Miss Snark, you never (that I can see) to talk about the luck factor in becoming a published author. And it seems to be more and more prevalent among the people I see being published. I'm not talking about the highly talented. I'm talking about the rest of the crap that gets published. I have spit my coffee across my desk many a time when I've heard the news that some half baked writer has sold a book. And trust me, I've heard it a few times. And the only reason I can think that their work is selling is because they got lucky or came across some equally half-baked editor.You know this is true. So when you talk about how good books and good writing sell, I have to chuckle a little because it's only partly true and every writer loses sleep over it, especially if they've been at the craft for a long time, write well, and have been passed up for one of these starlets.
There certainly is luck involved in getting published. But it's not the only thing, and it's not something you can control. There's that cliche "the harder I work, the luckier I get" but that's a facile response to what the Snarkling points out.
Here's the thing though. Luck is the last factor in the equation, not the first. By this I mean you can't be ONLY lucky and get published. Leave aside the celebrity book-as-brand-extention thing, which we've all agreed isn't really writing. If you write a book, it has to be well written for its intended market (well written for the romance market isn't the same as well written for literary fiction). It has to, at the very least, appeal to someone who wants to publish it, and probably an agent, an acquisitions committee and a few other people too. So, luck is the piece that comes AFTER you've polished your book, worked on finding an agent, and worked on getting it considered.
The best example for how luck works is in the book Transition Game by Jon Wertheim. It's a fascinating narrative about how Indiana high school basketball "went hip hop"... got faster, focused on the individual player and took to the air. Transition Game talks about a high school player who was not only the best player in Indiana (and college scouts had their eye on him from freshman year on) but was nationally ranked. This kid was good, fast, a team player, and smart.
By the time this kid got to college, the game had gone hip hop on him. The things that made him great were almost liabilities now. He never quite made the college leap. Not cause he wasn't good, but because the game had changed around him. That's luck.
BUT the point of this story is that luck was a factor ONLY cause he was at the top of his game. He'd done the fundamentals, he'd hit the practice sessions, he'd made one gazillion free throws on his backboard at home. It wasn't enough, he needed some luck which he didn't get, but he wouldn't have been in a position to take advantage of luck if he couldn't sink a three pointer from thirty feet.
So, no, I don't talk much about luck. I can tell you the things that make me nuts as an agent reading query letters. I can tell you how publishing works here in my corner of the world. I can't make you a better writer, I can't force you to practice, and I can't bring you good luck. For that you have to rub the bunny slippers with a twenty dollar bill.
Here's a link to the listing for Transition Game on Amazon, if you're interested. I read the book and liked it a lot.