It seems unlikely that anyone–especially anyone who’s ever undertaken the head-scrambling angst of setting pen to paper with the intent of composing brillaint, unforgettable prose–could fail to notice
obsess over the boggle-the-mind, runaway-success stories that bolster certain books to the lofty heights of Mega Bestsellerdom .
Far from what would ordinarily be considered masterful or especially remarkable, they are oftentimes books more likely to furrow foreheads, clench lips, and inspire interior chants to boom–Why? How can this be? Where have all the grammar school English teachers gone?–if only in an effort to drown out the not so pretty sour grape spills of Not Fair! WTH! Because, seriously, How is it even possible that such crappy, hackneyed, over-under written book sell beyond the bounds of a bazillion gigaton?
Deny it if you must. Insist that you yourself harbor no writerly dreams or aspirations that such a phenomena would sweep in to propel the spine printed with your name. (And as you continue with your vehement protests, how about we pause here a moment to step in and check your pulse. You know, just to be sure your heart is still beating.)
JUST THE FACTS MA’AM
Reasonable, impossible, or mind-boggling as it may be, the fact remains that someone out there is buying, reading, and talking-up those mega selling books. Many many someones. Enough someones to dropkick records and propel certain books to the top of the lifetime achievement bazillionare club.
It’s enough to make a green-eyed monster swell to the proportions of Everest.
AND THE WINNER IS…
It’s essential to keep in mind that, unlike contestants in the Miss Universe contest, books are NOT in competition with each other. Should “50 Shades of Anything” suddenly go spiraling off into oblivion never to be seen in print again, its disappearance would have no impact whatsoever on that truly awesome and magnificent book your book waiting behind curtain number two. Because, once again, repeat after me: Books Are Not In Competition With Each Other.
ROCKETING BOOKS UP THE CHARTS AND INTO THE STRATOSPHERE
The numbers are about readers. The gazillion, bazillion readers who open their wallets, click the buy-it-now button, pluck down their Visa cards, and spread the word. They hold the keys to the book lovers kingdom. Simple as that.
If there’s a formula for hitting the sweet spot, I don’t know it. As a writer, I simply aspire to find the words that feel closest to my truth.
Okay, I can hear you thinking… So, what’s up? It’s nice to share 😀
I haven’t read it and only recall that what I’ve heard about 50 Shades is that it is basically porn for women; more precisely, bored housewives. Who told me this? The bored housewives reading it.
Yes, we have finally arrived. After struggling for equality we have final achieved it. Now…even we can objectify the opposite sex… and make money doing it.
Lol, spot on, Rebekah! I admit that for all the hoopla surrounding 50 Shades, the thing that stuck me as most remarkable, was that this “porn for women novel” was being treated so respectably. Nothing like Peyton Place or Fear of Flying; books which shocked [exhilarated] readers into reading their copies in private, behind closed doors :-O
“Now…even we can objectify the opposite sex… and make money doing it.” Fun turning of the tables, right? Not to mention the bonus that when women write about sex, they at least make the semblance of an effort to wrap it inside something resembling of a story-line.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Rebekah 😀
Hmm. Am I jealous? Of course I am. I can’t even snag an agent. (Note, I may very well be the only person on the planet who hasn’t read the rocket ship success known as 50 Shades.)
What I must remember about these overnight successes is, first of all, I don’t know how overnight their success actually is. From release to superstardom best-seller, yes, but how many queries and drafts and years of learning craft prior to the release, that is the question not addressed.
Second, readers don’t remember a book based on typos or perfect spelling, impeccable or atrocious grammar. Readers relate to characters and the nerves the writer touched, whether skillfully or not.
Keep aspiring to your truth, Barbara. That is where your audience will connect.
Sherry, I haven’t read 50 Shades either, and I bet there are a lot of others like us. We could probably form a club–if we could be bothered. 😀
And, *nod*, it always helps me to think about a successful person as more than their success. Like you said, they might have spend years struggling. Or often their success comes with tremendous personal cost (how many celebrities, for instance, have remained happily married to their first spouses?). Often success pushes you into a lifestyle you may not even want–having to deal with huge sums of money, for instance, or needing security, or not being able to walk down the street without people recognizing you and wanting a piece of
No, I’m happy to hide out in middle-class normalcy and anonymity. 🙂
Well, there you see, this is just one of the reasons you’ll be so sorry missed when you head off on your creative sabbatical next week 😀
You never fail to give that extra spoonful of food for thought!
Truth be told I haven’t read 50 shades either, but have heard SO MUCH about it that I almost feel as if I’ve digested it cover to cover. It’s a case of a the success story outweighing the tale itself.
As for this: “Second, readers don’t remember a book based on typos or perfect spelling, impeccable or atrocious grammar. Readers relate to characters and the nerves the writer touched, whether skillfully or not.” This I love. Surely this is a reader’s truth and a writer’s aspiration. Beautifully said, my friend!
I love this sentence: “As a writer, I simply aspire to find the words that feel closest to my truth.” I can feel your heart beating on this one. Loved the article.
Thank you, Janice 😀
For all the things we need to consider as we go about this writing life, personal truth is the single absolute I try hard not to lose sight of. It’s the mantra that holds the power to carry us to a place beyond rejection, bad reviews, uncertainty and obscurity…the fact that regardless of how the world receives our work, it is at the very least, real and true to the soul that composed it.
