If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

– Edgar Rice Burroughs


Recently the senior editor of Soul Mate Publishing sent out her bi-monthly update letter to her authors talking about what works for selling books and what doesn’t. Interestingly enough, she said things like print ads don’t work, including Facebook ads. She maintains that the best thing to do is put out one book, then another, then another, then another, and keep the quality high. Because, once an author has a breakout book, your fans will want to read your backlist. Currently, she’s placing more emphasis on writing the next book and author chats and other interaction with future reader than paid ads. I like that. It’s cheaper marketing.

Apparently, Edgar Rice Burroughs agrees with my editor, except for the quality part. But he has a point, because as writers we all know that first book probably sucks, as well as number two and three. I know mine did. That’s why book number one or two and maybe three may never see the light of day.

johnny crawford

Original Charcoal drawing of Johnny Crawford by Catherine

After all, I wrote my first book back in the early sixties when I was in love with teenaged television actor Johnny Crawford. If you remember the TV series The Rifleman, you’ll know who I’m talking about. Johnny was the hero and I, naturally, was the heroine. I wrote it long-hand, complete with hand-drawn floor plans of the Hollywood home we ended up in after we married. I proudly bound it in one of those paper notebooks with the brass thingys that you bent back to hold in the pages. I thought what I’d written was pure poetry on paper. Shows you how much I knew back then J

I hunted for that sappy book number one the other day and came across the paper printouts of other books written since that first adolescent, star-struck love story hit the pages. I also found a few rejection notices for my other early books that said things like:

  • Doesn’t hold our interest
  • Clichéd plot device
  • Competent writing and
  • Author shows potential but needs to work on characters and plot.

Competent writing? That was depressing. Who wants to be just competent?

I kept digging in the file drawer, and I came across a few judged contests from a book written a few years later and those comments were so much more encouraging. They said things like:

  • The characters are strong from the beginning
  • The story is refreshing
  • Author isn’t afraid to write outside the box
  • I could visualize the characters
  • The action is great
  • Great voice!

Comments like that made me feel that my writing was progressing. Even back then, I was doing what Edgar Rice Burroughs’ quote says: continuing to write stories and putting the odds in my favor.

Today, I’m a published author who’s winning contests and getting five-star reviews.

So keep on writing, even if that first book you wrote was awful. Keep writing even if your first published book doesn’t sell much or win contests or become the next Harry Potter phenomenon. Keep on writing because eventually the odds will be in your favor.

And it will stop all those voices screaming in your head for you to tell their story.