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December 01, 2008



Very interesting site! Thanks for sharing...i will be back to check it out more fully. I appreciate your insider views and such. :) Cheers!


Julie, I saw your awesome article in the RWR, and I stopped by your site to send you a note. Then I saw you'd posted the article on your blog. Thanks for making it available here. I think I'll need to look at it pretty frequently to keep myself sane. :) You mentioned a lot of things that don't normally get talked about, and I appreciate your insight and Steven's, as well. Thanks again, and all the best to you.

rebecca cantrell

I don't know whether to cheer or cry. It is liberating to know that the Emperor has no clothes.

I think I'll go right back to doing the thing I love to do the most: WRITING.

It's reminds me of the study with the pots. One group of students was assigned the task to create the perfect pot. The other group was assigned to create as many pots as possible. At the end of the study period, the perfect group had not created a single pot, perfect or otherwise as they'd bogged down figuring out what was perfect and how to attain it. The other group had created many pots, and some of them WERE perfect. And you can imagine which group was happier. :)

Off to throw some pots...


Fantastic article. Puts so many things in perspective. I can so relate to that farmer, having survived some unmet expectations that went badly, but set up my life for entirely different paths. Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.... Instead of being a music teacher in a small town in Indiana, married to a guy at the same school, I now live in wonderful country, Australia, having spent a career travelling the world and educating thousands of people. And now I'm exploring this thing called writing books. So yes, maybe, maybe not.

I also found the switching gears idea to fit as well. Sometimes you just get burnt out doing the same thing. Let's face it. Novels are long beasts. So I switched to art for a while. The results are relatively quick. The output is still creative. And you can give it to a friend and they can enjoy it right away, too. The rest from writing can allow those batteries to recover, yet the learning of the common elements of creativity -- planning, story, color, emotion, craft -- are still being practiced.

Julie A Long

KelleyRan, so glad you stopped by, and very thrilled you found the article so helpful. Feel free to visit it as often as you like! LOL. We've had quite a lot of enthusiastic feedback so far, which is wonderful -- the articles seem to have really struck a chord with authors. You're right -- we seldom discuss many of these things even though (or perhaps *because*) they're sources of such angst. But I think a lot of us are suffering needlessly because we don't know them or discuss them. As I told one author who sent an email to me about them, I think it takes a while to even know which questions to ask in order to gain clarity or perspective (e.g., what the heck does Bookscan mean, anyway?? Why can't I self- promote myself onto a bestseller list?, etc.), or who might be willing or able to answer them. Some aspects of these articles might not resonate for authors until they're deeper into their careers, and even then, someone incredibly knowledgeable and experienced (an agent like Steve, for instance) can tell you certain things until he/she is blue in the face -- but real learning/believing often needs to be experiential. Hopefully with these articles we can begin to ease some angst and introduce more peace (and fabulous books) into the publishing process for all of us.

Wow, Rebecca -- I LOVED your "making pots" story!! And you know, the publishing paradigm has remained the same for a very, very long time. It'll be interesting to see how it evolves in the next few years as market challenges are faced, new-ish technology becomes increasingly commonplace (e.g., Kindle), and authors become more educated about the way it all works. :) Here's to throwing pots!! :)

Jan, so glad you enjoyed the article! And I find the "Maybe, Maybe Not" story fascinating, too, because I'm sure so many people -- like you, and Robert Frost, and, oh, say Al Gore ;) (when he lost the election, did ever imagine he'd go on to win and Oscar and a Nobel peace prize??) - can point to major turning points in their lives, forks in the road that led them on journeys they never could have imagined had their expectations been fulfilled.

And you're right -- switching gears is can be pretty crucial in a couple of ways. Years ago, when my first band broke up, I began painting. I needed to do *something* unrelated to music, and it was a marvelous way to sort of rest my other creative muscles. Another metaphor: think of crop rotation as a way to prevent exhausting the soil in a particular field. :) And switching gears can bean act of courage, too -- because it's *difficult* for many of us to admit that we're burnt or need to switch gears, especially if we have a vision of what we're "supposed" to do, or if we've invested significant time and energy in some endeavor and believe abandoning it is tantamount to wasting that time. The way I see it: NO time is wasted if you learn something, or steers you to your next, possibly more appropriate, destination. :) Staying curious, staying in the moment and going in the flow makes even the difficult decisions a little pleasurable, because there's always that frisson of "what if? where will this lead me?" Takes practice, though!!


