The Fate Factor

by | Apr 21, 2011 | The Writing Life | 83 comments

It’s tempting to think that if you just write the perfect book, if you just write the right query, find the right agent and the right publisher, if they just give you the right marketing push, if you just do the right bloggy/Facebooky/Twittery activities, if you get the right reviews…. you totally have it made in the shade.

In other words, it’s tempting to think you have control.

And you do have control! Some.

You can write the best book you can. But worse books than yours will go on to be successful.

You can do the best promotion you can. But books that were promoted less than yours will go on to be successful.

You can be courteous and professional to everyone. But people who aren’t as nice as you will go on to be successful.

At the end of the day, there’s a powerful, important force that you can’t control that will determine how successful your book will be. And that’s the Fate Factor.

The Shack was self-published with a $300 marketing budget and it went on to be a #1 bestseller.

Christopher Paolini self-published Eragon, he struggled to tour around selling handfuls of copies, until novelist Carl Hiassen’s stepson happened to buy it and like it. Hiassen passed it on to Knopf, and the rest, of course, is history.

There are lots and lots of stories like this of books with the most modest of beginnings that hit the right note at the right time, get the right boost at the right time, and take on a life of their own.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all try and do everything we can. I truly believe that it pays to give yourself every boost you can. Opportunity can’t knock if it can’t find your door. All that work you put into your book, all that work you put into marketing… it does matter. It does.

It’s just that when it’s all said and done, the book is going to do what it does. It’s going to sell what it sells. And that’s alright.

All you can do is try your best and hope the Fate Factor does the rest.

That rhymed.


  1. Caridad Pineiro

    Sad, but true. There is very little control, but you've got to give it your best no matter what.

  2. FrankCote

    You make good points Nathan and it certainly supports something I've been thinking about for the last few months about what to consider success.

    I would love to sell a story or my manuscript and I figure eventually I will, but it can be daunting to continue to write in the face of rejection after rejection.

    I'm trying this year to redefine success and limiting that to the things I can control.

    If I can write a good story/manuscript and finish it and submit it, that's one for the win column. I've done everything I can, as well as I can, which is a lot more than I used to do (I'd either not write, or write and not finish).

    If it gets rejected, so be it. It's evidence that I did what I had to do and a step forward.

    Everything will happen when it happens and how it wants to happen.

  3. Erik

    I'm trying to woo Fate the best I can–gifts, compliments, etc. I even offered to help him move once. But to no avail. That dude's a rock.

  4. TraciB

    Thanks for the reminder, Nathan. Guess your pep talk means I need to jettison my procrastination/fear of rejection excuses and get back to work polishing my novel so opportunity can come knockin'…

  5. Lisa Schroeder

    I totally agree, Nathan. And I think the sooner an author admits a lot of this business is out of his/her control and focuses on what is – the writing – the better off he/she will be.

  6. Pam Stucky

    When I was a kid, my family went on many road trips and thus we played every manner of road trip game one can imagine. This included, of course, the license plate game where we watched to see what states other cars on the road came from.

    As one does when one is on the road, we saw tons of U-hauls. One day my dad commented, "I wonder how many rentals it takes before a U-haul truck has been to every state?"

    I thought a bit and then said, "It's totally hit or miss. Just by chance, one truck could be used exclusively for local moves, and could be rented 100 times and never leave the state. And another truck could be rented for a cross-country move on its first trip. It's completely random."

    I agree with what you're saying. To a degree we have control and to a degree we don't. However, I also believe that waiting for opportunity to knock is a waste of time. I'm not waiting. I'm going out and knocking on doors to see if I can find where opportunity lives.

    Exhausting, yes. But I'm not going to leave any more up to Fate than I have to!

  7. Andrea

    "It's just that when it's all said and done, the book is going to do what it does. It's going to sell what it sells. And that's alright."

    I love that you said this. I also think that you shouldn't be someone you're not to be more marketable.

    Also, having no control is not sad, it's what makes art amazing. You have no idea what will happen. Just let go and go with it.

  8. Mr. D

    There's another word for it. Luck.

  9. Lori Benton

    I think of it as the God Factor, since He's more interested in my well being than Fate, but yes. I agree.

  10. KarenG

    I heard someone say once (maybe it was you) that if publishers knew how to make a book a bestseller, they would do it for every book they publish.

