It’s a fascinating interview and I encourage you to read it, but those two sentences stood out to me as an essential truth. The last statement gets to the heart of every published writer’s struggle, but especially those of us who are decidedly unfamous. I mean, if you’re a good writer, you can be published. But just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re going to sell your book. (Trust me.) So how do we overcome it?
An obvious answer would be to look at today’s most successful authors and trace their careers backward. What happened when J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book came out? How did Stephen King market Carrie? I saw a movie trailer for Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook the other day and I wondered, what sets these stories apart? What helps them reach our hearts and somehow set them apart from the rest? Nicholas Sparks himself said in a speech at a writers conference I attended that “Quality rises to the top.” That sentence stuck in my mind. Yes, I thought, and I write quality stories, so it’ll happen for me…someday.
So surely if you look at how the most successful novels of the day were marketed, you’ll be able to figure the trick, right? Trace it to the root and you’ll know the secret, the only ad campaign you’ll ever need. But it’s really not that easy. And I can only think of one reason why.
Sometimes magic happens. Sometimes a story captures our imaginations in such a way that we can’t just let go of it. We have to share it. We have to tell other people about it. It happened that way for me the first time I saw Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. I made my poor husband take me to see that movie no less than three times in the theater, and this was at a point in our lives when we didn’t have a whole lot of money to go to movies. And no, the magic didn’t just come from Johnny Depp in a sexy pirate suit (although that didn’t hurt). It was the whole story and feel of the movie. Like it could take me into another world and change me into something more special. I couldn’t stop talking about it, and it turned out I wasn’t the only one.
J.K. Rowling wrote seven books absolutely filled with that magic. Stephen King, Alice Hoffman, Nicholas Sparks, Stephenie Meyer have all conjured it. Quality may eventually rise to the top, but magic is what sends it shooting, foaming over the rim of the glass. So how do I get it?
I’ve only come up with one answer. Keep plugging away. Keep writing, and write what I love to write. One of these days, maybe somebody will read one of my books and find themselves so lost in it they can’t stop talking about it. Maybe they’ll tell their friends and maybe across the nation, somebody else will do the same. Maybe a lot of somebodies will find it in themselves to take that leap of faith and pick up one of my books, become lost in my world for a while.
One last note. Next month’s HONEOWP charity is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Because I want to.