I have a master’s degree in mathematics, and I followed it up with 32 years in sales and marketing for the same multinational company. You may ask what either of these facts has to do with writing novels, but bear with me. There is a connection.
Years ago, I was fortunate to retire with mileage still on my tires. For the first time in my life, I had an abundance of free time. I filled it with many things, some productive, some not. The most creative activity I pursued was writing. I’d always wanted to write, but writing a novel required time, something I now had.
I took on this venture knowing the odds of producing a published novel, or for that matter a novel that would be read beyond my small sphere of friends, were low. After all, I spent six years studying mathematics. The formula is fairly simple. You take 200,000 new books written each year as the denominator and a couple dozen best sellers as the numerator, and you can calculate that 1 out of 10,000 authors might have his/her books read by someone outside their hometown. I know there’s a middle ground for success between bestseller and throwing the manuscript in the garbage, but you get the point. It’s hard.
So why did I think I could write a novel? That’s where persistence comes in. Anyone who works 32 years for the same company doesn’t give up easily. A career is not a smooth uphill climb. There are plateaus and even slippery downhill slides along the way, but if you keep moving forward with your eyes on the finish line, you’ll eventually get there. It’s not unlike writing. There are periods where the words flow, the characters develop, and the story explodes with action. Then there are days where the page sits blank, or worse, you decide to scrap a chapter and start over.
As I anticipated, my persistence paid off. Over the past six years, I have self-published four novels and two short story collections. None are bestsellers. In fact, I’m often frustrated with the pace of sales. After three decades in sales and marketing, it’s where I’ve faced my biggest challenges. My books are all professionally edited, and naturally, I feel they’re well written. I’ve received dozens of favorable book reviews, as well as contest recognition for several of my short stories.
I’ve concluded that to be a successful writer, as measured by book sales, it not only requires a well-written book, it takes a cadre of support services. You need to identify your target market, deliver well-written books that hit that target, construct a multifaceted marketing plan, and commit sufficient resources to execute your plan. Most importantly, I’ve learned persistence is necessary, but it’s not sufficient.