Becoming An Indie Author: Is Success Based On Luck?

This is a guest post from Zoe Winters, author of paranormal romance and her latest book ‘Becoming an Indie Author’.

I believe one of the most damaging attitudes you can have is to believe that success is based on luck. Yes, successful people often have opportunities that seem “lucky”, but those opportunities rarely come without a lot of hard work and a strong foundation already built.

Your attitude is one of the most important factors in your success. Tony Robbins is one of my heroes. Yes, he’s pretty hyper-excited, and he has those crazy-big teeth, but he’s cracked the right-attitude code for life success. Watch this video.

If you’re not in a place yet where you have a strong belief in yourself, you may roll your eyes a bit if you watch that link. But I urge you to press on because there are things you need to know. It’s the thing that those who are making a success of themselves know.

The basic premise is that you must have a strong belief in what you’re doing and what you can do before you start. Otherwise you won’t put much effort in, you’ll get crappy results, those results will make you believe you can’t do anything… then Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Until insane. By contrast, if you do believe you can do something, you work harder, and every small success builds your confidence to do more.

When you have a strong goal and don’t let anybody sway you from it, your mind starts helping you figure out ways to problem-solve and get there. When you believe success is based on “luck”, you are putting up a roadblock.

I don’t know what you’re afraid of… success, failure, or something else. Yes, you can do everything to the best of your ability and it not be good enough. That kind of ego death is so crushing and terrifying to most people that they never break out of their comfort zone. But until you get out there and try, you don’t know what you can do. And nobody else does either. So don’t let anyone tell you who you are.

I’ve been there. I’ve been where I couldn’t even keep a McJob or make enough money to survive on without somebody else paying most of the bills. It’s an emotionally awful place to be. So I know that “I can’t do this anyway” feeling. But you have to dig deep and get over it, because if you don’t, that is your life, and that is where you’ll stay.

It’s very easy to start the indie thing and not shoot right out of the gate with success (like a few have), and then think… “They’re just lucky. Their books sell because they are lucky.”

You may or may not have heard my name floating around the Internet. You may or may not have heard that I’ve started making a living at my fiction. But out of the 2 years I’ve been doing this, for the first 17 months, I was making under $200 a month at this. If you think I’m just “lucky”, that is some really wacky luck that took a lot of hard work and persistence to get to.

Books sell well for two reasons: Marketing and Grippability (I made up that second word.)

Grippability is the quality where a book completely grabs and hooks the reader emotionally, so much so, that they have to tell everybody they have ever met about it. There are books many consider to be poorly-written (aka Twilight) which have grippability. And there are books which are wonderful in every literary way, which do not. The grippable books are the ones that become bestsellers.

The level of your book’s grippability and your marketing will determine its success. Not luck. It’s hard to teach someone how to be grippable, just like it’s hard to teach someone how to be cool. Because the biggest dorks often think they are super cool. (And before you say it, yes, I am a big dork!)

With regards to marketing, there are a lot of ways to get your books visible and in front of people on the Internet. Guest blogging, Tweeting, Facebook, MySpace, GoodReads, Kindleboards, contests and giveaways, working on your sales pages so your books show up in the searches for keywords at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

None of these things is “luck-based”. It’s all work and talent-based. If you’ve got the talent and everyone who reads your work (who isn’t your best friend or mommy) thinks it is so awesome they can’t put it down and almost peed their pants, but you aren’t selling… it’s your marketing.

If you’ve got a killer marketing campaign and the book isn’t selling… there is either something about the book that is turning people off, or something about how you’re marketing that is turning people off. i.e. Facebook is not an opt-in newsletter. Stop spamming everybody on your friends list.

One caveat: It can take time. As an indie, you don’t have a giant marketing department behind you. Grassroots marketing efforts are not instant. And books sold this way often take awhile to find their audience.

None of this is magic.

If you get marketing and some level of grippability right, you’ll do well. And you may start to get some “lucky breaks”. But don’t buy into that hype. The more you accept that a lot of your success or failure is in some way based on your choices, the harder you’ll work to make sure you positively influence the things you can control, and the more likely you’ll see your mistakes and fix them. (And I’ve made, and continue to make mistakes. It’s a part of being human.)

