I suspect you want it.  Most authors do.  Who doesn’t want to be the next big thing?

I realized a long time ago I would never write the great American novel.  I lowered my expectations and did away with my illusions. However, I write to be read.  I won’t deny it.

The other day a friend and I were chatting about the vagaries of fate and fame, discussing why one work of fiction, deserving or not, succeeds while another fails.  She and I agreed we could make billions if we could somehow tease out the secret behind success.

What if we could bottle and sell the key to success, like, say, a perfume, a simple pheromone you dab behind your ears?  Can you imagine?  We’d be set for life.  We could both retire today.

I think the secret is this – There is none.  There is no one thing you can point to and say – that’s why so and so is successful.  You can’t even point to talent.  Not even unique, inspiring, amazing talent.

One day an author releases a particular work at what turns out (in hindsight) to be the right time.  She hits upon the right theme, in the right genre, catches the eyes of the right readers and strikes the right chord.

There you have it.

You can’t TRY to do this.  In fact I’d go so far as to say TRYING makes success all the more elusive.

Whatever has succeeded in the past for one author is unlikely to succeed in the present or future for another author regardless of ability.

Bill Cosby– “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate success.  There is no straight arrow path to fame and fortune.  Yes, some genre authors do essentially ‘clone’ success, but as science has discovered some clones, those with short telomeres, suffer from rapid aging.  Therefore one wonders if literary clones will stand the test of time.  I doubt it.

So what are we left with?

Hard work and dedication to your craft.  Writing the best book you can and letting it go.

Maybe you’ll have some success.  Maybe you won’t.

Or perhaps it all depends upon how you measure success.

David Frost–  “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”

J. Paul Getty– “Formula for success:  Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”

Bill Gates–  “Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Vince Lombardi–  “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  Smart man.