A Success Story of 9,529 Failures

UPDATED: June 16, 2023
PUBLISHED: October 22, 2014

In 2008 I decided to write my first book, Rich Habits, sharing the findings from my five-year study on the daily habits of the rich and the poor. This is my journey of all the failures I experienced on the way to success, and how—although I encountered a lot of speed bumps on the way—I never stopped.

144 Failures: After completing my manuscript, I sent out 144 query letters to literary agents to help me find a publisher. Thirty responded, and all 30 said, “No thanks.” But I didn’t quit.

136 Failures: So I spent six months pursuing publishers directly. Most didn’t even respond. Those that did said no. But one said yes. Unfortunately, though, I received a call months later from my publisher— they were filing for bankruptcy. But I still didn’t quit. Instead, I decided to self-publish.

1,000 Failures: I then mailed 1,000 books to book reviewers and followed up with them. But no one responded to my calls or emails. I even personally delivered my book to The Asbury Park Press, my local paper, and followed up with them multiple times. Again, total silence. I kept trudging.

1,900 Failures: I spent 18 months speaking to more than 2,000 people at high schools, colleges, libraries and business associations. I sold only 100 books, and no buzz buzzed.

1,850 Failures: I spent two years calling 2,000 radio stations in the U.S. I did 150 radio interviews and sold 700 books—500 of them from one radio show alone.

2,499 Failures: I emailed 2,500 newspaper editors in the U.S. about doing a piece on my book. One editor from The New Jersey Star Ledger interviewed me. I sold 173 books from that piece.

2,000 Failures: I created a scholarship program, funded by my royalties, to help promote Rich Habits. After 2,000 mailings and follow-ups I received two incomplete scholarship applications. But I kept at it.

Then Lauri Flaquer interviewed me for her Internet TV show, Focus Forward. She loved the interview and my book and informed me that she was going to be my publicist. How could I say no to the only person who believed in me? I followed Lauri’s advice—I began writing articles for my blog again. I began tweeting again certain articles Lauri thought might be of interest to the media. Soon, I received an email that would change my life.

The email was from Farnoosh Torabi, the host of the popular Yahoo Internet show Financially Fit. She responded to one of my 16,000 Twitter pitches and agreed to do an interview. And it went viral with 2.2 million hits. One of those hits was Dave Ramsey, the third largest radio host in the U.S.—he was raving about my research on his show. The next day, Dave interviewed me for 30 minutes.

I sold 12,000 books. Rich Habits rose to No. 7 on Amazon, and I received Amazon’s coveted “Best Seller” designation.

Bob Dumas, a CBS producer, emailed me to ask for an interview, and it—my first appearance on national TV—aired on seven CBS affiliate stations across the nation. I sold 2,000 books.

Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education and a writer for Credit.com, contacted me for another interview, which was picked up by MSN Money. I sold 2,000 books.

Susan Kane, SUCCESS magazine editor in chief, emailed me to write a piece for their November 2014 issue, in which five pages were devoted to my book’s message. For the same issue, publisher Darren Hardy interviewed me for theSUCCESS audio CD. Getting on that CD is like striking gold.

As I write this, I don’t know if I will sell 1,000 or 100,000 books. I also don’t know what unintended consequences will result. But I do know this: It would have never happened if I had quit. Quitting, I now know, is the only real failure.

To everyone out there on the verge of quitting on your dream, I want you to remember my success story, in spite of the 9,529 failures. Success wants to see if you have what it takes to overcome all of the obstacles it puts in your way. It wants to see how you react to your mistakes and failures. But most of all, it wants to see if you deserve it.

Check out the 16 rich habits that separate the wealthy from the poor—and change your autopilot mode to reach your potential.  

Tom Corley is the author of the best-seller Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. He writes from Rich Habits Institute headquarters in New Jersey.