Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Become a Famous Author and Makes Lots of Money 3

Part Three (Parts One and Two can be found by clicking the link)

I've fallen into a trap and I need to get out of it.
Good sales, bad sales, I've become consumed by numbers.  I check my sales on Amazon 200 times a day and fret over sales rank the way new parents spend their evenings checking to see if the baby is breathing.
This is, of course, a humongous mistake.  I suspect many of you are making it as well.
Artists, any artists, from filmmakers to musicians to painters have always thrived when they were young and hungry.  When nobody was looking.  When it was just them in their room creating to prove something to the world.
It is a rare person who thrived artistically after they became rich and famous.
Let me show you an example.  Would you rather be this guy:
 or Prince - prince photo this guy?
Him -->Prince - prince photo or early prince - prince photo him?

I tend to listen to a lot of Prince's early work.  Bootlegs from his 1999 concerts, when he was finally in full command of his talent, but hadn't yet reached the big time.  The guy that got booed off stage opening up for the Rolling Stones in 1981.  The guy who knew he was on the cusp of greatness even when the whole world seemed not to.

Which film would you rather make?


Something gets lost by the time you reach that comfortable level of success.

If I gave you a chance to write 
 or  would you even have to think?

My point is, in the midst of all this selling and fretting and promoting and blogging and message boarding and worrying, when are we actually doing the writing?
If these are the years we get to be relevant, when we get to create the work that people will look back on and say, "Remember when he was good?" than why in the hell are we all so focused on getting past it?
I suggest you'd be better off creating.

Superbia is far and away my greatest novel.  Readers say so.  Sales reflect it.  I could never have created it if I didn't experience all of the anger and pain from my work and ex-wife and being broke.  I simply wouldn't have found the inspiration.  If and when the day comes that I am able to write full time, I'm going to look back on all the things that stood in my way and be grateful for the motivation.
And when everything is easy, when I no longer have to struggle or worry about paying for my daughter's dance lessons, when I have everything I could possibly want, I will look back on those days when I toiled fruitlessly and miss them.

My goal, from now on, is to stop fretting over the numbers and simply write.  This is the path I was on for years before there was a Kindle.  When I was writing The Widow Sword in full knowledge that no agent would consider reading a novella.  When Whitechapel was sitting dormant in my laptop waiting for responses from publishers that didn't make sense.

Sometimes, it is just about listening to your inner muse when no one else is.  When no one gives you permission. 

That is what high amounts of sales really are.  That is what an acceptance letter from an agent really is.  Permission to be an author, when you don't ever need it, because with that permission comes terms.  Expectations.  Conditions.

Stay underground for as long as you can.  Build your body of work slowly, so that you are always improving.  Gain followers and fans one at a time, who will read everything you produce, because everything you produce is painstakingly crafted.

Someday, when the mass market paperbacks and supermarket discount books and NPR radio interviews and reality TV shows following your book tour come to fruition, people will look back at your old stuff and say, "I used to like that dude when he was good."

I'll take good over famous any day.  You should think about doing the same.

1 comment:

  1. Funny thing is, I feel like my best work is way in front of me -- which is scary in itself. I live in fear of "will I be good enough when it's ready to come out?" That's what freezes me in front of the keyboard.

    I totally agree, though, that a lot of the best we do comes out of pain and darkness. Personally one of my favorite King books is "From a Buick 8" which followed the accident. I know when I was in a bad place personally, it was easier to write: being relatively happy, it's harder to push everything away and find the time to create. You kind of have to be mean and crabby to get your life out of the way of your art.

    And like you, I hope I'm successful enough to have the time to write, but not complacent enough with my success to become lazy about WHAT I write.

    Keep walking the tightrope!