X is for X-factor: the [unknown] variable; the value that may change within the scope of a given problem or set of operations. (Wikipedia)
As a writer, I’m in control of my story, the characters, and their world. I love being a creator of new souls and throwing those souls into turmoil and chaos. Must be what it feels like to be God. But just like God, once those souls are created, fleshed out from beginning to end, I have very little control over what happens next. Not if I want to go the traditional route anyway. And I do. I am.
When a writer wants to be traditionally published, he or she usually needs an agent. (Not always though. I didn't.) That entails months, if not years, of querying, where you acquire loads of rejections and feel that it’ll never happen for you. If it does happen, you have to go through it all over again, trying to find a publisher and an editor who’ll champion your book. Even if you do, said editor has to take it through a panel to be judged by all the other editors to see if it’s good enough for that publishing house. And once it does, how will the story emerge after the editing process? Will it be recognizable to the author?
And then, after all that—the writing, the revising, the querying, the searching, the editing, the design process—which takes years, there is no guarantee that the book will succeed. There are just too many unknown variables, x-factors that influence a book’s success. Many great stories, those with massive financial backing by its publisher, have utterly failed. And others, some self-published the first time around, find tremendous success, regardless of the quality of the writing, let alone the story. Just look at 50 Shades of Grey.
We all know that word-of-mouth is the best, most efficient and influential tool used to market books. It’s not something you can buy or Tweet or post about. It’s a slow build-up of satisfied customers who tell other people how much they liked your book. It is “one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don't stand to gain personally by promoting [it] put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation.” (Wikipedia)
You can’t buy this, and you can’t artificially generate it either. Why it happens with one book and not another is a great unknown. It’s all a matter of timing, of what strikes a chord at any particular moment. You can’t touch it, smell it, feel it, or even see it. It just happens. It is the epitome of the X-factor.
Does this great unknown scare you as much as it scares me when promoting and selling your book?