Reason #2: I now know quality is not the biggest factor in book sales.
According to IMDB, Austrian actor Christopher Waltz is 56 years old and has more than one hundred acting credits. Yet, most people outside of Austria and Germany never heard of Waltz until Quentin Tarantino cast him in Inglorious Basterds a few years ago. He won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and a bunch of other awards. Does that mean Waltz was a middling actor all those years before? Is the only reason he hadn’t been “discovered” because he sucked at his craft? Thank goodness Tarantino came along and showed him how to do it right, huh?
The role in Inglorious Basterds called for an actor who could act simultaneously charming and homicidal, speak impeccable English and German, sound like he could speak impeccable Italian and handle a movie set that used copious amounts of fake blood in nearly every scene. Tarantino fretted he had written a character so specific that no one could play it. (Maybe Will Farrell came close.) If Tarantino hadn’t found Waltz, the actor would still be taking middling roles in German TV and film. Instead, his career took a big leap, and now he’s up again for big awards for Django Unchained. The guy is taking away more hardware than a thief at The Home Depot.
Waltz has been a good actor for a long time, but it took him many years to get lucky.
It takes luck to sell books, too. I ignored this fact until recently. I thought if I wrote something I could be proud of, the battle for sales would be half won. That’s what I inferred from a lot of blogs on self-publishing. As long as I followed that with book blog tours, a handful of positive reviews from bloggers, a web presence, tweeting and all the other stuff the experts say you should do, the book printer wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand for my works. As Christopher Waltz might say, “Nein.” America’s forests are still safe.
I don’t know from one day to the next if my writing is any good. Some days, I think it’s more than passable. Other times, I’m a hack who needs to find something else to do. Every writer goes through the same ups and downs, but our goal is always to write our best. Last time was our best; the next time will be better. But none of it–the quality of the writing or the effort that comes afterward–guarantees success. It also takes luck.
How many actors in community theater could hold their own with Daniel Day-Lewis? How many of us know singers in church choirs who could put Taylor Swift to shame? Or how many Great American Novels are sitting on writers’ shelves collecting dust?
That’s another thing I’ve learned this past year. It doesn’t matter. As long as I get to write stories that I like, with maybe with an occasional word or two of validation from someone I care about, I don’t need the rest. I’m happy.
But I’ll keep working to get better. And when our Quentin Tarantino comes knocking, I’ll be ready for my closeup.