  11. Genevieve Ching

    I think you only have so much control as an author, and most of that control revolves around the writing itself. For me, I've taken consolation in the mail I receive from readers who say The Soulkeepers has meant something to them personally. Just one of those emails is worth a thousand sales to me

  12. Rick Daley

    I just give the Magic 8-Ball a shake. Works every time. Outlook good.

  13. Bryce Daniels

    That DID rhyme. And a Happy National Poetry Month to all!!


  14. See Elle Oh

    Hear hear. It's important to keep in perspective that there's only so much you can do, with a manuscript or any other endeavor.

    Pitcher Lefty Gomez used to say, "I'd rather be lucky than good." But, you can only work to make yourself good. Luck's a far too coy and mercurial mistress to court.

  15. Darlene Underdahl

    Yep, drop the head, tuck in the tail, and keep on keeping on.

  16. Ted

    This reminds me of a saying my Mom taught me as a kid.

    Work on the things you can control. Accept the things you can't control, and pray that God teaches you how to figure out which is which.

  17. Tara Tyler

    Unfortunately, it's not always the perfect books that make it – it's more the perfect fit or perfect timing.

  18. Danielle Spears

    When I was in Cross Country in high school and falling behind all the gazelles, I had a friend who stuck by me. This friend had a motto that we'd breathlessly chant as we tried to keep up: Do your best and God will do the rest.

    Thanks, Nathan!

  19. Josin L. McQuein

    If you want to see an instance of how every advantage doesn't necessarily guarantee success, read Aprilynne Pike's blog.

    Her BFF was a mega writer of sparkly-vampire proportions and passed her book along to her own agent. It took A YEAR with recommendation to get the agent, after every other one she queried passed. And then, with the superstar agent and mega-seller BFF… the book didn't sell. Her next series, Wings, sold and became a best-seller.

    Fate's part of it, but even if you're in a plum situation and no one wants what you're selling, you're out of luck.

    And I hate when people say Paolini self-published Eragon. It's not really true. His parents owned an actual indie press and used it to publish the book. They used their already established connections to get the signing in that bookstore. Had he actually self-published, with no connections, no one would have given him the time of day or table space to sell.

  20. The English Teacher

    So true and yet so depressing.
    It's true with lots of things in life, though. The other guy often wins. And the bad guys often prosper.
    Fine, thanks for this lovely, upbeat start to my Thursday, Nathan!

  21. Mercy Loomis

    I will paraphrase the many people who've said this: You can't control luck, but you can work your tail off so that when luck strikes you're ready to take full advantage of it.

    Work as if luck is about to strike you.

  22. Munk

    This post was not intended to be removed by the author, but fate stepped in and the author had no choice.

  23. bmcdowell

    It's an industry of "if's" that really fosters discontent in many ways. "If I can just tell a strong story well, if I can just get an agent, if I can just find a publisher,if I can just get a review in that newspaper or blog, if I can just make it on the NYT bestseller list, if I can just attract a movie producer" – it NEVER ends. I'm pretty sure the only way to be happy as a writer is to concentrate on the first goal and let the rest unfold as it will (with a little marketing effort, of course.)

  24. Robena Grant

    Yep, luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity. I think Deepak Chopra said that. : )

    And more than fate, I think what makes the biggest difference in the sale of a book is word of mouth. Authentic word of mouth, from people who have actually read the book.

  25. Karen Peterson

    I heard someone once say, "People have no idea how many years it takes to become an overnight success."

    I think this Fate Factor is applicable to so many things in addition to becoming a successful novelist. It's the same principle in sports, the film industry, and even blogging.

    There are some blogs out there that are incredibly well-written with great stories/advice/products that had small followings, while blogs that rarely see any editing and that are rambling and messy become really popular.

    Uber-success is hard work mingled with luck.

  26. D.G. Hudson

    You mean Amazon hasn't cornered the Fate Factor yet? It's nice to know there are some things that can't be achieved by connecting all the dots in the right sequence. There has to be room for the unknown factor (timing, great idea, etc).

    I like the idea of new writers being discovered who don't know someone in the business or who don't have huge budgets. The path must not be too controlled or the creative may not rise above the mundane writers who navigate the waters better.

    So to summarize, if Fate is involved, our chances are about as good as looking at a crystal ball. Hmmm. Wonder if ol' Fate is amenable to a sacrifice of some kind or a shrine? Didn't that work in the old days?

