Something also happened that really made my night. My friend tweeted this:
It is, of course, a two way street. I'm obviously very chuffed, and it was so very sweet. But at the same time, that little voice in the back of my head is yelling, "YOU'VE BEEN AT THIS FOR YEARS. IF YOU WERE SO GREAT YOU'D ALREADY HAVE A MASSIVE FOLLOWING YOU GIANT FUCKING FRAUD!"
I hate the voice. That voice hates me.
And the voice is both so, so correct, and so wildly wrong at the same time.
It is true that a work should stand for itself, and if a work or body of work is good, it should find its place and its following. It is also true that in this industry, merit alone cannot bring one success. There's a whole area where it falls to blind luck; the right brilliance at the right time, either on the page, or hitting the rising crest of a trend or finding some deep hunger in readers that has little to do with one's skills as a wordsmith.
All the skill and hard work of a writer cannot replace that tiny bit of luck.
I mean, all writers have been there; watching the meteoric rise of a work that they feel is sub-par while they languish in obscurity forever. And then that little voice in the back of your head begins to scream:
LOOK! LOOK AT THE GARBAGE THAT GOT THAT HUGE PUBLISHING DEAL. AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE? NOTHING. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT YOUR WORK, HM? YOU'RE RUBBISH. A FAKE. A FRAUD. GO HIDE UNDER YOUR ROCK AND DIE THERE. YOU'LL NEVER MAKE IT.
Sometimes, that voice is so loud, it's hard not to have it the only thing you can hear. And then, every so often, you get an email or a tweet like the one above, and it gives you hope.
Here's the truth, there is no greater luck generator than word of mouth. If no one is talking about your stuff, you're not going to find success. It takes readers talking, sharing, reviewing. It takes them demanding that local book stores and libraries stock your books.
Without that, it does not matter how brilliant a writer you are, you will not find success.
It's frustrating that merit alone isn't the deciding factor. It's upsetting knowing that no matter how hard you work, or how fiercely you market, it all boils down to being read by the right people at the right time, and those people spreading the word.
Readers, if there's a writer whose work you are passionate about, speak out. Review it, recommend it, demand stores and libraries stock it. Help them get known. As an added bonus, you will have more people to geek out over the books with.
And don't feel shy to shoot the writer a message about how much you love their stuff. You might just stop them from listening to that awful little voice and quitting altogether. You never know.