Being an Author

I met with a client recently who has read a copy of my new book, “Meaningful Conversations” and provided an amazing review, even though he sort to purchase a paperback version, we share many thought provoking discussions through our relationship and one is writing and the writing of other’s.

We chatted about a relatively new author called David Sedaris who has just written ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ and before you ask, the spelling of the name of the book is correct. ?

The book is so frank, that any author will resonate with the words, his sense of humour, delivery writing style and comic timing are the best.

He wrote: ‘When a book you have been working on is finally published, the first person you normally hear from is the friend or family member you dedicated it to. In a perfect world he or she will cry, the way they might if you named your baby after them, but for me it’s never worked out that way’.

My third book, ‘Holiday’s on ice‘, was dedicated to a friend who appeared thankful but stopped short of crying, and this one, your notice was for my father. I sent him the first advance copy I could get my hands on, and when a week went passed, and I did not hear anything, I mailed him a second, thinking the earlier copy may have gotten lost. Another week went passed and then I called.
‘So did you get my package?’
‘I did’
‘I just told you I got it’, he snapped, I got two as a matter of fact.’
‘Did you notice I dedicated it to you?’
‘Of course I noticed,’ he said, ‘How could I not notice with the damn Post-It note stuck in there?’ He paused. So, are you coming to North Carolina on your book tour? Let me know because I have a lot of crap in the basement and I want it cleared by the end of summer.’

The next people you hear from when a book comes out are the armchair grammarians. These are readers who dream of working as copyeditors, and desperately need to inform you of the dangling modifier at the top of page 128.

‘And how is it that nobody caught the colon that should be a semicolon in your author bio? They want to know.

So funny……I think all writers can recall instances that make you feel flawed, I recall a good friend of mine who is a great lawyer, she read my first book “Freedom after the Sharks”, saying ‘Geoff, I have read your book twice and what happened to page 115, there is a full stop missing’, I know the look of amazement I gave – looking at her when she said this, and then there are the people who want to critique your published work, your heart and soul, with words on their interpretation, but they would never write and publish a book of their own.

So how did Wordsworth deal with these subjectivisms?

Wordsworth was a poet who never seems far from critics’ minds. From the moment of his first publication (in 1793), there has been no shortage of critics ready both to dismiss him and to idolise him. His close friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, recognised early on that the sheer amount of critical attention threatened the poems themselves: ‘His work produced an eddy of criticism, which would of itself have borne up the poems by the violence, with which it whirled them round and round’. It is within this whirlpool of critical voices that Wordsworth’s poetry exists for us today.

It seems that new generations of critics never tire of evaluating and re-evaluating the ideas found within Wordsworth’s poetry, and reinterpreting their significance for a new generation. Whether they love him or hate him, critics of every age have felt it important to communicate their views on his verse and his critics include Hazlitt, DeQuincey, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot and Harold Bloom. Just what is it about the poetry of Wordsworth which seems to provoke such disparate responses?

Stephen King has had an uncanny ability to hit the commercial bull’s-eye from the beginning of his career. In the 40 years since his first novel, Carrie, he has published more than 50 books, all of them international best sellers. Shortly after its release, Carrie was turned into a blood-drenched film by Brian De Palma. And in 1977 King’s novel The Shining, set in a wintry ski resort and featuring a paranormal child and a maniacal father, further showcased his unparalleled gift for psychological terror. When Stanley Kubrick turned that novel into a film in 1980, the Stephen King industry was born. There are now more than 100 films and TV programmes based on his work, and he shows no signs of slowing down – not with his legions of fans, hungry for more.

But the respect of the literary establishment has always eluded King. For years, the question of whether he was a serious writer was answered by a quick tabulation of book sales, film deals, income and sheer volume of output, which added up to a resounding ‘no’. Commercial triumph did not equal literary value. Being a best seller was anathema.

Sissy Spacek earned an Oscar nomination for Carrie – a film that brought both the actor and Stephen King to wide attention.

From the beginning, King was dismissed as a ‘genre writer’.

Here is the sad truth: most people who write a book will never get it published, half the writers who are published will not see a second book in print, and most books published are never reprinted.

What’s more, half the titles in any given bookshop will not sell a single copy there, and most published writers will not earn anything from their book apart from the advance.

So, do not expect anything from your writing apart from the personal fulfilment of having learned your craft and created a work that did not exist before. By all means hope to get published, and dream of having a bestseller or even a long string of them, people do, after all. But writing talent is not nearly enough; thousands of people have it. To succeed, you have to write the best story you possibly can, for the genre you’re writing in, and be professional in every other way. It is the writers who work hardest at every aspect of their craft, and never give up, that get there. And when you do, enjoy the adventure while it lasts, but don’t expect it to last forever. It probably will be short lived, but at least you have your legacy. ?

A rare few will ignore all this and succeed, but they are the lottery winners like JK Rawling and Harry Potter. As an Author of two books ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ and ‘Meaningful Conversations’ take my word for it, everyone else has to work hard at it. Just do not expect success or you are bound to be disappointed. Publishers are in business for the long term and they have to make a profit. If you write books that sell, your publisher will love you. If you do not sell books, it’s goodbye, no matter how much he or she likes your writing.

As Ernest Hemingway once said:

“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”

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