Yes, Lee Child Is THAT Awesome

Yesterday I saw a tweet from Alison Brennan (via Piper Bayard retweet) about advice Lee Child gave to a group of new writers. I highly recommend making some time to read it because as the author of the article, Anthony J. Franze, correctly points out, Lee Child’s advice is more about being a successful person in whatever your job or endeavor. Anyway, I just want to highlight a few of his points.

It’s not just about being the best in your field; being positive, approachable, and likeable breeds loyalty.

For those of you familiar with The Teachings of Kristen Lamb, this could double as a quote from her. She didn’t invent the golden rule, but it is what she’s built the entire WANA method around. A guy at Lee Child’s level of fame probably doesn’t need to be positive, approachable or likeable; he’ll still sell tons of books. The fact that he is, says a lot about his character.

There’s another quote that goes something like, “If you want to know one’s true character, give him some power.” It’s easy to be a nice guy when you’re at the bottom of the ladder, but what if you start moving up? Lee Child is a smart man for not letting his fame go to his head because, as he said, it breeds loyalty. There’s a handful of famous people that have the qualities in Lee Child’s quote and because of that, I’m genuinely excited to hear about any new project they’re working on. I automatically want to support it.

Penetrating the culture is slow and takes years and years and years.

That’s right, SLOW. Lee Child said you should keep writing and see where you are in ten years. This isn’t a random number, I’ve seen the ten year thing a lot.

According to wikipedia, Kelley Armstrong sold her first book in 1999. Her first book to be labeled a New York Times bestseller was No Humans Involved. It was published in 2007. This was the seventh book in her series and like Child, she’d been releasing a book a year, slowly building her fanbase. Not long after that, she was much more well-known author. Pretty close to ten years.

I realize Child and Armstrong are traditionally published, full time authors that got started over ten years ago. Things are different in publishing, but the time it takes to penetrate culture hasn’t. Anyone who clings to someone like Amanda Hocking as proof that you CAN be an overnight success, is only getting set to fail. Besides, the ten year rule applies to her too, just in a different way. She spent nine years getting rejected before she self-published and in under a year, she scored her deal. But the girl still put in her time.

A better example is Claire Legrand. If you don’t know her, you should quickly click the appropriate buttons here on her blog. She’s awesome. This August, her debut comes out from Simon and Schuster and she’s already got 2013 and 2014 booked for new releases. So, regardless of the outcome for her first book, she’s on track to have more than just me at her NYC signing by the time the third book comes out.

If you’re self-publishing, there are no better examples than Susan Bischoff and Kait Nolan. Susan’s raising her daughter while writing and Kait is juggling multiple jobs. Despite these extra responsibilities, Susan is two novels and a short story into her series and Kait’s got two novellas and short story from one series and a YA novel under her belt. Both are just a few years into their careers.


Even though these ladies lead such different lives, they share something in common; they’re positive, approachable and likeable. And you know what that breeds.

So, the moral of this story is: Lee Child is awesome and you should do what he says.

10 comments on “Yes, Lee Child Is THAT Awesome

  1. Yep. Self-publishing isn’t the shortcut people seem to believe it is. Patience is one of the biggest assets you can have, and nobody can sell your books as well as a happy and loyal reader.

    I didn’t really have a ten year plan (although I’m two years into an initial three year one), but in ten years, I could be thinking about college fees. All five kids might need a hand, so here’s hoping the plans work out. 😉

  2. It’s good to know someone as well known as Lee Child is that nice. I just posted on my blog a couple of days ago that I needed to read some more Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (and I mentioned you, LOL). You’ve reminded me that I ALSO need to read some Lee Child. 🙂 It’s been awhile since I’ve delved into the world of Jack Reacher.

    I’ll agree wholeheartedly with what you said about Susan and Kait. These are some fantastic ladies, and I feel lucky that I’ve actually spend time with them. They aren’t only nice and approachable, but they’re also loads of fun. 🙂

    I hope I would still be approachable no matter HOW my career goes.

  3. Great post, Andrew, and thanks so much for the shoutout! You rock.

  4. @Claire F- Yeah, I have trouble making plans that go into next week. But even if your plan doesn’t reach that far, Ten years, give or take, seems to be the unofficial standard. I’ve seen it a lot in music too.

    @LL- Kristen tweeted me yesterday that she’s met Lee Child and how he’s such a cool guy.

    And from what I’ve read about Preston and Child, they seem like good guys too. Very interactive with their fans.

    @Claire L- You’re welcome and thanks! All true facts about you.

  5. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Andrew. I really needed this! 🙂

  6. This is great, Andrew. I think there is a prevailing mentality in all creative industries that there is this secret way to gain success immediately. It happens, sure, but if we spend all our energy trying to “make it”, I feel like we lose so much of the important stuff (and often, still fail in the “making it” part).

    • Yeah, it seems the people who hang on to those few examples of quick success as ironclad proof are fooling themselves. I doubt the people who got success fast ever set out specifically to do it. However they marketed themselves took off and if it was that easy to reproduce, everyone would. But the people that went the long way and slowly built a fanbase by paying it forward and consistantly putting out quality work? THAT has been reproduced and is the best strategy.

  7. Great post, Andrew! Yes, I’m not looking for the overnight success. As long as I see slow but steady progress, I can live with that. 🙂

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