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The Other Side of the Bestseller List March 12, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Writing & Writers.

Landing on the New York Times Bestseller List, a dream for many writers toiling away on their PCs and Macshas real repercussions, beyond the mere loss of anonymity. 

Just ask J.K. Rowling. 

Let’s take a minute to focus on the other side of the bestseller list.

On the plus side, best-selling authors travel to exciting and exotic locations, all expenses paid ~ a truly marvelous perk, until they realize that the sum of their media blitz experience to NYC, Dallas, San Francisco, London, and Paris involves being shuffled from limo to lime green room to limo to airport, with no time to take in the sights or sample the local cuisine.

At first, best-selling authors enjoy being center stage at book signings and readings, where they get to meet their fans face to face ~ the longer the line, the better.  Eventually, however, book signings lose their lustre and become  positively painful, due to the crippling effects of carpal tunnel syndrome caused by the endless, repetitive, and tedious autographing of book after book after best-selling book!  

Tips:  wear a wrist support to all book signings, and keep your handwritten notes brief:  “To you, from me.”  Even better, do what Rachel Ray did, develop a four-letter catch phrase (like “E.V.O.O.”) and stick with it.

Best selling authors are rewarded with ample doses of  publicity ~ including negative publicity designed to keep their egos in check.  Unflattering photos and stories based on outlandish lies and blatant rumors will regularly grace the covers of rag mags in grocery store check-out lines from coast to coast. 

Of course, writers who have received plenty of rejections early in their careers will have developed thick skins ~ that rhino hide will effectively insulate them from fictionalized invasions of their private lives, and protect them from drowning in a pool of their own tears.  

Now that we’ve covered the positives, let’s address the negatives . . .

As best-selling authors attract a growing fan base for their work, they also tend to attract negative attention from a sprinkling of stalkers, crazed fans, hangers-on, and jealous wanna-bes sending hate mail.  

Fortunately, due to advances in technology, many of these fan-atics will  limit their interactions to cyber-stalking via the world wide web, by infiltrating the author’s blogs, webpages, and Facebook accounts, rather than showing up unannounced on the author’s actual doorstep. 

Best selling authors attract other negative attention as well, which often  arrives in the form of law suits and  power suits worn by greedy lawyers retained to  challenge the originality of the work in question, or to claim damages for libel, slander, and defamation ~ despite the careful use of disclaimers and/or the obviously fictional nature of the work. 

Of course, the benefit of all the attention, both negative and positive, is that  best-selling authors no longer have time to write anything, much less  another blockbuster.  As a result, recently published  books by eager young  authors climb the bestseller list, pushing previous chart toppers closer and closer to the bottom.  

Once these new rising stars claim the spotlight,  attention on unseated bestsellers dies down, allowing those who have survived their fifteen-minutes (or more) of fame to return to relative obscurity ~ a little older, a little wiser, a little more jaded (perhaps), but with a new found appreciation for anonymity. 

Although every cloud has a silver lining . . . that silver lining often is tarnished.

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  Does fame and fortune appeal to you . . . or would you rather steer clear of the spotlight?

Related posts:  “Stop Mocking Me!”Fun with Numbers ~ Publication Odds * The Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Defeat * What to do When a Publisher Rejects Your Novel (Global Mysteries) * Inventing the Artist & The Art * Society Does Not Value Its Artists (Zen & The Art of Tightrope Walking) * Toughen Up


1. Cindy - March 12, 2011

I’ll tell you when the time comes ;p

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

I see you as a Celebrity Chef on TV ~ more like Ina Garten than Chef Ramsey, though. 😎

2. Maggie - March 12, 2011

I’d rather be a reclusive writer like Emily Dickinson. My progeny (if any) could take advantage of my posthumous fame, haha! 😀

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

Yes!!! Exactly how I feel, Maggie. 😎

3. Debra - March 12, 2011

Fame does not appeal to me. And money helps when paying bills or helping others. But it does nothing for me otherwise. Having scads of people around me is not my idea of fun.

So that is why I am not a bestseller. Oh and the fact I have not published a book might have something to do with it too.

