The myth of the surefire hit

Wouldn’t you like it if you worked on a project and has 100% assurance that it would work? Instead of dreading the shipping day and wondering if what you have in your hands is a hit or a dud. Let me break it down to you: The idea that you can be 100% sure your project will be a hit is a myth. Hollywood knows that all too well. Take the Lone Ranger, Disney applied the sure-fire formula of Pirates of the Caribbean and yet it flopped massively.

But in this article I don’t want to make you doubt your project will be a hit if you think it will be. I want to give you hope in case you are one of those people who can’t seem to make a step without doubting your project’s worth. I’m here to tell you, just because others doubt your project, just because YOU doubt your own project doesn’t mean it won’t be a hit. Let’s look at 4 examples:

Too many books to count

Most successful books you see on the shelf have all started as rejects. Dr Seuss was rejected 27 times and on his way to burn it, he met someone he knew in the streets. Harry Potter? 12 times. Harry Potter is of course THE litterary success of our times, and publishers are keeping their eyes open for the next hit based on that model. You would think publishers would be able to spot gold when they saw it, right? Well, no. The publishers who rejected Harry Potter are probably still kicking themselves in the nuts for passing out on the intellectual property.

Pokemon

Pokemon is the most valuable entertainment ip the world. When Pokemon go released it drew massive crowds in parks and it is still played to this day. Both Nintendo and Gamefreak didn’t have much faith in it. It was released very late in the console’s life:

“No magazine or TV show was interested. They thought Game Boy was finished,” says Masakazu Kubo, executive producer of the publishing company Shogakukan Inc. “No toymakers were interested either.” Spiffier graphics and more intricate games were going to be available on CD-ROM for use on home computers, leaving the tiny images on Game Boy in the dust. “When I finished Pokémon,” says Tajiri, “I thought Nintendo would reject it. I was like a baseball player sliding into second base knowing he’s going to be out. But somehow, I was safe.” Source.

You would think a company like Nintendo would be able to recognize a diamond when they see it, right? Nopes, they did not expect Pokemon to fare well.

Star Wars

No one had faith in Star Wars, not even George Lucas himself. He was so unsure about his “Space opera” that he made a bet with Steven Spielberg:

“He said, ‘Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than ‘Star Wars’! This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time. I can’t believe this set. I can’t believe what you’re getting, and oh my goodness.’ He said, ‘All right, I’ll tell you what. I’ll trade some points with you. You want to trade some points? I’ll give you 2.5% of ‘Star Wars’ if you give me 2.5% of ‘Close Encounters.’ So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that. Great.'” 

Star Wars was an intant hit but it sure didn’t seem this way until it actually launched.

Power Rangers

A whole generation of kids grew up on Power Rangers, it’s worth half a billion when Hasbro purchased it outright. And yet then one of the producers had the idea to bring the Japanese show to the west, he got rejected at every turn for 8 years. Before meeting Margaret Loesch, SHE too was trying to get the show off the ground and got laughed at. Even when they got the greelight for a pilot episode, as she puts it “My staff ridiculed me”.


No one wanted to run the show, she had to cut a deal with the networks that they could earn toy revenue for them to run Power Rangers. All of the doubt vanished when the first Power Rangers episode hit the air one Saturday morning.

All of these examples print money. And yet either the creator doubted the product they had or nnobody had faith in it (at least in the beginning).

Moral of the story is…you’ll never be sure. You gotta keep humble if you think your project will be a hit, and you have to have faith to push trough if you are doubting your own project’s worth. If you are writing your book and right in the middle of it, doubt starts creeping in, remember too that Geoge Lucas wasn’t so sure himself.

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