If we were to equate J.K. Rowling’s impressive rise to literary fame to one of the seven basic story archetypes, it would be Rags to Riches. From twiddling her thumbs on the platform of a delayed train to using those same thumbs to write the best-selling series of all time, JK Rowling is undoubtedly a powerful figurehead for prospective writers. With her journey in mind, we have come up with a list of valuable lessons on publishing success.
Lesson #1: Just keep pitching
One of the best messages we can take from J.K. and her success as a writer is that perseverance pays off. After being rejected no less than 12 times, it took the unlucky number of 13 to deliver some fortune to the author. Although this may seem like a large number of knockbacks, it’s actually quite common for some authors to have to pitch to over 50 agents before getting a deal. If JK Rowling is anything to go by, rejection should not be seen as a deterrent but, instead, as something to spur you on. It is also important to recognise that the traditional publishing route doesn’t always work for everyone, but there is always the option to self-publish, through which your book can still get to readers.
Lesson #2: Have thick skin
As rejection is often part of the journey to becoming published, it is something that we must get used to as aspiring writers. This means it’s essential to have a thick skin when receiving criticism. Rejection can come in many forms, whether that be via a written response or mere silence. However you receive it, you must try to brush it off and use the experience to better your future pitches (all 49 of them!). Publishers and agents are inundated with submissions and only take on a small amount of those and so their dismissals should not be taken personally. It might just be that your book isn’t what they’re after at the moment!
Lesson #3: Luck plays a part
To some degree, Harry Potter’s success can also be bottled down to luck. J.K.’s achievements are a perfect example of when hard work and luck come together at just the right time. Her stories only made it out of the slush pile because the publisher’s child happened to read and love her story. In that sense, luck and timing were on J.K.’s side. Despite some factors being uncontrollable, it is worth noting that they are still at play. Nevertheless, luck will only get you so far. Nobody will offer you a publishing deal if your manuscript languishes in the drawer or a file on your laptop, so it’s important to put yourself out there.
Lesson #4: What’s hot and not
A publisher’s accept/reject decision is often based on what’s hot or not at the moment. This is because their verdicts are greatly influenced by what readers are currently interested in. Interestingly, Harry Potter can be viewed as an anomaly in this case due to the fact that nerdy wizards were not incredibly popular at the time. However, this didn’t stop it from selling over 450 million copies in 78 different languages, proving that sometimes it helps to step outside the “what’s hot” box. In other words, write about what you love rather than the popular genres that you have no interest in.
Lesson #5. Your opening is crucial
Another reason Harry Potter was rejected so many times was because the opening chapter was seen as too detailed and waffly (a common problem for many writers). Whilst the book was still published in spite of that, it shows the significance of making sure that your opening is strong and engaging. Just as readers can’t help but judge a book by its cover, they also tend to judge it by its opening chapter as it determines whether they continue through the pages or return it to the bookshelf to gather dust.
Lesson#6. Build a world
One of the things that made Harry Potter so magical was that the magic itself seeped through the pages of the book and found its way into the real world. In other words, J.K. was able to transform her fiction into reality through the Warner Bros Studio tour, merchandise, films, and more. Consequently, she created a community of people with a common ground and simultaneously made a lot of money from it. This goes to show that imagination is key to being able to see the bigger picture and looking towards the future when it comes to your writing.
Lesson#7. The Power of the tongue
The last and perhaps most valuable lesson can come from J.K. Rowling’s tragic fall from grace in the eyes of her supporters. With the success of her writing, we must acknowledge the influence that comes with it. The power of the tongue is extremely important when it comes to speaking from a position of the high regard in society. Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen J.K. use her tongue to make somewhat concerning statements about the trans community. With this in mind, as masters of language, it is vital that we use our words to boost and empower readers as opposed to belittle and demean them.
The Ron Conclusion but make it right
There is much to take from J.K. Rowling’s esteemed success. In fewer words, sometimes success and failure go hand in hand. Trends are made to be ignored as well as followed, and if you’re sat reeling after waiting for a late or cancelled train in the midst of the current strikes, remember that the best idea you’ve ever had might just be a delayed train away.
By Soria Nicholson
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