But seriously I would not like it.

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

Debra, you’re a “girl” after my own heart. I love my anonymity ~ with no one much caring who I am and what I’m doing. 😀

4. Alannah Murphy - March 12, 2011

Fortunately, writers (at least most writers) do not get the kind of stalking fame that actors or musicians get. There are always exceptions but we’re lucky not too many nutters will come our way 🙂

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

You’re right. This is definitely written tongue in cheek. In my teens, I wanted to be a “famous rock star.”

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve witnessed that celebrities seem less happy than the rest of us . . . even if they are better dressed while walking down the red carpet at black tie events.

Alannah Murphy - March 13, 2011

I know people who have had to deal with fame, and it’s not exactly pleasant, it can also change you, and not for the best, unless you manage to keep a straight level head about it.

Sadly, fame is part of the deal, if you become a successful actor, artist, musician or writer…sigh

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

I don’t see very many people retaining the essence of who they are once they develop a certain level of name recognition.

The Dalai Lama is the only one who springs to mind. He keeps his perspective, no matter the perspective of those who hang on his every word.

Alannah Murphy - March 14, 2011

You are right Nancy, once you hit a certain level of fame, people lose themselves in that “persona” they’ve created. Really sad actually. I’d hate to be famous…bleh

nrhatch - March 14, 2011

Once “they” care about what we think . . . we care more about what “they” think.

5. Carol Ann Hoel - March 12, 2011

Hm. Since the monetary reward of selling a mediocre novel is small, and selling a moderately successful novel is just a little bit more, a best-seller novel is necessary to make all the work worthwhile. I wonder if I really need to curtail my blogging to complete my novel. Seriously. There is no way possible that I would endure being the best-selling author you describe. No W.A.Y. If there is little or no remunerative value in a so-so selling book, I’m not sure I should continue. Freedom! 🙂

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

I agree with you, Carol Ann . . . I’m happier with my freedom here in the blogosphere. Life is much simpler than it would be if we were juggling agents, publishers, and fans.

6. oldancestor - March 12, 2011

I’d like to sell enough books to make a living writing books. I don’t need to be famous. Anyway, I’m on the plus side of 40. The gods of celebrity have no use for me.

I’m getting a little head of myself though. At this point in my “career,” I’d like someone to actually read something I wrote.

nrhatch - March 12, 2011

That’s what I’ll wish for you then . . . to have enough people read your work so that you can make your living writing books.

Enjoy the journey from here to there.

oldancestor - March 13, 2011

Thank you. I’ve felt a bit more confident about my writing lately. We’ll see if I can make a dent on the fiction front one of these days.

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

Hope that you are able to make in-roads in the genre of your choice.

7. Adeeyoyo - March 13, 2011

Much better, I think, to be a free spirit and remain a nonny mouse.

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

Adeeyoyo ~ you are a wise woman.

My freedom and my sense of humor are my most valuable possessions. I would not care to be here without both of them as my steadfast companions.

8. crazygoangirl - March 13, 2011

I would always use a nom de plume (if the need ever arose and I don’t foresee that happening in the immediate or distant future :P), coz I value my privacy more than anything else.
I think I would be satisfied with one day in the limelight…just to know what that feels like and then happily revert to my normal existence!

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

I wouldn’t mind one day in the spotlight . . . as long as I knew I could revert to my “normal” existence at the end of the day.

But what if that life disappeared from view?

I used to play around with nom de plumes, letting them roll around on my tongue. I thought up some awful ones as a teen: Veronica Darling, anyone? 🙂

9. eof737 - March 13, 2011

A life of quiet desperation is not my cup of tea.. I think I like Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes… We all deserve our time in the spotlight; ideally, for doing something good. 🙂

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

I ran into Andy Warhol in NYC at the Russian Tea Room in 1986, or so. I left him to eat in peace rather than asking about my 15 minutes of fame. 😎

Here’s to doing good!

10. Tilly Bud - March 13, 2011

I wouldn’t mind a steady income from writing.

