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What is an Overnight Success?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term overnight success commonly refers to a person that was previously unheard of and then suddenly becomes a household name and/or recognized for a remarkable achievement. One day the person is virtually unknown and the next it seems news about that person and his or her achievement is everywhere. An overnight success applies to any field, but is especially common in the music and entertainment realm.

The ironic thing about many people considered to be an overnight success is that it often took them many years to get there. This happens quite frequently. For example, an author that not many people heard of before his or her novel became a New York Times Bestseller may have written and had rejected dozens of manuscripts before getting a great publishing deal. Even if it was his or her first novel, chances are great that the novel took a considerable time to write and was certainly not written overnight.

In terms of success alone, however, the struggling novelist or other person who is suddenly considered to be an overnight success is faced with recognition and or money they lacked before. Although the hard work may have gone totally unrecognized before, now many people know his or her name and work or achievement. The instant fame and/or fortune an overnight success like this can bring may be difficult for some people to handle, since the experience can be life changing.

Instant success can even change how a person treats others if the new found glory causes ego problems. It is important to stay grounded and remember times of struggle and hard work before the success was achieved. The public and sometimes the press may not consider all the time and effort someone who is called an overnight success put in.

It is possible for a business to become an overnight success. For example, a company may have been in businesses for years and only be known locally and then be known nationally or worldwide if one of its products really catches on suddenly. While becoming an overnight success can be great for a company's business growth, it also often poses a problem in how to meet the sudden new demand for more products.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Mar 04, 2014

I am one of those struggling writers myself, and what concerns me even more than becoming an overnight success is becoming an overnight failure when the bubble of interest bursts. I've seen writers or actors or musicians become amazingly popular because they created the one thing that people wanted to hear or see or read at that exact moment. I remember a young teen singer who created her own video of a song that would probably not even be played on the radio on its own merits.

The video, however, was so endearing and earnest that the girl became an overnight success. She was booked on talk shows, offered a real recording contract, and became known worldwide. Once the novelty of the song wore off, however, she became the butt of jokes and included in a sarcastic "Whatever Happened To..." clip show. Overnight success is great, but maintaining that success is tough.

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