Thursday, August 25, 2016

#18: Bestseller Beware!

Is it possible to be too successful as an author?

I'm afraid so! And here's why ... I was in my editor's office in New York, discussing some changes to my book. (btw if you have a chance to meet your editor, you should do it! It will help you make a more personal connection with him or her! Plus you'll feel pretty cool!)

At one point, her assistant leaned in the door.

"Sorry to interrupt, but Joe Bestseller's on the line," she said. Obviously, the person's name wasn't Joe Bestseller, but I recognized him. His second novel had been that rare gem:

A critical and commercial success.

An international bestseller, the book was already being considered a modern classic. Some day it would be made into an award-winning film too. In other words, this author had made it. "Sorry," my editor said, reaching for her phone. "I have to take this." She picked up the phone, smiling broadly.

"Hello, Joe! How are you?"

By the way, this is something you're going to have to get used to as a new author: getting brushed aside for your agent's or editor's favorite clients (i.e. bestsellers). No matter how important the topic you're discussing, if that star calls, your agent or editor will always interrupt you and say:

"Sorry! I have to take this!" They'll also usually tell you who it is.

I guess they're doing it to sound impressive, reminding you what powerful editors or agents they are. But no matter what, it will make you feel like a jealous schmuck.

"So, have you finished?" she asked, trying to keep her voice light.

But then her expression changed and her brow was scored with worry lines. This was clearly not good news. "Why not? ... Well, Joe, it's three months late. If you don't get the final draft in soon, we're not going to be able to publish it ... Don't worry, I'm sure it's brilliant ... Don't say that! You're a genius! Everybody thinks so!"

I'm embellishing a bit here. But you get my point.

I was definitely witnessing a panicked bestseller being coddled by his New York editor. I was on the edge of my seat. "Yes ... really, Joe, you have to get it in by tomorrow ... Tomorrow, for sure, okay? ... No, I said --" Sigh. "All right, then, day after that." She hung up the phone and looked at me, wincing. "That was Joe Bestseller," she said.

I nodded casually, as if I wasn't salivating for more details.

I had to interpret the story based on what little she was willing to share, but here's the gist of it: nobody had expected the novel to do so well. Especially Joe himself. The intimation was clear: the book had been so unexpectedly successful that Joe had ... kind of freaked out.

I know. Poor dude, right? 

But it's a sobering thought. He had everything most writers dream of: money, success, literary fame, a NYT bestseller, a great publisher and a devoted editor eagerly awaiting his Next Work (which is what your follow-up book is called in your contract). But he still couldn't finish his book. The terrifying truth was hanging in the air of that office like a dying spider plant. It was the same truth that hung in every Manhattan editor's office since Simon met Schuster:

For writers, success can be just as debilitating as failure!

I'm not exactly sure what happened to that manuscript, but about a year later, his bestselling novel was re-issued. I wonder if that's what they decided to do to fill the hole left in the schedule when he didn't deliver his Next Work. Whatever the case, he hasn't published another novel. (At least not yet!) 

However, several years later, he did go on to direct the film adaptation of his book!

I checked IMDb and I cannot count how many awards the film won or was nominated for: most particularly, for adapted screenplay, an award Joe was able to collect himself. He's actually gone on to have a flourishing career as a movie director and writer.

So it's not all bad news for Joe. ;) 

But it's definitely something to keep in the back of your mind when you think hitting the bestseller lists will make all your troubles go away. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

"There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it."  - George Bernard Shaw

Sorry for being scarce the last few weeks!! I've missed you! But I'm in the middle of 'soft-launching' The Witches of Ashford Place (formerly Hunter's Moon). I'll explain the title change in another post!! But I'm so excited to hear what you think! Let me know when you get the chance! Thank you SO much!

Just click to pic to "Look Inside" on Amazon!

The Witches of Ashford Place