  27. Chris

    This kind of reminds me of the stick boats we toiled over and launched as kids down the side of the curb after a decent rain storm. I can still remember running along beside my boat as it careened off the others. We were all so impatient to give the necessary nudge when the boats invariably got hung up on some unforeseen obstacle. It’s amazing how far we went from home.

  28. Geoff

    "Opportunity can't knock if it can't find your door."

    And that's going into the "life's great quotes" section of my brain.

  29. Matthew MacNish

    I can't decide how uplifting this is. It's somewhere above zero, but I'm not sure how high.

  30. Jaimie

    This post makes me happy. I simply don't have all the time to devote to marketing a book, looking happy, looking intelligent, giving interviews, sounding authorly, etc etc, like other people have. And you know what, that's not holding me back from hitting it big.

  31. Jan Morrill

    Good to remember, Nathan. That's why, though I'm attempting everything you mentioned in your first paragraph, ultimately I believe, "Que sera, sera." 🙂

  32. February Grace

    You can tell us the truth: do Jedi mind tricks work to help sell books?


  33. Just Another Day in Paradise

    We really only have the "illusion of control" in most things. So make it happen for yourself. If you have a great story, in a well written book, that you saw through to completion consider it a major success. Never rely on luck, fate or coincidence, they really don't exist.

  34. Nate

    great point Nathan. Write and produce books for the love of it, not because you want money and fame. Keep it up!
    Compass Book

  35. Karen

    I'm desperately hoping for a bit of Fate Factor.

    I thought securing an agent at a top agency would mean instant publishing success, but although a deal in Germany came though pretty quickly, my novel is proving much trickier to sell in my home country (the UK). My agent has faith, but I admit I'm struggling to hold on to mine!

  36. Kurt Hartwig

    JK Rowling very nicely says, "I believe in hard work and luck, and that the first often leads to the second."

    No guarantees, of course, but a good practice.

    You might also include the cliche of "work smarter not harder" in there.

  37. Lauren

    …and isn't the "fate factor" one of the beautiful things about living? It's ubiquitous for a reason. The not knowing, and not being able to have full control of our destinies is one of the key components of this whole human experience. Not only is it what may help or keep us from being published, but, more importantly, I think it's one of the central themes we should address as writers. Maybe there's some wisdom to putting writers through the fate factor publishing hell since we are the ones who are there to provide beauty to human struggle for the masses of readers. Just a thought. Thanks, Nathan.

  38. Sheila Cull

    "No wonder! This is why it hasn't happened yet," yelled Sheila

  39. Paul Dillon

    It has the be the case that, in today's market, many of the 20th century's "classic" novels wouldn't make it out of the slush pile if submitted by an unknown author.

  40. Rebecca Kiel

    Isn't this true for everything?

    You can do all the invitro available, and still not have a baby. You can go to fifty job fairs and still not get a job to fed your family. You can train for twenty years and still not be the fastest runner.

    It is almost as if we need to forget we are not in control. Whether it be a baby, job or gold medal (or publishing contract!) we want we've got to give it our all. If we fall short of our dreams or become the next big name, then we can face the powerful Fate.

  41. Sierra McConnell

    I like to believe it isn't Fate. It's called God. And He's always ready for you to listen.

  42. Rebecca Stroud

    Great, great post, Nathan. One I especially needed of late as I am notorious among friends/family for my "sucky" timing.

    Anyway, I loved your "opportunity can't knock if it can't find your door." Only problem is, I have huge signs posted "Here's my door!" yet it still goes over to my neighbor's house..:-)

    Seriously – as an ebook author – I'm about done with the social marketing side for now. I have to get back to the writing and just cross fingers that Fate – aka Oprah – stumbles across my dog-stories.

    Till (ahem) then, I'll keep on keepin' on.

  43. terryd

    It's a bit like accepting death, I suppose. But life begins again with each new book.

    May we have many lives.

  44. BellaVida

    Definitely something to think about.

  45. abc

    I'l go further and say it is fate (if fate is defined more as random luck and not providence) + self + other supports. I haven't actually read Gladwell's Outliers, but I know enough people that have to get the basics which seem to be: You can work really hard and you should work really hard but you still, very often, need others to believe in you. And you still, very often, need the right circumstances like place and time and means.

