Everyone wants to be a best-selling author these days.
Some dude made a book containing nothing besides a picture of his (objectively average) foot a bestseller on amazon…with three dollars and the help of his perplexed, but obliging, friends.
His point is this: anyone can be a bestselling author, and the achievement alone, these days especially, isn’t the indication of status that it once was. Nor is it an indication of the book’s (or the author’s) inherent value.
But what I really want to unpack about this article is this quote (emphasis mine):
“For the authors: I hope my story illustrates that the best marketing tactic you can use for a book is to write a great book that actually sells over the long term. It’s easy to be seduced by best-seller lists, sales numbers, speaking fees, and all the ephemera in this industry. Don’t let all of that make you lose sight of the importance of quality and authority in your work. Anyone can be a one-hit wonder; focus on crafting a book that will sell for decades.”
This—the focus on crafting a book that will sell for decades—this is what I’ve been talking about for years.
It’s not about slick, slimy sales tactics. It’s not about riding the wave or buying a thousand copies of your own work in order to game the system. It’s not about hiring someone to make you an instant expert! So you can make! money! fast!
My god, if you want to make money fast, go get an electrician’s license and work in Alaska for a couple years. Don’t write.
No, the thing is, when our creative work beats in our chest like a second heart, it can’t first be about the money. It can’t first be about the fame or the prestige or the validation.
Our work has to be about honoring and learning to develop our own creative capacity.
It’s about the honesty of expression. It’s about creating a manuscript that gets under other people’s skin. It’s about telling our story. It’s about communication.
It’s about life.
The thing is, creating work that speaks to others’ deep parts takes time. It takes time, and a bucket of effort, and a wagon of personal growth.
It takes patience.
And I know that not everyone wants to craft the next Great American Novel. And really, I’m not talking about that kind of literary fiction here, either.
I’m talking about creating from a space of integrity. And ultimately, I’m talking about the work that we need, and the constructive criticism we need, and the community we need in order to do that.
It would be really easy to pull this essay back to “the three reasons you really need a developmental edit to succeed with your book!” and the thing is, I do believe that this kind of developmental work is many times the difference between a book that reaches its audience and a book that doesn’t.
But it’s bigger than this. It’s bigger than my services or editorial advice or the narrative structure or any single bit of book-writing logistics.
It’s about how you want to spend your time and your limited human energy.
Want to game the system and charlatan your way to the top? Go for it. It can be done, and there are people out there who will take your money to show you how.
But if you want what I want: the opportunity to spread open your human experience and connect with others, that kind of ridiculous grabby kind of bullshit isn’t going to get you there.
I want to spend my precious human life making creative work that matters.
I want to put time and energy into developing and honing my craft, so I am the best I can be at what I do.
I want to be challenged, to grow and change and deepen.
And if you want this too, if you want to write in a way that touches something about our essential human experience?
Let's talk about your book, my friend.