I had lunch last week with a book publisher who has a very long string of bestsellers in his portfolio. He gave me the low down on the ins-and-outs at the larger publishing houses. So I had to ask the secrets to becoming a successful published author. He referred me to a website the name of which I can’t recall and it said this:
“The fact is that many are called to write; yet few make it to published author let alone bestsellers. Why? Because there is more involved than simply scribbling a cute story on some paper, and reading it, complete with voice and actions, to your kids, their friends and yours. After all, your kids and your friends will (mostly) love anything you write. Either that or they don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
And so I reflected upon the rave reviews my writing received from complete strangers in the US, South America, UK and other parts of Europe and Asia. They happened upon my work which featured on a few blogs nearly ten years ago when I wrote about love, life and relationships under a pseudonym. Two of my pieces were even translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese and Chinese (yay!). When a publisher I knew at the time talked to me about a potential book deal, I just laughed.
Me? Write? About what?
It was a hobby and I was just glad people liked my words. Or that they bothered to read. I wasn’t trying to be clever nor did I agonise over every adjective, adverb, metaphor and simile to showcase my finesse with the written word. I didn’t write to please people or to get a following. Nor did I spend time on writers’ forums and cliques commenting on how fabulous other people’s work were so they would return the favour. I didn’t write merely for public consumption. It was very selfish actually. Because my audience was me.
Having said that, back in 1996, I noticed a girl on the train reading the MX magazine. She was on the Flirt pages reading my column on “How do you like your eggs?” with a cheeky smile on her face. I observed the whole two minutes or so it took her to read the article. And I followed her eyes as she poured over every line. By the expressions on her face, I knew exactly where she was at. She chuckled under her breath and smiled furtively at the last line. I knew she enjoyed it. At least, I hoped so.
Publishing a book, however, is a completely different matter. It never really crossed my mind. “You mean I have to get into someone else’s head?”. Hard work. I can barely unravel mine.
It wasn’t even on my list of 30 things to do before I die.
My sister who is in psychiatry reckoned it was a self-esteem issue. I didn’t believe I was good enough. And she was probably right. I quietly thought I didn’t have a bestseller in me. Or at least one that’s worth binding into a pretty little book to be sold in Amazon and Borders.
Have I changed my mind? A little.
I’m the first to admit I’m not a good story teller. But surely, I have it in me to write a non-fiction. A book about everything I know that you don’t. I’ll have to work on that.
As I contemplated the idea, my book publisher friend chimed in, “Roby, the book publishing business is mostly luck.”
That’s OK. Since I quit my “job”, luck has been a very good friend.