    Probably most success stories were realized because somebody–a somehow important somebody–believed in the talents or gifts or whatever of that person. Like Jackson Pollack's wife, Lee. Or Venus and Serena's dad. Or Hiaasen's stepson. Etc. Etc. People who believe and people that have connections can make all the difference. Which is why you'll have a better chance of being the next Conan O'Brien if you go to Harvard and not University of Northern Iowa.

  46. Sean

    Preperation + Opportunity = Success.

    @February Grace – Unfortunately, Jedi mind tricks with a wave of the hand do not work to sell books, even though my books are the books you are looking for.

  47. Mira

    Well, I agree and I disagree.

    Timing in the culture matters alot. Writing a book is communicating to people, and whether your book speaks to the people of the current culture is definitely a matter of timing.

    Of course, some books are ahead of their time, and may hit the culture a century later. We don't always know the impact of our writing. Sometimes having just one person read our book can have much more of an impact than we realize.

    But with the rise of e-publishing, alot of blocks to writers are fading away. It used to be much, much more about luck. Did you send your MS to the right agent, at the right time, and did they submit to the right editor at the right time, etc? If not, your manuscript would likely end up in a drawer. Even if it was good.

    Without self-publishing Amanda Hocking and John Locke and Christoper Paolini and the Shack guy would all probably be unpublished.

    The fact that all of those blocks are fading away doesn't take away from the timing factor, but it makes it so, so, so, much easier to find an audience.

    The time has never, in the history of mankind, been a better time to be a writer.

    I really believe that it will get even better. I think ways to find the best self-published books will arise, and help readers find their book match.

    It used to be so hard to find books! Drive to the book store and wander around. Now, a few clicks on-line, and poof, it's there! I think it will get easier and easier.

    So, I think you're right about the Fate Factor, Nathan, and right to advise people to let go of it, because you really can't control some things, but I also think the Fate Factor is less right than it used to be.

  48. M.A.Leslie

    I will just pray that fate is on our side, and do all the other marketing/blogging/facebook/twitter stuff.

    Great post, you always have a way of putting these up just before I start hitting my head against the desk.
    Thanks, you have successfully protected my forehead from any new bruising.

  49. Natalie Aguirre

    So true. We should really focus on what we can control. At least that's what I'm trying to focus on.

  50. Lynne

    Another great post. You are so right.

    I think the biggest thing a writer can do (besides write on and keep the faith) is be ready. Be ready for the knock of opportunity to come. Be ready to fail, be ready to succeed. Be ready to work hard, and be ready to work harder. But above all, be ready for Fate to drop in, because she's fickle, and you just never know. 🙂

    Thanks, Nathan. Loved it.

  51. Tori Scott

    Love, love this post. Once you admit you're not as control as you think you are, or want to be, it's actually liberating. Thanks for the great thoughts!

  52. Liz Alexander

    The Fate Factor has played a huge role in my publishing success. Some highlights:

    1. My first book was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to (directly, not through an agent – yep, the complete manuscript, no proposal or anything — ah, those good old days of the late 1990s!) and was pivotal in launching a new career for me as a TV broadcaster in the UK;

    2. A newsletter landed on my desk when I was an alternative health journalist many years ago, containing a request from a niche publishing house for authors for various titles. One of those titles The Book of Crystal Healing literally jumped off the page. I could SEE my name on the front cover. I did go on to write it — and it's my second best-selling book with something like 180,000 sales worldwide. It also led me to write three further books for the same publisher, one of which has sold 200,000 copies and still earns me royalties.

    3. I was interviewing the CEO of Random House in the UK for a professional development magazine, for which I was briefly the editor. Upon telling her that I'd written three books she said, "Then you should write for us," picked up the phone and called one of her commissioning editors to meet with me. Working from the Heart: A Practical Guide to Loving What You Do For a Living (now out of print) was the result.

    Fate? I love it! Bring it on. LOL.

  53. Barbara Kloss

    Absolutely true, and great to remember that. Thanks for yet another great post!

  54. Lucinda Bilya

    As always, a great blog topic, and quite the poet today.

    Yes, it is very tempting to think we have some control over our lives. However, willing ourselves control over fate is much like trying to harness the wind like a wild stallion. Some horses can’t be ridden and attempting to control them, results in one hairy ride.

    After one more job interview today, along the route back home, I realized that in today’s world, we measure success by a different ruler. Hard work, strong work ethics, and even education doesn’t measure up to the magic found in poise.

