such a massive following. As a sign of our times, we seem to be focused on the future and on things we still can’t understand.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this: If they can do it, then we can do it!

One Comment

  • Chris

    One thing to note about The Martian is that Weir did a massive amount of research to lend it as much scientific plausibility and accuracy as possible, no doubt benefited by his background as a tech guy and son of a scientist. It was a novel that he was uniquely positioned to write well, through a lot hard work, of course. Unfortunately, the one thing he got wrong was critical to his plot–the storm on Mars which causes Watney to be stranded. Apparently such storms are not possible on Mars. Whoops! But it just goes to show, a good story can overcome its own unlikely elements.

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