We were really pleased to see in the Jane Austen Centre online magazine an article by Patrice Hannon in which she discussed her road to publication of two Jane Austen-related book, Dear Jane Austen and 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen. We were delighted not because the Editrix got a shoutout in the article (though it’s always nice to get an unexpected egoboo) but because it’s such a great story for aspiring authors.
There is a persistent belief among aspiring authors (and some readers) that one must “know someone” to get published, or have some kind of inside track. There is a grain of truth in this, but what is not acknowledged is that authors who are seen as “lucky” or “in the right place at the right time” are almost always someone who has worked very hard and had her hard work noticed and rewarded by putting herself in the position to take advantage of her “lucky” break. There are few really overnight successes.
It also should be pointed out that Patrice Hannon not only put herself out there by taking a part-time job mostly to sell her own book, and by believing in herself sufficiently to put in the time and work to promote it and get it noticed, but by backing it all up by writing good books. When asked to recommend someone to write a book on Jane Austen, the Editrix recommended Dr. Hannon because her deep knowledge (and love) of Jane Austen’s work came through on every page of Dear Jane Austen. If it had been a mediocre book, it would have ended there.
Jane Austen herself spent more than 20 years honing her craft before being published, and one can see the progress of her genius through each of her books. While publishing was set up a little differently in those days, without much more of a barrier to first publication than the ability to guarantee any losses experienced by the publisher, if her books weren’t great, they would have been forgotten like the other hundreds of books published in that time. Even the bestselling authors of her day–Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Samuel Richardson–are not widely known or read today. Work hard–and produce good stuff.
Albert Einstein famously once said that genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. We would add that luck, at least in publishing, is some percentage of genius and a larger percentage of work. Don’t expect the Publishing Fairy to come down and smack you with her magic wand. As Conan O’Brien said, work really hard and be kind and amazing things will happen. It’s true!