    King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. Although there are many more things under the sun, basic human nature remains the constant. At a time when inventions inflamed the imaginations like vampires and zombies do today, people had hope and wonder. Today, we must have a unique twist on old concepts, a new flare so daring that it makes our heads spin, or an answer that defies the choices presented to us, or we are merely ordinary.

    Ordinary surrenders to fate.

    Most of us know of Phyllis Diller and her crazy hair. How many of us can turn a bad-hair day into a lifetime of success?

    Vampires that glow in the sun instead of burning up and are capable of living a near-normal life on the outside with families, houses, school, and love, is a new twist on an old concept.

    Adding love to war such as Pearl Harbor…

    Adding heart to tragedy gives a new flavor to crime, war, disasters, or mystery.

    Twist fate until it yields.

    Mike Larson has some great tips on failing your way to success.

    Thanks again, Nathan for a great blog and forgive me for such a long response. It has been one of those days…

  55. McKenzie McCann

    I hope the Fate Factor is on my side. That would be GREAT. I need it :c

  56. Adam Heine

    A geek analogy, but hey, that's what I do…

    It's like playing Settlers of Catan. You can't control how the dice fall, but you have to do everything else you can to put the odds in your favor.

  57. wendy

    I can only speculate but I wonder if we sometimes create our own fate through our beliefs and corresponding actions. Also I've read that positivity of attitude draws to us positive energies and outcomes while negativity draws like energies to the person who dwells on that side of things. Regarding book sales, I think if a book is something people want to read and get the most enjoyment from, then this is the book that will sell well. Twilight, to use one example, was the right book at the right time and it had some lovely things going for it: originality, interesting characters and uplifting values. In a world dominated with powerful media groups (news and entertainment) that often push the grosser elements, Twilight – despite the dark theme of vampirism – had light and sweetness. I think many people are drawn to that. Of course there are the sensational books that aren't about sweetness and light that sell well, perhaps because they, too, are breaking new ground at the time? I think art should move the culture forward. but if it settles on a well=loved theme for awhile that's ok, too.

    I think the most successful books give the reader something substantial, and their success is not a coincidence or forged in stone.

  58. lora96

    Really true.

    Timing, I think, is crucial. I don't like to think it's random because that makes me panic. Let's call it "alchemical" which is magical randomosity (which is not a word except I just made it up)

  59. Sherryl

    I do think you can give Fate a nudge. I've seen writers who just assumed the publisher would do everything and sat back and did very little. After a couple of so-so reviews, their books disappeared.

    Much as we might complain about having to do our own marketing, it does make a difference. If even on a small scale, you can connect with readers, you'll "grow" your reader base, little by little.

    The problem is that many expect it to happen overnight. Even the overnight successes don't happen overnight!


  60. Donna Hole

    Thats why I make plans for when the third novel sells big time, not the first.

    Until then, I take Dori's attitude: Just keep swimming.


  61. Kevin Lynn Helmick

    Better known as "The Luck Factor." Its a strange and mysterious thing where and when lightning strikes. We have all read books, even bestsellers, where we thought 'I can do better than that. I HAVE done better than that! What's going on here?'
    But… good fortune favors the bold and win or lose ya gotta show up and play. it may not happen in this life, or any another for that matter, but it might, and that's enough. If we write something that only a hand full of people dug, this year or a hundred years from now; thats still pretty cool in my book.

  62. The Lemonade Stand

    wow. this post was awesome. I laughed. then I realized that sometimes fate's plans suck. Then I cried.

    (Just kidding. I didn't really cry.:-)

  63. hahendrix

    Great post, I needed to hear this.

  64. Rachael W

    Mercy Loomis said: "Work as if luck is about to strike you." I like that. Like, enough to copy it on a sticky note and paste it to my fridge.

    Another great post, Nathan! Thanks!

  65. Holly

    Um…you might want to modify that quote, just to be on the safe side…

    "Work as if GOOD luck is about to strike you."

  66. Meghan Ward

    I'm always the last to comment! I do think hard work can help sway luck in our favor, but yes, I've heard stories about a book being turned down again and again by publishers, then picked up by a small press after a stroke of fate, and going on to become a bestseller. Just look at all the Swedish crime novels that are selling because of Stiegg Larsson's success. THAT's luck!