I’ve never aspired to bestseller-dom (though it would be nice). A big part of that is because the books that I love, the books that inspired me, the books that make me wish that I had even a hundredth of the talent and skill of the writers who wrote them, are not bestsellers.
So, yeah, I might feel a twinge of envy for a bestselling author every now and again, but I know the path they used to get to their success is not for me. I don’t like the paranormal romance genre, for one (thinking of Twilight here) and I’m certainly not the right audience for 50 Shades of Grey.
At the end of the day, I’d rather have books that matter to me, personally, than follow a bestseller formula.
Count me as another name on that list of readers who hasn’t read 50 Shades beyond it’s title.The story of it’s outlandish success strikes me as far more interesting than the book itself, and considering I have piles of books I REALLY want to read (your own being on that list!) I can’t find time to read something simply for the sake of curiosity.
As for your wish to have even a hundredth of the talent of skill of certain books that have inspired you, let me just say that it takes me twice as long to read your stories as it does to get through something of similar length, caught and held as I reread sentences and paragraphs as startlingly beautiful as they are masterful.
Thanks, Barbara. *blush* I’m trying to balance good writing and good story as best I can. I have to admit that I sometimes get too carried away with the prose!
Lots of people here who haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I’d say that we are quite a significantly large group!
I have a friend who wrote a cookbook called Fifty Shades of Gravy. Obviously she is trying to capitalize upon the novel’s success. I think every author dreams of mega stardom, but like any other artistic profession, some become super stars, and others will always remain in the wings. Is it bad to feel jealous of someone who reaches that stardom? I think there is a healthy jealousy and an evil one. The evil one eats at your creativity, destroying your potential to achieve the very stardom you are coveting, while the good type fuels your desire to keep working and perfecting your craft for the day when it will be your turn. Every one has their day in the sun (eventually). The question is: will you be ready when the sun finally shines on you?
Bahahaha, “Fifty Shades of Gravy!” Pretty clever.
I often wonder if the quest for mega stardom isn’t simply a tangled knot of miscellaneous stuff lying on the surface. Some automatically equate such longings with a basic desire for wealth and super star status. But for many of us it’s a quest for something of far greater durability. Maybe It’s a longing for the perceived respect that so often comes with success. Acknowledgement of our assumed gifts. A restless desire to weave the indefinable link between author and reader…maybe even as a means to justify our doing what we do.
I love what you’ve said here:
“The evil one eats at your creativity, destroying your potential to achieve the very stardom you are coveting, while the good type fuels your desire to keep working and perfecting your craft for the day when it will be your turn.” So true, as well as essential in the way we all need to remember this.
Much appreciation for coming by and spreading your wisdom, Norine 😀
Count me in the tiny club of people who have not read 50 Shades. I’ll admit to having a bit of irritable envy about the gangbuster success of it, especially when there are so many more well written books out there. But, as you so graciously remind us – books aren’t in competition with each other.
And as you and Sherry and several other people above have pointed out, we need to continue to write our own personal truth and within that create characters our readers will connect with on a deeper emotional level. Easy peasy, right?
Hey, Tami 😀
I kinda sorta think that those envy moments aren’t necessarily the “real deal” for many of us. It’s more akin to a sense of confusion laced frustration. I know that for me, were I to put words to a bout of passing envy, it would be “Huh? What the heck?!” Because, bottom-line, it’s REAL people buying those mega selling books. It isn’t fate or luck that propel books to the blockbuster circle — it’s readers, The fate and luck thing happens when they actually find a certain book in the sea of a bajillion.
Yes, Easy Peasy! It’s a little bit like playing a cool game of pretend where we *Just Write,* and so all is well with our world 😀
I’m constantly reminding myself not to compare myself with other writers, that every author’s journey is unique and it’s not a race. I think it’s the same deal with books NOT being in competition with each other — I love that. The more readers to be consumed by one book, means the more readers to look for other books. Right? (And, for the record, I haven’t read 50 shades either…)
Hey, Ellen. Boy oh boy, but it’s pretty hard at times NOT to fall into the comparison trap. Emotion comes sweeping in to grab the wheel, leaving logic standing on the shoulder of the road as it accelerates down the highway.
With time and diligence, I have become increasingly attuned to recognizing the stealthy creep of doubt, envy, and frustration into my writing life. Writing is hard enough without these poisonous emotions thrown in the mix, and so I’m determined to chase them out before they’ve chanced to settle.
Lol, another “shade-less” reader joins the list. …
Add another proudly shadeless reader to the ranks! I am banning it on principle alone 🙂
Tee hee, counted and duly recorded, Elizabeth 😀
The only thing any writer has control over is writing the best story they can, in the best way possible. My goals as an author are simple: 1) I want my story to be good 2) I hope my story means something to someone else. How many someones my story touches is out of my control. BUT…if I write for a place of honesty and truth, and I’m humble enough to see my mistakes and put in the work to fix them … well … I think the cards are stacked in my favor that my story will find its way into many hearts.
I relinquish the soapbox and mic to the next person…
Well, let me climb right up there on that soapbox and tell you how much I love your words here, Elizabeth. Simply stated, and yet so profound. Perfect!