Thursday, January 10, 2013
Naturally I try to make any book as good as I can write it, so readers will enjoy it and I can earn some gas and grocery money. We’ll worry about making a living at a later date.
But suppose I get lucky. Suppose the next book of mine that comes out turns out to be the next Twilight or 50 Shades. Stranger things have happened. What would I do if I suddenly had all the money and success we writers dream of?
It’s kind of like playing the lottery. The odds are stacked against you. You buy the ticket, or write the book, hoping this is the one that’s going to win but you don’t really think it’ll happen. That kind of good fortune only happens to others. Then the lottery official reads off the numbers, or your sales figures come in, and all of a sudden you’re George Lucas the weekend after Star Wars opened. Your book is flying off the shelves, your pockets are overflowing with cash and, just like on Cheers, everybody knows your name.
On the off chance this ever happens, I sort of have a plan. First off, I’ve getting health insurance. Beyond that, things get hazy. I was considering a move back to New Jersey so I could spend my retirement years on the beach, but after Hurricane Sandy I may have to rethink that one. Maybe I’ll keep the PA home and just rent a place at the shore. Wherever I end up, it’ll have home Internet so I won’t have to rely on library or McDonald’s Wi-Fi any more. After that, we’ll have to see.
The biggest problem I foresee with success is, how would I follow it up? You’ve just directed Star Wars or published Twilight. The eyes of the world are on you to see what you do next. What do you do next? How can you top, or even equal, a global phenomenon? Not to mention the hordes of people out there just waiting for you to stumble. You can see their handiwork in Amazon reviews.
George Lucas did pretty well after Star Wars, if one ignores Howard the Duck. Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins appear to have survived the success of their series. J. K. Rowling wrote a novel for grown-ups, though there are rumors she may return to the cash cow that is the Harry Potter universe. E. L. James has mentioned rewriting 50 Shades from Christian’s perspective. If it ain’t broke …
To answer the question: you can’t. Success of the Star Wars or Twilight or 50 Shades variety is an aberration. It happens once in a lifetime. Maybe it’ll happen once in your lifetime. You bank or invest the money, buy your aging mom a house, and then move on. Chances are the money won’t be as big as we all think it is anyway. Suzanne Collins said in an interview she hasn’t seen that big of a change in the family finances post Hunger Games because of her publisher’s payment schedule. Plus Uncle Sam will have his hand out before you even get your first check. By all means, shoot for megasuccess. Just remember you’ve been warned.
Given my luck, if this level of success hits me at all it’ll happen with a book that doesn’t have my name on it, some throwaway written under a pseudonym. I’m good with that. Then all the attention and pressure and demands for a follow-up will fall on that non-existent other writer, leaving me free to go on with my life, although with financial stability. Or if I do hit it big as me, I’ll just change my name. Then I can go out on top. Five years later people will wonder, “Whatever happened to that woman who wrote ______?” She’s out on a beach in New Jersey, writing books under other names and taking aimless road trips without having to worry about the price of gas.
Oh, right. First I have to write the book that’ll bring me that success. That’s always the hardest part. And what would you do if the Success Fairy conked you over the head with her wand? It could happen any time, so be ready. Happy writing!
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PS to Solara: Sorry, I wasn't going to post this week but then this subject hit. For anyone reading this, scroll down to the previous post and read my interview with Solara Gordon, then check out her new release, Hot for Torrey. I wish someone I knew would get rich and famous so I could blackmail them. It would save me a lot of hard work.