Depending on who you ask, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, what new things Amazon just launched an hour ago, what the newest iProduct on the market is, and how strong the wind is blowing, you could end up with about 42,000 different answers.
Some will tell you that your social media presence is the life-or-death part of the equation. Public image is essential. Post often enough, but not too often, about the right things and never the wrong things, and cast your nets widely. Trouble is that no one can come to a consensus on what the right and wrong way to do these things might be.
Others will say you should read every book out there on writing craft, learn all of the rules, and follow them to a T. Only then will you ever write a publishable book. Then there are those who flout the rules at every turn, and yet sell thousands or even millions of books.
There's yet another group who scream at the top of their lungs that contests are the way to succeed. Gain recognition through all of your contest wins! Shout from the tops of the roofs, "I am the king of the world! I'm a finalist in the This Had Better Work, Or Else Because My Bank Account is in the Negative Contest!" They've got their naysayers, too, who say that contest scores are pointless and contest judges likely don't have the first clue about writing, let alone about judging, so what's the point? It's a waste of money.
There are those who will toil away for years, writing manuscript after manuscript, submitting them over and over again to agents and editors...all the while never getting any closer to securing either. Another group will throw a bunch of words on the page, declare it a masterpiece, and after receiving their first rejection, will publish it in any and every avenue available to them.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes, though. So for the rest of us, what are the keys to success? How do we know what to pursue, what direction to go in, when the landscape of publishing is changing faster than we can blink?
I think the keys I've found, at least for me and my personal gauge of success, are persistence, knowledge, and patience. I refuse to let any of the extremists convince me that their way is the only way, and instead persist in my current path. I do everything I can to continue learning--taking courses, reading books, going to conferences and seminars, reading good books (and analyzing what I read), and most of all, continuing to write. And I do my best to stay patient. I don't know what major changes are going to take place in the publishing world tomorrow or next week or next year. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and try not to panic whenever the announcement comes. After all, if I'm well-informed enough, the sky won't be falling. It'll just be a little rain.
What are your keys to succeeding in the publishing industry?