What’s E.V.O.O?

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. On her show, Rachel Ray said, “Add some EVOO, Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” each time she used it.

We always laughed, because she was trying to save time by saying EVOO . . . but she always ended up spelling it out anyway. 😀

It finally stuck with her fans.

11. SuziCate - March 13, 2011

Fame and fortune do not appeal to me. In fact they scare the crap out of me. I enjoy a simple and quiet life. I write for what it does for me. There are times that I daydream about such stuff, but don’t think I’d fare well in the public spotlight. I’m content to trudge along in my own little world…especially now that I’ve read your list that contains other considerations I’d never imagined!

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

I’m with you, Suzi. A quiet, peaceful, happy life appeals to me more than all the spotlights in the world.

I don’t think that the “Charlie Sheens” of the world have anything I don’t have . . . except for Egos constantly clamoring for attention. 😀

12. CMSmith - March 13, 2011

I feel so much better now.

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

Good! If we are enjoying the journey of writing (or other artistic pursuits), we WIN.

No matter what happens, we WIN.

13. Julie - March 13, 2011

There is no way I could say I wouldn’t want to be a best-selling author. I think it actually brings more freedom – you can write what you really want to write because you have a built-in audience/fan base. Unless, of course, you pigeon-hole yourself into one type of writing.

The money wouldn’t be bad either… 🙂

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

You’re not alone, Julie.

But do you really think that John Grisham has more freedom? Or Danielle Steel? I doubt it. They are puppets of the publishing industry, required to perform on cue.

Or so it seems to me. They used to write books worth reading. Now, not so much. 🙄

Money, once we’ve met the basic requirements of life, rarely adds true happiness to the mix.

I want just enough to not have to worry about keeping a roof over my head and food in my belly. But not so much that I’m tempted to contribute to global warming with extra homes and planes and SUV’s.

14. Paula Tohline Calhoun - March 13, 2011

If I ever get attention from the public, I would only want it on my own terms – since that is not possible – give me anonymity every time! My brother and I once decided, however, that we would change our names: I would be “Anonymous,” and he would be “Author Unknown.” Think of the royalties we would get!

I can think of almost no advantages to being famous, other than the ability to donate more, pay all our bills, and help our children and grandchildren.

I’m not worrying about, nor planning on either eventuality! But I will continue to write. . .you just never know. Maybe I’ll choose a pen name and thus avoid some of the crap that goes with name recognition. Put a phony photo on the cover, and have cameras blur my face when on TV! 😀

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

There you go! Write on!

I love sharing my thoughts and words with others, as long as no one is asking me to filter either or both.

As soon as we get bitten by the bug . . . we’re more concerned by what “they think” than by what “we think.”

That’s the way we lose ourselves and our freedom.

15. Paula Tohline Calhoun - March 13, 2011

Amen, sister! From now on, maybe I should sign all my posts “Anonymous Sweet Cheeks.”

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

nrhatch - March 13, 2011

Here’s to anonymity and obscurity! Hip Hip Hooray! 😎

16. William D'Andrea - March 14, 2011

I get the impression that success is something that should be approached with great caution. When it comes to glamour; I’ve been there, seen it, done it. It’s also something to be approached with caution; taken in small doses, for a limited amount of time.

nrhatch - March 14, 2011

Interesting thoughts, WD. I guess it depends how you define “success.”

I want to be “successful,” but I don’t define success by the number of $’s in the bank or the number of people who want my autograph.

Success to me is enjoying day to day life and being WHO I want to be. If we’re enjoying the journey, we win. No matter what happens, we win.

17. Greg Camp - March 17, 2011

Given the number of jobs that I’ve worked, toiling away in obscurity, burdened by rules and supervisors, and grotesquely underpaid, I’ll take the consequences of being on the bestseller list. Everyone endures the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as that crazy Dane put it, but only a few get compensated for it.

So buy my book, would you? Oh, wait, tell a publisher to publish it first, then buy it!

nrhatch - March 17, 2011

Good luck with publishing and marketing your book, Greg.

Your writing is worth reading! 😀

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