Conventional wisdom in the writing world says that it takes at least three published novels to establish your name in the public eye. Don’t even think about quitting your day-job until then. But then, while leisurely reading the morning newspaper, I come across the name of Shilpi Somaya Gowda, whose first novel sold 300,000 copies in the first twelve months alone. Then I wonder, what’s the secret?
Because, while conventional wisdom may be accurate for the middle of the bell-curve, you’ve always got the extremes to think about. On one hand you’ve got workhorses like Diana Wynne Jones, or Stephanie Grace Whitson, who churn out books and become well-known but not household names. On the other, you’ve got phenomena like J.K Rowling (who lived off benefits until Harry Potter hit it big-time), and potentially Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Or even Margaret Mitchell (who wrote Gone with the Wind) and J.D Salinger (who wrote Catcher in the Rye) – two authors who only published one novel in their life, and yet said novels are incredibly famous.
I haven’t read Gowda’s book (entitled “Secret Daughter,” in case you were wondering), but I’m going to say there’s probably no reason she doesn’t deserve to be successful. The thing is, there are most likely hundreds of hard-working novelists out there right now, producing brilliant books which never see the kind of success Gowda found. What makes the difference? As someone who hopes to be publish a novel someday myself, is there anything I can do to reduce my chances of slaving away in obscurity?
Why, oh why, do some novelists strike it and some don’t? If I can figure out this pattern, I can turn my first novel into a sure thing.
Dream on, Harma, dream on.
The life of a writer is a bumpy road, full of unpreditabilities.