I’ve recently released a guide to help indie authors called: “Becoming an Indie Author”. The book is part motivation, part how-to, and part my personal experiences as an indie over the past two years. You can find out more information about the book here. I’ll also give away a free digital copy of the book to one commenter at this blog, so please leave a comment below to be in the draw.

Zoe Winters is an independent author of quirky and sometimes dark paranormal romance. She is a passionate advocate of the indie author movement and believes indie authors deserve the same consideration as indie filmmakers and musicians. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear. You can find her at

***UPDATE 30 Nov****

The winner of the random draw for Zoe’s fantastic book is Tracy Staskevich from Pentacor Book Design, The Book Experts. Congratulations Tracy! and thanks to Zoe for a great post with lots of interaction in the comments.

Image: Flickr CC Stairs from Swisscan (I was thinking that success is a long climb but eventually you make it!)

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Heather says

    Thank you so much for writing this book…It’s extremely hard to put yourself out there, but you will never know until you try…Even if I fail in my heart I’m a success, cause that is how much in love I am with the book I am writing and if only one person buys it then that is the icing on the cake…

    Thank you again,

  2. says

    Having played both the NY and epublisher game, I have to say that you have been a tremendous influence and inspiration to me, Zoe, as I embark on my own indie publishing journey. Thanks for always sharing your insight!

  3. says

    Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been indie for over a year now with only my self-publishing as my job and I’ve had to squeeze groceries out of nickels before and it is a painful place to be. But I wouldn’t trade self-publishing or being an indie author for anything. Thanks for the great encouragement! 😀

  4. says

    Thank you for the jolt of positive confidence that hit my e-mail this morning AND for the new word — grippability! For while I struggle with doubt, as many writers do, your post reminds me that I have TENACITY.

  5. says

    This informative and very true post comes at the right time for me as I’m about to “self” publish a book of stories. I’ve decided to do it through Smashwords. (Yes, I know marketing will be the crucial thing here!) I also have a book soon to be published by a small press, but marketing is mostly up to the author, as I’m discovering and beginning to wonder why go with a press at all. Yes, there are reasons, but if you know you’ve got a good product that’s been critiqued honestly and well, why not go the e-route? You can learn to market! Even at my age (I’m 70) I’m learning!!!

    • says

      Sometimes I get a surge when I do a holiday sale, yes. Though there are a lot of 99 cent ebooks out there, so you still have to otherwise promote, usually.

      For the most part it seems my conversion rates (the percentage of people who view my page and then buy the book) remain fairly steady at 99 cents or at 2.99. It’s possible more people might click on the page to begin with in a search if they see it at 99 cents, though.

  6. says

    Wow. This really resonated. Writing is a nearly impossible field to break into and making a career of it is like becoming an astronaut. nonetheless, it is my dream and I am working everyday to do the work, keep my chin up and moving forward. It can definitely be discouraging if you let it, but like you say, its all in the attitude. Thanks so much for an awesome interview!

  7. says

    A golfer–I think it might have been Gary Player–once said, ‘The harder I practice, the lukcier I get.” Same thing really, isn’t it? Nothing worth having comes easy.

  8. says

    I’m not that much of a paranormal fan but bought the Blood Lust series on my kindle on recommendation. Loved it! And I totally get what you mean about *grippability*. You dont have to be the best writer in the world but you do have to have a story people want to read. (and a good editor). I think what you’ve done – giving readers something for free to build an audience- is also a good idea. I’m trying it myself with good results. People don’t comment but I know they’re reading – the stats zoom when I post!

  9. says

    Fantastic post – I’m so glad that I stumbled upon this as I my first novel hits the the world next week. I’ve been biting my nails and I’ve got to stop! We are writers, hear us roar!

  10. says

    ***UPDATE 30 Nov****
    The winner of the random draw for Zoe’s fantastic book is Tracy Staskevich from Pentacor Book Design, The Book Experts. Congratulations Tracy! and thanks to Zoe for a great post with lots of interaction in the comments.

  11. says

    This is AMAZING! I was looking the website of Tony, and saw the Interview with Frank and John. There I found the trackbacks
    I’m buying your book, I would let you know and all the hispanic market, how great stuff are on this book for the selfpublish process.
    This is my first book and It would talk about how entrepreneurs and internet.! Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *