Becoming Wildly Successful As A Crime Fiction Writer
The worst thing that could happen to me as a crime fiction writer would be that I was suddenly wildly successful. I’m very comfortable here on the edge of the shadows. The limelight would blind me.
We are all familiar with the experience of picking up a new book by an author we love. Everything about their books has delighted you: the setting, the characters, the stories. How does she ever think up such great plots?
You eagerly set aside some time to launch into the new book. The pages go by and your enthusiasm dims. Did I read this one before? It seems very familiar. Not this again. Your favorite character doesn’t seem so likable.
What happened here?
What happened was that your favorite author got a book a year contract with a publisher. Or worse, a two book a year contract. Publishers are in the business of making money. Their product to sell, instead of laundry soap, is books. An eager author who has been seduced by the siren call of success (getting a contract) eagerly agrees to the publisher’s terms.
Her mind is bubbling with ideas. She probably has a second book nearly done by the time she sells the first. The first two have come quickly. Her characters are fresh and alive and talk to her suggesting ideas. She can’t wait to try out the plots she’s been percolating over the years. At least that’s how it was for me.
But there’s a deadline ticking now.
The publisher and her agent want her next book to come out for Christmas sales. She’s confident she can make it. Then life happens.
If she has children, it’s a problem with the school. Or her aging parents. Maybe her marriage goes through a bad patch. If she’s single, maybe she falls in love. Or easy fixes: the washing machine breaks down. An illness occurs. Whatever happens is a distraction from her business, which is writing books. Her single-minded focus on the joy of her plots and characters is broken. Her agent reminds her that writing books is a business and she has a contract.
If I were to be given a book a year contract based on either of my two series, I might fold under the pressure. I might not too. It’s not what I aspire to or seek out.
Becoming wildly successful means meeting those publishing deadlines no matter what. Working on a day when her nose is running, she’s sneezing, and her body demands rest. It means hitting Send on a manuscript that’s just not ready. It lacks the magic her readers buy her books for. Sometimes the editors can fix it: sometimes they can’t.
Self-publishing works for me because I can control the process.
The tax collector reminds me this is a business and I make enough selling books to satisfy the minimum requirements. I have the time to mull over plots and listen to my characters, to work with a developmental editor who reviews the manuscript over three drafts. I can take days off and have an interesting life.
I’ve just finished by sixth novel, The Most Dangerous Species, set in the village where I live. I have the time to share the final with what’s called beta readers. These are friends or fellow writers who like my genre. Their comments are precious. I set my own deadlines.
Have some compassion for your favorite bestselling author who puts out a bad book. It may not have been the book she wanted to write. She is the victim of success.
My own definition of success is that I have written six good crime fiction novels and four good how to books on writing mysteries at my own pace. Please check them out here and decide for yourself.
I’d love to know what your definition of success would be as a writer.
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You can find my books here: My Books on Amazon