Sometimes it takes awhile even for an old, battle-worn, show-biz hound like me to see the light. Having authored four published books over the last seven years, three of which are still in print and selling, I might have paid a little more attention to my own advice. Two of my books pertain to the creative endeavor that has been my bread and butter for four decades: songwriting. The first is “a songwriting course wrapped in a memoir” (Makin’ Stuff Up, Weightless Cargo Press, 2008). The most recent (The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success, Alfred Publishing, 2010) lays out a proven strategy to build, accelerate, and sustain a career in an ultra-competitive and brazenly political biz.
The essence of both books is that a writer cannot allow him- or herself to be dependent on success and recognition for fulfillment and contentment. In the songwriting game, there is no quantifiable relationship between effort and reward (or even talent and reward). You do it because you have to, and because you feel a very real sense of exhilaration and accomplishment every time you make up something new. You do it because (presumably) the Creator has provided you with at least a modicum of talent and the inspiration to use it. You do NOT do it because you wanna get rich quick.
The book between my two songwriting tomes is a novel. Writing fiction, as I’m sure many of you know, is HARD. And, it ain’t easy to market either. Although I was aware that it is extremely rare for an author’s first novel to explode onto the scene on the level of let’s say Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I guess I must have thought that, having certainly paid my dues in the hard-scrabble jungle of the music biz, my mock-memoir Grand Pop (Eloquent Books, 2010) might just discover a rabid audience. Eight months since its publication, the book has not set the world on fire. It seems that I have much to learn -- not only about writing novels, but about the business of finding readers for the fiction I labor daily to create and refine.
Authoring and publishing fiction, it seems, mirrors songwriting almost exactly. Like composers and musical performers, authors now have a plethora of new tools with which to deliver our work to the public. However, in the long run, it’s just that: a LONG run. And, it would bode better for me to accept this fact: It’s highly unlikely that be waking up any day soon to find one of my titles atop the New York Times Bestseller list.
It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And this foolhardy word addict is in it to the finish.