Wow--interesting stuff, Julie! But a little mind boggling, too. Keep writing! :)

John Brown

I love this post. However, I do not love the conclusion. In fact, I suggest that Watts’ findings show quite the opposite of the conclusions made here. Instead of cluttering up the response, I posted about it on my site at http://johndbrown.com/2008/12/is-product-popularity-totally-random/

Colleen Thompson

I read and loved this pair of articles so much I actually blogged on them earlier today at http://tinyurl.com/5gbto2

Thanks to you for the very thought-provoking words!

Julie Anne Long

Hi John -- wanted to thank you for stopping by the blog, and quickly point out that *Steven* Axelrod is a Literary Agent and the the author of the first article in this piece -- *David* Axelrod, as you've referred to him, is a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Barack Obama. :) But both are distinguished men! LOL. And to my knowledge, they're not related. We're so glad you enjoyed the piece! And Steve may feel compelled to pop in here and comment, but I'll quickly say that I'm not certain you do disagree with his findings (per your blog post) -- because he doesn't say that an author *cannot* influence the success of a book. :) The point is -- well, to quote Wanamaker, as Steve did: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." A mind-boggling array of factors, most of which are completely beyond an author's control, come into play in the production and marketing of a book, from the moment it's sold to a publisher to the moment it does (or doesn't, for whatever reason) reach shelves. Tess Gerritsen blogged about this piece, and quickly outlined the trajectory of her own career on her blog, mentioning a UPS strike that once prevented one of her books from getting into stores in time to take advantage of the co-op arranged for it. Authors and publishers everywhere can recite *countless* stories like this. I've written seven books, and I can tell you there's NO correlation between any promo I've done and sales, between print run and perceived success, between reviews and success. :) I did absolutely NO promo for two books for budgetary reasons -- one sold averagely, another soared. Why? I could not begin to tell you. :) What we're saying is that at any given time many of the factors influencing the success of a book are completely unpredictable and often invisible to either author or publisher, and can vary in range and magnitude from Oprah extolling it to a blizzard shutting down a whole region's worth of bookstores, preventing the books from getting into stores at all. I've written an article on how bestseller lists are compiled that addresses a few of the variables that come into play--you can check it out here: http://www.julieannelong.com/internal/hmmm.html#Bestsellerlists. An author and his or her publisher can launch a book with hope and their best efforts -- and just make peace with the knowledge that just about anything can happen, regardless. :)

Colleen, thanks for blogging about the piece! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It's gratifying to know how powerfully it's resonating for so many writers -- as an author, these are things I would have liked to have known before I was published, things I wish someone would have discussed with me -- then again, I'm not sure I would have understood the concepts as thoroughly or that they would have resonated as strongly as they do until I'd personally lived through the the cycle of a few books.

John Brown

Julie Anne,

Thanks for the correction. I kept thinking, man, I've HEARD of this guy. Like in the news. Doh! Now I know why.

I think you sum up my thinking here:

"An author and his or her publisher can launch a book with hope and their best efforts -- and just make peace with the knowledge that just about anything can happen, regardless. :)"

This makes good sense.

However, having had to market products in other industries (software & real estate), I've found that you can increase your odds by taking action to increase visibility, endorsement, and attractiveness. The problem is exactly what you point out--if you can't track marketing effectiveness, you may blow all your time and money on things that don't work. But there are ways to track and correlate.

I'm excited to see if anything that's worked for me in these other industries will work as I launch my career with fiction.

One thing I am appreciative of is the amazing generosity of so many pros like yourself and Steven. I'm finding a surprising number of writers paying it forward by offering good insights to us newbies. Many thanks!

Andy Gross

hi julie!

Mimi Barbour

Steven and Julie,
Thanks so much for the heads-up on this crazy, wonderful profession we have chosen. After what's been happening to me personally, I agree with your conclusions. And it's good to know that my experiences are normal. So ... will I be spending vast amounts of money to promote my next book - you got it! Maybe, maybe not!


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To all who are reading this….I’ve been opened to listen and understand what the bible says..god said NO ONE will know the day I’ll arrivE nor my angels wouldn’t know” neither satan nor any human being” HE will come like a thieve in the night”.. And its been said like stone”.. Folks read the bible”

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I agree with your conclusions.


This makes good sense.

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At the end of the day, faith is a funny thing

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I’ve been opened to listen and understand what the bible says..god


We writers need to remember that we are already "paid"--and richly! --by the growth gained and joy of accomplishment of the writing itself! This is a reward provided all artists who will accept it--that's my experience.

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