by Dan Balow
You can self-publish a book, sell 10,000 copies in the first week, 50,000 in the second week and be a millionaire in three months.
You can write a book and mail it to a publisher, they publish it without meeting you and you become a wealthy household name.
An antiques dealer can knock on your door and offer you $250,000 for your end table that you bought last summer at a garage sale for $5.
You could be called out from the stands, given a basketball and offered a million dollars if you make a basket from seventy-five feet away. And you do.
These things could happen. But they are exceptions. Exceptional exceptions, but exceptions nevertheless. Planning your life or career around them would be rather futile and frustrating.
The Oprah Winfrey Show was the Holy Grail for publishers when she started her book club in 1996. Her endorsement of a book made it an instant bestseller. Do you know how many books she selected over 16 years? Seventy-two…that is 72.
Not all Oprah selections were new books, with a number of older classics among them. Over that same 16-year period, roughly three million new books were published in the U.S., which means only one in 75,000 new books were picked as an Oprah selection. Regardless, I have heard authors say, “If we could just get Oprah to endorse my book.” Sure, that would be nice.
In the Christian market, that magic marketing potion has been a number of things from an interview on a prominent radio or TV program, a prime speaking engagement at a prominent conference, a bookstore chain main promotion or a social network site gone mega-viral. Some very successful authors had moderate initial success and then their book was mentioned by an influential pastor or musician, causing a substantial increase in sales, which snowballed to something more.
But these are exceptions. And they are exceptions to the normal process because they are extremely rare occurrences.
Don’t be frustrated with your publisher if they don’t spend a lot of time pursuing exceptions. They can’t base their businesses on them any more than you can plan your income and expenses for the next several years based on regularly winning your state lottery. It would be foolish to say the least.
Publishers base their businesses on proven principles of marketing, sales and financial management, while always remaining ready to act if something extraordinary does happens. The business of publishing is risky enough without spending a lot of time doing what works no more than once every 75,000 times.
Be realistic, trust your publisher and be thankful if God drops serendipity into your life. Remember, the publisher wants to succeed at getting your book into readers’ hands as much as you do.
Not all serendipities are big and spectacular. What writing or publishing surprises have you had lately?