Journeys in publishing (and life) can be rocky. Sometimes we need an extra sprinkle of fairy dust or luck to make it.
Today, we talk about how luck has—or hasn’t—played a role in the publishing and non-publishing aspects of our lives.
This should be an easy question, but I admit, I’m somewhat stumped. I can’t decide for sure whether I’ve had any actual “fairy dust” sprinkled on me, though I do keep clapping every day, just in case, to let all those fairies out there know that I do believe and I am completely open to it. I have been very lucky, though, as I’m sure a lot of my fellow Chicks will say, as far as meeting truly wonderful fellow writers and readers who became my friends. I also think maybe some luck or magic might have been involved when I met my agent at the Unicorn Writers Conference (yup, that was the name of it!) and learned that she’d enjoyed my crazy ms. I do trust that Luck drops me in the right place at the right time on occasion. I think you have to be open to it, though. Keep clapping, everyone!
Although pretty much everything in my various writing careers has been the result of a lot of hard work, the event that kicked off my entry into the mystery world was definitely a stroke of luck. My daughter happened to be taking an art class with the son of mystery author Denise Hamilton. Denise mentioned she was going to a convention called ThrillerFest. I’d started writing my first mystery in a small writers group a friend had assembled. I knew it wasn’t a thriller, so I asked Denise if there were conventions for other mystery genres. She listed a few – I’d never heard of any of them; I didn’t even know these cons existed – and one was Malice Domestic. I looked it up and saw they offered a grant for unpublished mystery authors. I submitted and was a co-winner with Vince and Rosemarie Keenan, who write as Renee Patrick. It was at that Malice I learned about MWA and Sisters in Crime, which brought me to Lisa Q. Mathews, Kellye Garrett, and Marla Cooper… and eventually Chicks on the Case!
If luck came into my publishing journey, it was ten years into the story. But, who can say? I had written and queried scores of agents with two previous manuscripts that got no love — and no offers. I guess third time really was the charm for me. I only queried a dozen agents for the Liv & Di series and got three requests for full manuscripts. I got an offer from one of my top of list agents. And after finishing edits with her, we had an offer from Kensington within a month. And it only took me a decade to reach that fairy-tale outcome!
As Ellen notes, hard work (and persistence) are absolutely necessary for one to make it as a published author. But a little luck can go a long way towards nudging you over the top. Such was my case. I’d queried over 100 agents and was beginning to think I didn’t have what it takes. And then my query landed on the desk of an agent who had just learned that Crooked Lane, a new mystery publisher, was on the look-out for cozy mysteries. She read mine, loved it, and gave me that miraculous phone call offering representation. So timing and luck. And a m.s. to back them up.
As luck would have it, luck hasn’t played a huge role in my writing career. Both my day job as a copywriter and my journey from baby-novelist-wannabe to published author have been the result of hard work and persistence. The exception is the friends I’ve made in the crime fiction world. I feel incredibly, unbelievably lucky to have met so many wonderful writers, readers, editors, and lovers-of-murder-on-the-page at conferences and online. It’s an amazing community of humans, and I’m darn fortunate to know you all. ❤
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” We attribute this quote to the Roman philosopher Seneca, but it’s absolutely true today. And it plays a big part in my publishing journey. I’d been writing for a long time in the world of kid lit when I decided to transition to writing for adults. I’d been preparing for YEARS by becoming more skillful with my writing. I learned new and different ways to structure a story. I punched up muddy middles, boring beginnings, and emaciated endings. And I networked. I’m what my kids call—usually with an eye roll—”a people person.” I went to writer’s conferences and mystery conventions and I talked to [probably literally] everyone. I volunteered. I invited people I wanted to know better to eat breakfast with me. I tagged along with the cool kids to lunch. I plopped myself down at banquet tables with authors I found interesting. Because of all those people I met and hung out with over the years, I was introduced to my agent and my first editor. I was invited to emcee conferences, present workshops, join the board of our Sisters in Crime chapter, and to become a Chick. A writer has to be able to string words together in a pleasing manner, of course. But if you don’t get out there and meet your tribe, how will anyone know?
Let’s talk about publishing first. There was definitely some behind-the-scenes magic. The only reason I even got a book deal for the Sassy Cat Mysteries was because an editor picked up my indie book, Seniors Sleuth, and laughed so much while reading it that she contacted me.
As for other areas of life, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself lucky or unlucky. Timing does have a lot to do with things, and I did meet my husband in college—when we kept on bumping into each other and ended up doing the same activities. Of course, he wouldn’t call it “lucky” that I met him, more like blessed.
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