A Comin' and a Goin'
December 2, 2010
I am often wildly hopeful about fiction publishing (really); I am often quite pessimistic about it (no kidding). Often simultaneously, which is not a part of my life that I enjoy. I'm reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch's The Freelancer's Survival Guide, which I highly recommend for everybody who wants to be or is a writer or who runs a business of any type. Or you can buy chapters as they apply to you, or if you're cheap, read most of it for free on her blog/website. (And you might try her fiction, too, it's terrific).
Anyway, in it she mentions how it can be hard to predict what direction a novelist's career might take. She talks about a writer friend of hers, Karen Joy Fowler, who was doing a book signing when she noticed two signs. One pointed one way and said: Jane Austen. The other pointed another way and said: Book Club. Voila! Inspired, she wrote a novel called The Jane Austen Book Club, which became wildly successful. Who could have guessed?
I think we've all heard of JK Rowling, penning her ideas on a train ride, then selling the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for a 1500 pound royalty to Bloomsbury. Apparently it was rejected by 12 publishers, then she received an 8000 pound grant from the Scottish Arts Council. Then Scholastic paid $100,000 in advance, they changed the title of the book, and the rest, as they say, is history. Apparently that book alone has sold something like 70 million copies worldwide, not to mention the films, video games, Lego kits, posters, amusement, etc.
Another story I find somewhat inspiring is Rick Riordan. Rick was a middle-school English and History teacher who wrote and published a series of quite successful PI novels featuring Tres Navarre. The first book was Big Red Tequila. The books were quite successful, winning pretty much all the awards to be won in the mystery community--Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, etc. Rick kept teaching and seemed to enjoy it, although he suggested to me in an interview a bit later that he didn't make enough money from them to quit teaching (and it was fairly clear he didn't want to quit teaching, interestingly enough). Anyway, if you're not familiar with this story, for bedtime stories for his youngest son, Rick was telling Greek myths. When he ran out of Greek myths to tell him, his son suggested he write his own. Rick mulled it over, then wrote a story called Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. His sons loved it and he got a different agent to handle the book, which sold to Disney (Hyperion, at the time, owned by Disney), and it pretty much went viral within the company and became a bestseller, movie rights were sold, the movie was made, an additional 4 bestselling books in that series came out, he was hired to write a story arc and the first novel in a series called The 39 Clues, he started another series called The Kane Chronicles, as well as a follow-up series to the Percy Jackson novels called The Heroes of Olympus (the first book just came out called The Lost Hero). Rick's a full-time novelist and he tours a lot and he's clearly doing quite well financially and appears to be having a hell of a lot of fun.
I bring these up not to point out that they're happening to someone besides me (see that I can be hopeful and depressed simultaneous thing), but to point out that although there are many, many writers whose careers don't take off like explosive non-dairy creamer, there really does appear to be many for whom it does. And I'm ever-hopeful, while simultaneously realistic.
So, anyway, got any more stories like this?