Over two years ago, I blogged about all the parallels I’d found between the current state of the publishing industry and the lamentations about the same in a book published thirty-five years ago now called MURDER AT THE FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR. Last weekend I was in Salem, Massachussets, and found the same spooky sameness in the bio of iconic New England author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Self-publishing…got it. His first novel, FANSHAWE (1828) was self-published anonymously. It was not a critical or economic success and caused him so much pain that it was said that he burned unsold copies and practically denied the writing altogether. He was known to burn other works as well after receiving rejections from publishers, and was forced to find other jobs to make ends meet while he toiled away at his literary works. Like many writers, his career went through ups and downs, and he seemed to have felt the blows very keenly.
I suppose that the long and short of what I took away from this is that publication has never been easy…not the path to it or the continuation of the journey. It’s never been painless. No artist of any stripe has ever been universally loved or acclaimed. In order to reach out and grab readers by the throat, authors have to be able to throw open the doors and windows to the soul. Unfortunately, in letting their creativity out, those open doors allow for stiff, bracing and sometimes stormy winds to sweep through as well. To me it’s a comfort that the literary greats went through the same vicissitudes we do today. They survived. Their names have gone down in history and, perhaps more importantly to them as writers, their works have remained in print. We read them today, often thinking that they must have been aware of their own genius and been gratified by their success, while the truth is that authors do not sit back content with the accomplishment of their last release, but are constantly struggling with the new and wondering whether they’ll be able to live up to or exceed expectations. I’m not sure whether there’s an actual saying that you’re only as good as your latest novel, but I do know that that’s how all writers feel.
So, for those of you battling toward attainment of your dreams, whether they be of initial or continued publication, take comfort in the shared pain and find compatriots with whom to celebrate your triumphs. Appreciate them when they come and pull out the memories of them to get you through the hard times.