I met J.C. Hutchins at SxSW, but I’d heard of him weeks before that. His is a powerful story. So I was delighted to meet him and to have a chance to talk with him about how he made his success happen on his own.
J.C. choose a path that the big publishers said wouldn’t work. He took it anyway and won. I’ve asked him to tell his story. This is Part 1 in a two part series.
The power of survival stories, saying “damn it all” and tuning out the “no” noise
Stories of survival capture our imaginations like no other.
We’re awestruck by the life-and-death struggles seen in man versus nature tales (such as “Into Thin Air”). We’re smitten by the stories of underdogs overcoming insurmountable odds (“Star Wars”). Equally captivating are tales of forbidden romances that thrive, despite the establishment’s protests (“Romeo and Juliet”). A great many of us are fascinated by nature documentaries, too: primal survival, right there on your TV screen.
Why do we love these stories? It makes for great drama, no doubt. But I have my own pet theory: Survival equals success. And in a world where the odds are often stacked against us in nearly every endeavor we pursue — be it in business, love, parenting or personal relationships — we hunger for that, for victories. (“To Do” lists rock for this very reason.) The world is programmed to tell us “no.” Every day, we scrap and scratch to make it say “yes.” Even with our creature comforts, we are all walking, talking tales of survival.
Since you’re a reader of this blog, you know that Liz regularly provides insights on how to transform your blog or business into a more successful one — how to turn little “yeses” into bigger ones. But I’d like to share a lesson I’ve learned during my two years as a podcaster and blogger. It’s the lesson of “Damn It All,” of tuning out the noise of “no,” and taking the greatest gamble in your personal tale of survival: making the leap of faith in yourself, and your work.
In 2005, I completed a thriller novel of epic length titled “7th Son.” It took me three years to write and edit the 1,300-page manuscript … and a year of hearing dozens of no’s from literary agents to realize that my novel, as clever as I thought it may be, wasn’t going to get published. It was too long. Its mashup of genres (present-day thriller, science-fiction, human cloning, government conspiracies) wasn’t marketable. My aspirations of being on bookshelves was DOA, baby. “7th Son” was deader than disco.
And yet, I’d seen podcasting blossom that year, and keenly observed the word of mouth success of three novelists (most notably Scott Sigler, http://scottsigler.com whose novel “Infected” will be in bookstores everywhere this April). These writers were releasing their independent books as free serialized audio podcasts. In 2006, I realized that if I couldn’t sell my novel, I could share it in a similar way. I’d let people — not the publishing establishment — decide if the work was a good read or not.
I wanted my book to survive.
Thanks to that decision and a great deal of zero-budget social media marketing, my free “7th Son” podcast audiobook now has nearly 40,000 listeners worldwide. Next year, the first book in the “7th Son” trilogy (I chopped my monstrously-long manuscript into thirds for podcast release) will be published by St. Martin’s Press. I’m currently writing the debut novel in a new thriller series, which will also debut next year from St. Martin’s Press.
I’m no braggart, and I don’t intend my story to be a shill-fest for my work. Rather, view it the recollection of a guy who got so sick of hearing the word “no” — and was so convinced that his work deserved a chance to be enjoyed — that he said Damn It All and did whatever he could so see it soar.
Which brings us to back to your personal tale of survival and success. What are your great ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Thanks, J.C.! Your story still inspires me. Tomorrow, in Part 2, “Your Personal Tale of Survival — and Success,” J.C. offers a few words on how to do what he did.