  67. Marie Ohanesian Nardin

    Thank you Nathan for adding to a very similar conversation I had with my husband yesterday. So while I continue to improve my query letter, take another look at my synopsis, scout for the agent that fits my project and write my next novel, I'll keep an eye on my horoscope, too!

  68. Lex

    Fate – the universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed.

    Personally, I believe that one can influence fate. How about another universal principle – "like attracts like"? How about the power of the subconscious mind, the spirit?

    Can your thoughts, your wants and desires that are transmitted by the spirit throughout the universe be strong enough to influence "fate"? I think…no, I know so.

    Yes, I've read "The Secret" and although there is a lot of "over the top" examples and propaganda in the book; the basic premise is sound.

    In fact, the underlying theme of my first novel is exactly that…the mind and the strength of it's faith/belief is immeasurably powerful.

    This Bible verse Matthew 17:20 – "He (Jesus) replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." – has been misinterpreted by most people for hundreds of years. Jesus was not talking about faith in an omniscient God; rather, faith in the power of the universe that is in invested in all of us.

    Look around you and back through history…those who have benefited mankind with their discoveries and inventions; those who were the great philosophers; the greatest artists and writers; the richest of the rich. The majority of these people were not religious, but they had faith in their own inner power…the mind and its ability to "move mountains".

  69. Anonymous

    So true. Risk taking and hard work are important factors as well. I've blogged about it here. Nathan, do you really believe the query system will survive? I've often wondered if you saw the writing on the wall when you turned in your agent badge. I've blogged about why it will die here:

  70. Rachael W

    @ Holly — Ah, yes, specifying good luck is important. But I figure I've had enough bad luck come at me in the last eight months, it's got to be good luck's turn. I hope. =)

  71. Anonymous

    And sometimes it works just the opposite. Something you never imagined would sell winds up on a bestseller list and gets more attention than you ever wanted it to get.

  72. lahn

    I am a big fan of Eleanor Brown's advice to send off a book with the thought, "Bye bye book. Call when you've found work."

    The bottom line is that I write because I love it. I am active on different forms of social media because I enjoy making connections with other readers and writers. I send thank yous to agents who read my work (even if they don't take it on) because I appreciate their time and I'm grateful for their feedback.

    I do what I do because I love the life I'm living. I hope I get a publishing deal. I hope my book is fabulously successful — but those aren't my ultimate goals. Fate schmate (see, I can rhyme too) — I'm going to enjoy this ride.

  73. Holly

    RachaelW–If only. My inner cynic assures me it doesn't work like that. Whenever I am stoopid enough to ask, "How could things possibly get worse?", an answer is promptly dispatched.

    Forget Fate, it's Murphy we have to watch out for. He's a law unto himself. Of course, Murphy and Fate may well be in cahoots…now that makes a lot of sense… 🙂

  74. Marilyn Peake

    Just returned home from vacation. Tired, so I will express my agreement succinctly: Yup, you are so-so-so right. Spent the last week at Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios. At Universal Studios, we marveled at the extremely talented musicians, some middle-aged, playing in a theme park. Fate – the fickle ingredient of success.

  75. Crosby Kenyon

    I'm still struggling, but I've been in the right place at the right time once or twice, so I know it happens.

  76. Nicole


    ….Don't crush my little spirit.

    Actually, having zero control is something I can cope with.

    It's the fact that worse books will become bestsellers that I cannot stand to think about.

  77. RW Bennett

    This is such an excellent blog. I just got my first novel up this past week, so I'm less experienced at all this. The tremendous advice from so many terrific posters couldn't come at a better time for me. Commenters here give a writing class.

  78. Nancy Lauzon

    So true, Nathan. Authors have so little control in this industry – but they're getting more. I published my first 3 novels through small press because I was sick of getting rejected by the big pubs. I had next to no distribution in the bookstores and the most hideous covers imaginable – luckily I used a pseudonym at the time. Recently I decided to 'reinvent' myself, use my real name, self-publish on Smashwords and make my own covers. Fate has its place, but at least now I'm in charge of my own career. I've already sold more e-books in one month than 2 publishers sold for me in 3 years. Suddenly writing is fun again. Yippee!

  79. Claire Sierra

    Elizabeth Marshall pointed me to your post (thanks, E!) and this is just what I need to hear right now as I embark on completing, publishing and launching my book, the Magdalene Path. thanks for this!


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Can’t find what you need or want personalized help? Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!