1. Write the first three chapters of your brand new soon-to-be-bestselling legal thriller and send a query letter via FedEx to John Grisham’s agent. Get a phone call back the next day. Have a new agent in the office ask you to send along the entire manuscript. Tell her you’ve only got three chapters.
2. Tell a friend in Manhattan who tells a friend who’s a book agent who tells a friend who buys books for TV. Have that person want your manuscript for a TV movie, meet with you in NYC, tell you as soon as you finish and get a publisher she’ll make the deal. Have her mention a six-figure payday.
3. Start thinking about your fabulous new life and what you’ll do with all that money.
4. Go back and take a year to write the book, sending Grisham agent chapters along the way that she files and doesn’t look at.
5. Finally send her entire book and start staring at the phone.
6. Be on a cruise when a letter arrives from her. Call and have your Dad (staying with the kids) read it. Have it be crushingly dismissive.
7. Be discouraged for a couple of years. Have life intervene.
8. Write a political thriller that you plot out with savvy writing group pals. Finish in six months. Send out query letters to agents.
9. Have some ask for chapters, some ask for entire manuscript. Have one call you and say she stayed up late reading it and loves it.
10. Be amazed and wait for a fantastic offer.
11. Have her call the next day and say her fellow agent asked her not to take it on because the bad guy is African-American.
12. Write a sample for another book for her.
13. Have her send that out to publishers, who either don’t get it or think it’s a joke.
14. Be discouraged for a couple of years.
15. Rework political thriller over and over. Learn to write better. Change the bad guy’s complexion. Make the other candidate female. Send it out sporadically. Become really excellent at query letter writing.
16. Write a young people’s fantasy and lots of short stories. Contemplate other plots. Do freelance writing for magazines and eventually online.
17. When people ask you when your book will be published, shrug and smile. When they suggest self-publishing, tell them it’s death to a “real” writer. Stay discouraged.
18. Read about Amanda Hocking. Read Joe Konrath. Read David Gaughran.
19. Do one last pass through political thriller. Get a professional to do the cover. Pay someone to edit. Hold your breath and…
20. Spend the long Fourth of July weekend in 2011 learning to format and upload the book, with the help of your mostly patient IT-wise husband who has a PC. Argue about italics. Stress out. Get it up with KDP, finally. Stay married. Become an indie on Independence Day!
21. Sell a few books. Tell friends. Be thrilled at reviews from strangers. Be happy to sell 35 books the first month, then 20, then 10, then…
22. Jump into KDP Select free days when that’s brand new, at the end of 2011. Be amazed as the counter on the “sales” page clicks every few minutes. Give away 8,500 on the first day. Catapult to something like #120 on the paid bestseller list the next day, because giveaways count as sales, and be too green to look and get a screenshot. Get on Movers and Shakers list twice, and miss it because you don’t know what that means.
23. Make $6,000 the last week of December, 2011, and prepare to be rich.
24. Watch as sales drop slowly from that date until the summer of 2012. Goose book with occasional free days, with less and less effect.
25. Publish thriller in print in summer of 2012. Sell few, but enjoy the beauty of holding the book in your hand.
26. Read a short story called WOOL around the same time. Read the Omnibus. Read First Shift when it comes out. Notice that someone else is writing Silo stories for money in the spring of 2013.
27. Become fascinated with following a loose thread in the WOOL saga yourself. Contemplate writing “fan fiction,” never having read or written fan fiction. Email author Hugh Howey and tell him about your Silo story.
28. Have WOOLmeister Hugh Howey tell you he LOVES your story, and go ahead and publish the first segment of the Karma series. Note that even 99¢ ebooks make money when you sell two thousand in your first month.
29. Write and publish the second, the third, and the fourth books in the series. Make a reliable four figures a month. Get nervous and balk at writing the fifth. Worry that the ending won’t live up to your fans’ expectations. Write it anyway.
30. Come up with more Silo stories than you have time to write. Decide not to spend your whole life writing ebooks set in the WOOLiverse, tempting as it might be. Start plotting a new sci-fi dystopian series of your own.
31. Concoct your recipe for keeping on keeping on, and plan to find that amazing writing-for-a-living success in… about four more years, after doing a lot more of this:
Write for joy.
Write for yourself.
Write for fun.
Write a lot.
Write and publish and forget about it.
Write as though you are already the successful author you will be.
Remember that success is not about the money.
It’s about the amazement of taking what’s in your wild and unpredictable imagination and sharing it with others.
It’s about living in a time when we can get our words out to the entire world for virtually nothing.
It’s about the joy of creating something that never existed before.
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