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Tobias Buckell on Suvivorship Bias

If you publish your own work (and I do) or you’re thinking of publishing your own work, I recommend reading this post by Toby Buckell on Survivor Bias in the self-publishing world.

Seriously, I recommend taking a look at those posts. He has graphs! Everyone loves graphs nowadays.

There are a lot of comments I wanted to make on this, but this will be the main one: It’s not a lottery, but luck is involved.

The people who are in the far left of those graphs, selling a ton of books? They’re in that place in part because the books they wrote appeal to lots of people. However, that’s not enough. It’s also not enough for them to be marketed in all the right places and the right ways, to get a cover from a specific designer, or for the author to be online drumming up interest in their work.

There’s luck involved, too. You can do everything right and still not win. But since you can’t control luck, you have to simply create the circumstances where luck will flourish, and keep rolling dice.

Added: Wiseman speculated that what we call luck is actually a pattern of behaviors that coincide with a style of understanding and interacting with the events and people you encounter throughout life. Unlucky people are narrowly focused, he observed. They crave security and tend to be more anxious, and instead of wading into the sea of random chance open to what may come, they remain fixated on controlling the situation, on seeking a specific goal. As a result, they miss out on the thousands of opportunities that may float by. Lucky people tend to constantly change routines and seek out new experiences. Wiseman saw that the people who considered themselves lucky, and who then did actually demonstrate luck was on their side over the course of a decade, tended to place themselves into situations where anything could happen more often and thus exposed themselves to more random chance than did unlucky people. The lucky try more things, and fail more often, but when they fail they shrug it off and try something else. Occasionally, things work out.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 29th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
Good point. Being flexible is an important part of being lucky.

I think I need to write about this some more tomorrow.
May. 29th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
When people ask me about success, I usually say it's 90% dumb luck.

I've had a few people try to argue that hey, I was also working my ass off, and that's certainly true---but so do a lot of people. I am all too aware that there are many people working insanely hard out there, and not all of them get lucky.

But the luck-as-pattern thing is interesting. I tend to think of myself as anxious and craving security---and in fact, the few serious lucky breaks I can count on always involved other people grabbing the right person and saying "LOOK AT THIS NOW!"---but then again, that's why I have an agent, to do that for a living. *grin*
May. 29th, 2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
There are so very many people who hate to give any credit at all to luck. I hate to do it myself, because for so long it seemed like something that was out of my control.

I honestly think the best marketing luck a creative person can have is the Enthusiastic Well-Connected Advocate (or better yet, several of them). If the author stands up to say "You'll like this!" no one listens. If John Scalzi does it, tens of thousands of people will hear.

It's funny. Some time ago I saw Felicia Day send a tweet to another author about how much she loved her book (I think it was Cherie Priest--can't remember) and saw it because i was following both of them. It made me all anxious because all Day had to do was put a period at the front of that tweet and over a million people would have been exposed to it.

I don't know. Advocates need to be judicious in their praise as much as anyone, especially well-connected ones, but the urge to tweet "What are you doing here? Put a dot on that sucker and tell the world!" was strong.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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  • 14 Jan 2019, 21:47
    Oh, yeah, excellent point.
  • 14 Jan 2019, 21:46
    Oh yeah. Like the lawyers who get obvious really venal criminals off because it makes their success rate look good. But those are not the ones I am referring to in meaning well. These guys are mixed…
  • 14 Jan 2019, 20:37
    This reminds me of the time my wife was injured and the insurance guy handling her case did everything possible to deny and stall the payment. We had to put her surgery on a credit card because this…
  • 14 Jan 2019, 19:24
    The creepiest part is that some of them are actually well meaning.
  • 14 Jan 2019, 19:08
    Yeah. It's godawful what people will do when they have authority and no fear about using it.
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