Andy Weir always wanted to be a writer, but finding success in the publishing industry proved to be difficult. Instead, he pursued a degree in computer programming and worked as a software engineer for many years until being laid off in 1999, which led to discovering a large sum of money in stock options. This windfall enabled Weir to become a full-time novelist, but after three years of trying to break into the industry, Andy Weir decided he gave it a good attempt, and returned to software engineering.
With the rise of the internet, Andy began posting his writing online and built a following of 3000 people over 10 years. Despite not becoming a professional writer, Andy Weir continued writing as a hobby, and engaged with his readers, making changes to the manuscripts as they pointed out factual inaccuracies and weak plot points.
He then started working on the book, The Martian, and his reader feedback was very clear that they wanted him to continue working on this book. He posted the book online in installments and received feedback from readers, which helped to motivate him. When readers requested an e-reader version of the book, he figured out how to make one and used Kindle Direct Publishing to self-publish it on Amazon. He initially set the price to the minimum of 99 cents and offered the book for free on his website. However, more people bought it than downloaded it for free, and the sales were boosted by readers who had been following his writing and wanted to support his contributions along the way.
The book sales took off in Amazon’s recommendation engine, and other people outside of his own sphere of influence took a chance on the book for $1. They were happily surprised, so they reviewed it, and Amazon kept recommending it. Pretty soon, Andy was approached by Crown Publishing Group and “The Martian” was finally traditionally published. Later, the movie rights were sold, and unbelievably, the book was made into a movie.
In summary, despite being rejected by publishers, Andy Weir self-published the book online and it gained popularity among readers, leading to a print and movie deal. Andy’s story illustrates just how the publishing industry has changed in the last decade, with the emergence of platforms like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, where writers can self-publish their work and gain recognition.
From Andy’s perspective, publishing has become a pure meritocracy, where anyone can become successful with hard work and talent, and no longer relies on a network of privileged individuals. Andy ends his story by encouraging aspiring writers to take advantage of this change and pursue their dreams without the limitations of the traditional publishing industry.
And here’s my take:
Andy Weir had a lot of practice. Practice is necessary, and luck plays a role. People often use the phrase “I was at the right place at the right time”. But often, the person put themselves in the right place enough times so that at the right time, they were in the place they needed to be.
Joanna Penn says, in the book, The Successful Author Mindset, “Writers Write”. Andy Weir wrote and wrote and wrote. And it eventually broke through to his audience and one thing let to another and caused surging success. But Andy Weir put in deliberate practice and didn’t quit.
And neither should you. We’re rooting for your success.