No Magic

Tobias Buckell did a post this week about survivorship bias, which then pinged around the writing world. It’s a good post, and you should poke that link over there and read it. If you don’t though, here’s my particular interpretation of the gist– Most writers don’t make much, if any, money selling ebooks. However, since we only hear about the few that do, it’s easy to believe the hype that epublishing is the golden road to success in our modern inter-tubey age.

In my opinion- yeah, what he said. Very well and with charts.

Epublishing has been a very successful, very lucrative path for very few people. A slightly larger group has managed to be mildly successful at it- not enough to get rich, but they can support themselves. A slightly larger group than that makes some nice pocket money, but they are no where near quitting their day jobs. And finally, in by far the largest group, are the people that have made almost nothing or lost money putting out ebooks.

Which is a pattern that sounds strangely familiar.

In traditional publishing, that great old dinosaur, there are a few authors who make lots of money. Mostly though, there are the mid-list authors, who manage to make a living (note: definition of a living is highly variable) through their writing. Many of them still have day jobs though, or partners who help support them. Then there’s a bigger group of writers who feel lucky if they make enough to cover the cost of all those visits to the coffee shop (who, me? I sez to no one).  And finally, again, there’s the horde beating on the gates, trying to get in.

What am I trying to say here? Nothing new, nothing revolutionary.

Traditional publishing can be a path to fabulous success. But only for a very tiny minority of writers.

Ebook publishing can be a path to fabulous success. But only for a very tiny minority of writers.

I’m not trying to be discouraging- hey, look, there’s two paths now. There used to be only one. That’s better, right? If slightly more confusing.

Still, the annoying truth remains– there is no magic path to being that writer, the one with the bestsellers and the movies and the theme parks. Writing is still, and always will be, a long slog through a wilderness of rejection and obscurity. Choosing to follow the traditional publishing path or the newer ebook one isn’t going to change that. So choose one, or the other, or both. Explore! Have fun! It will be a grand adventure!


Well, whether you’re waiting for some slush minion to reject your precious baby or constantly refreshing your Amazon ranking, you need to keep repeating something to yourself. And ‘I’m having fun!’ may be the one magical thing you do need for success. Because it’s an utterly nonsensical phrase that can help you persevere, and persevering is really the only thing that brings success.

Besides starring in a shlocky reality TV show, of course.


1 Comment

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One response to “No Magic

  1. Great take on what is becoming a viral article. Have fun with what you’re doing – that is the secret.

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