Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Overnight Success?

The misconceptions about writers that are perpetuated in the media can be annoying. One previously-mentioned example of this is the writer in a TV show who will bang out a first draft on their Apple Mac (usually in a matter of weeks) and pass it to the editor/agent without having to rewrite a single world. And then the novel appears in print within a couple of months. You'd think scriptwriters would know a bit more about the way publishing works, wouldn't you?

Another example is the concept of an 'overnight success'. I very much doubt there's any such thing as an 'overnight success', and this applies to artist and musicians as equally as it does to writers. The reality is you work for years on your writing, music or art. You rack up countless rejections, and nobody knows or cares who you are. Then you might have a degree of success. If you're a writer you get a couple of books published. You work hard at the promotion, while still working on the writing, but still nobody knows or cares who you are.

Then twenty years and half a dozen books down the line, you may get a book published that does reasonably well. People who like that book start looking for others and discover your back-catalogue. Word gradually spreads and other people start buying and liking your books. And then suddenly the media start describing you as an 'overnight success'. Not so. You're the same writer you were a year ago, or five years ago, or maybe even ten years ago. The only difference is more people know who you are now.

I have a couple of friends in the music industry. They're both doing reasonably well there currently, but only after a good many years of hard work, of not knowing where the next gig was coming from and struggling to pay the bills.

Occasionally a first novel is published that does so astoundingly well the author becomes extremely well known in a short period of time. But such cases are the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, like those writers that sell so well they make vast quantities of money (JK Rowling, perhaps - and even she wasn't an overnight success), they perpetuate the myth that all writers are rich and famous.

There were a few people who said to me, once they found out about my first publishing contract, "I guess you'll be quitting work now". I just didn't have the time or the energy to explain why that won't be happening any time soon.

So, now I've got that off my chest, I'll get back to juggling the writing, promoting and editing around the day job. Maybe in 20 years' time I'll have a dozen or so published novels under my belt. Who knows, maybe even I might one day be be described as an 'overnight success'.

1 comment:

LM Preston said...

I totatlly feel you! Writing as a full-time business is just that - a business. It takes time to build it to the point where you can pay your bills. Many writers that do it full time don't just write, they market, write more than 10 pieces of works and figure out markets for that work, they speak, they find writerly like income streams they build a platform - which takes years to build in fact.