I recently read a novel by a New York Times Bestselling author (I shall not name it, but suffice to say, I had to skim my way through to finish it). And it awoke that age-old desire for my books to be just as well-read, just as popular. “My writing is every bit as good, if not better…” And thus the longing begins.
And I think authors are supposed to want other people to read their novels, to enjoy what we’ve worked on for so long. Otherwise, what would be the point of publishing? If we truly write for ourselves, and only for ourselves, there would be no point in trying to share it with others (aside from the money, but I flatter myself that’s not what I’m really after). I want to be influential; I want to be widely-read. I want to encourage a whole new generation of writers and above all…I hope to have my words be remembered long after I’m gone.
But how much of this is just dreaming? It doesn’t take millions of readers to be a good writer, and if I set the bar that high, to where no “lesser” achievement will satisfy me, than I could have a great writing career and still not be satisfied. So how popular and famous do we really need to be?
And we could be an amazing writer who just doesn’t become that popular in our lifetime. Jane Austen was far less popular than some of her contemporaries (Sir Walter Scott and Fanny Burney were much better sellers than she was), yet nowadays, it’s the other way around. The same with Shakespeare. Dickens was so popular that Russian writers like Tolstoy were quoting his novels (and obscure novels at that). Yet, nowadays, few have even read him, beyond A Christmas Carol and perhaps A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist.
So how many people have to read and positively review our work (or at least buy it) before we can feel we’ve “arrived”? Does it take being a best-seller, or is one person, one reader enough?
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren