Remember who said that? That’s right, one of my childhood heroes Captain James T. Kirk, of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.  I bring this up today because I’m reminded of one of the most important qualities a successful writer (or any other kind of person) must have. (For those of you unfamiliar with this SciFi lore, check out this article on Wikipedia about the Kobayshi Maru)

Is it talent? Well, talent does help a lot, but it’s not mandatory. Many talented writers don’t make it.

How about connections? After all, it’s who you know, now what you know, right? Ummm…not really. Sure, having influencers in your corner helps, but if you don’t have a worthy book (product) then your “friend” in the business can’t do much to help you.

So what is that one thing needed, that one thing of which you are actually in control?


I read that Dean Koontz got something like 75 rejections before he sold his first novel. How many of us would have given up long before that? Well, that’s one way to cut the slush pile down. A former writing mentor used to say about the profession of writing, “if you can be discouraged, you should be.” Harsh, but true. Because this field especially is all about persistence. Rejection is just par for the course. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the thin-skinned (even if you’re published, you have to face reviews, good and otherwise.)

Having been forewarned and armed with this mentality, I told myself I would not even begin to worry about ever becoming a writer like Dean Koontz until I hit 75 rejections. The truth is, I probably hit about 40 for DARKROOM before Simon & Schuster offered me a contract for it, so I’ll never know if at 75 how I might have reacted when I got to that point.

But what if you have had many more than 75? What if New York seems like it will never come knocking on your door, or will never open theirs to you? Do you throw in the towel?

I say, don’t just give up, don’t concede to your circumstances, don’t believe in a no-win scenario. Find your inner Captain Kirk, and change your situation.



Or be like Mr. Fluffy in the picture above and think of a new way to create your success.  We’re in the golden age of publishing now where you can create your own publishing company and potentially make a great deal more money than if you go through a traditional publisher (look at Hugh Howey, for example.)  Before I sold DARKROOM to Simon & Schuster I had already published BEYOND JUSTICE, independently and did whatever I could to get it in front of readers. To this day, thank God above, I’m humbled to see that it is still on multiple bestseller lists, and has received numerous awards, over three years after its release date.  Beyond-Justice_Cover_Final_HighRez_200 - Copy - Copy

There are many great things about going with a traditional publisher, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t wait until they open their gates before you start reaching your dreams.

What can you do?  There are plenty of articles on independent publishing out there, so I won’t have anything new to add.  But I will encourage you not to sit in self-pity waiting for someone else to make your dreams come true. Pray for inspiration, get creative, and go create your own success.

What are some creative ways you’ve overcome the odds? I’d love to know about it. Please share in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.

Legal Notice: All information on this website and blog are from Mr. Graham's personal experience and insight and should not be viewed in any way, directly or inferred, as qualified professional advice.

All creative writing on this website or Mr. Graham's books: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. (novels, short stories)


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