Success Depends On A Lot More Than Talent – Here’s Why

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Creative people love talent. They love to have it, they love to see it, they love exploring it in their art. There’s a good reason; talent is amazing. It’s the rocket fuel of art. The problem is that as much as we all want to see the rocket go up, success depends on it being able to land.

As mystic as talent can seem it’s absolutely no guarantee of success, in fact the irritating truth is that it often isn’t even necessary. There is one quality that far outstrips talent in terms of finding success, and it’s much less glamorous.


Tenacity can succeed where talent doesn’t, quite simply because there is more of it. All talent, even that of the greatest artists, is finite. Tenacity tries every option, every day, forever. Absolute talent plus a complete lack of tenacity equals breathtaking work that’s seen by no-one. A complete lack of talent plus absolute tenacity equals something terrible that everybody will see.

Of course, the ideal is to have both qualities, to create something good that people are able to enjoy, but make no mistake: if you want to be successful then talent is helpful, but tenacity is a must.

It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that’s so then tenacity is deciding on a result and trying everything possible to make it happen. That said, the two can look identical from a distance.

It’s easy to miss the point of tenacity; it is not simply repetition. If your query letter has been rejected by thirty publishers and you send that same letter to the thirty-first, you are just repeating yourself. When you take each rejection as a cue to re-examine your query letter, improve it, and send it on to the next possibility, then you’re tenacious.

So tenacity is vital for an author’s success, but what does being tenacious mean to authors in practical terms?

Applied tenacity

I’ve already mentioned one instance in which authors need to be tenacious: sending query letters to agents or publishers. The key to your tenacity not becoming insanity is to learn from your mistakes. Sending a query letter before reading articles and books about how to write a query letter is not tenacious, it’s foolhardy.

Many authors start off as foolhardy and learn to be tenacious instead. Both traits come from an underlying hunger for success, but only the latter is a realistic path to success.

Tenacity means trying one method to the point where it clearly won’t work, and then shifting to the next while maintaining the same amount of energy. In fact, tenacity is being able to do that ten times over.

To authors who want publication this means tailoring your query letters to the publisher or agent you’re contacting, and making sure that every query letter you send is created for its recipient. If those letters don’t work it means re-examining what you’ve sent: is it too long, too short, how does the plot description read, are there any errors?

If after years you still can’t land a publisher or agent it means looking at your work again, and seeing if it needs to be improved or changed.

If it can’t, it means approaching self-publishing with energy and professionalism, not as a fall back but as the new way to get where you want to be.

For authors who are published, it means you will never be finished building your readership.

Find things to do

Very few published authors are totally satisfied with the marketing their work receives. What a tenacious author knows, however, is that it’s within their own power to improve it.

You can run giveaways or organize special offers. You can cultivate your online presence, and most importantly engage with your readership on social media.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are incredibly important for authors. They allow individuals to engage with each other, and have a heavy focus on sharing content. This is an ideal environment for authors, who are individuals with a lot of content to share.

Many authors unsatisfied with their works’ marketing don’t realize they could be online at any point in the day, talking with their fans on social media and attracting new ones. Simple things like following fans of an author whose work is similar to you will bring attention your way, and then it’s a case of earning the continuation of that attention.

Many authors are put off building a readership through social media because it can seem like a thankless task. A day of creating content, sharing links, and talking with fans may only lead to an imperceptible increase in readership, but for the tenacious author that’s enough. Day after day of imperceptible improvement quickly leads to an easily perceived improvement, then a significant one, then a tremendous one.

Again, a repetitious author may spend day after day talking and sharing with their readers, and may even make some headway. A tenacious author talks to their readers while organizing competitions and giveaways, tailoring their content to suit the audience and to get them to involve more people; competitions where entering means sharing content or liking something on social media are effective and easily organized.

Giving up

The most important thing to appreciate about tenacity is that for most authors it’s not a natural trait. Tenacious people exist, but everyone else has to do a great deal of preparation and apply a great deal of willpower.

It’s easy to give up when your efforts have been met with failure or rejection, but the key to carrying on in a productive – rather than simply repetitive – way is to know your options. When you reach the end of a particular path you should already know what you’re going to do next. If you’re asking the question ‘what now?’ then the answer ‘give up’ will be difficult to ignore.

It’s a fact that many authors are published and even widely read simply because they never stopped pursuing their goals. Maybe it took them decades, but they got what they wanted. This shows that it’s possible, and even more than that it shows why those authors who have talent need to match it with tenacity. The probability of reaching a realistic goal vastly increases the more creatively, passionately, and consistently that goal is pursued.

Whether you’re an aspiring author who wants to be published, or a published author who wants to draw more attention to their work, your goals are almost certainly achievable. If there was only one piece of advice I could give authors it would be this: success usually lies just a little bit further down the road than you think it will.

To arm yourself with the know-how you’ll need, check out more of our articles, such as What Literary Agents Do (And Don’t Do) For Authors, The 3 Types Of Bravery Your Story Needs, and Why Beta Readers Are Vital To Your Success.


4 thoughts on “Success Depends On A Lot More Than Talent – Here’s Why”

  1. Hi Rob
    Well I guess this will be one of the more unusual posts you will receive.
    My name is John Moffatt Smith and I am the Author of a newly released book Invisible Scars, being my memoirs. It’s unique. Not just in that all my siblings, me included would find our way to an orphanage, but more so due to the size of my family being 16 sisters and 13 brothers, and since the release of Scars, there is a possible two more brothers to be found, taking the total siblings to 32 of which 27 are from my birth mother & father, with the rest from both their previous relationships.
    My book is also the first of a 5 book series, which was due mainly to the amount of material to write about, given the size of our tribe. All books are completed with just a title for one to be decided, some adding to the third book, and the final editing of the fourth. My web page would best give you an idea what I am about.
    My publisher of Scars was a personal friend whom I was under no false illusions, only had the time to get my first book into my hands as she was taking up a job position in the United States. This suited due to my having a ready made audience to travel and sell to via 14 exhibitions I look after throughout the year with my security company.
    Now why this letter? Well I am guessing that at some I am going to have to use the traditional means of promoting and selling books, being the book-chains, bookstores, Amazon, E Read and online outlets. Presently as my web page will show, we do workshops, book talks at library’s or corporate guest speaking and have Exhibitor book stands at multiple Expos across Australia throughout the year. The proceeds from sales are what generate the funds to help recipients chosen by those who buy my book and nominate someone in need, be this individual or worthy organization. My security company, which I am fortunate needs limited involvement and runs itself while keeping me financial enough to travel with my wife and my brother Tom and his wife, along with my book.
    So being a novice I would appreciate any feedback on how you would suggest I move forward in regards to the normal procedure in marketing, promoting and selling ones books once I have exhausted my present means?
    Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope you might be able to steer me in the right direction.
    Thanking You
    John Moffatt Smith

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for contacting me regarding this. Your project sounds really interesting, and I can certainly see why it’s so extensive. For advice on marketing your book, you can check out our range of articles on the subject, collected in our marketing archive. I’d suggest starting with ‘How To Write a Book Marketing Plan In 13 Easy Steps’, as this lends a structure to the specific steps we describe elsewhere.


      We also offer a range of marketing services, and would be happy to discuss a specific set of services for your needs. If you’d like to contact me at [email protected], I’d be happy to begin the process of helping you select the marketing service that’s right for you. You can follow the link below to see the type of thing we offer.


      Hope that’s useful.


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