The Author Myth

© Can Stock Photo/ khunaspix

So, you have this really good idea for a book. Whether it’s a novel, a memoir, or a how-to book, you’re absolutely certain it’s going to be a runaway bestseller. You also know, for a fact, that Hollywood will soon come knocking at your door.

Well, you’re not alone. We all want to think the idea we’ve come up is so unique that no one in human history has ever thought of it before. We also want to believe our book will make us rich and famous. We’ll be hobnobbing with celebrities and living the good life before we know it.

If only it were so, because what I’ve just described is something I call The Author Myth. 

Welcome to the author myth

The Author Myth is the literary counterpart of going to Hollywood and becoming a movie star. Sure, it can happen. Being struck by lightning can also happen, but the odds of either one happening to you are extremely rare. The myth exists because there is some real-world basis to support it. We’ve all heard of J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and Danielle Steele, just to name a few. However, the vast majority of authors will never come remotely close to achieving this level of fame, regardless of how well their book is written, or how many awards it may have won.

This isn’t to say that writing a book isn’t a worthwhile endeavor, but first you need to ask yourself why are you writing it? Are you doing it to become rich and famous? Do you really expect to see your story on the silver screen? If your answer to either question is yes, then chances are you’re going to end up disappointed. For most authors, book royalties are an income supplement at best. For many, they’re not much more than beer money.  

The only reason to write a book

There is one reason, and one reason only, to write a book. You have something you want to share with others. Maybe you enjoy reading stories, and you’d like to tell some of your own. In that case go for it. There are fiction genres from ancient history to futuristic science fiction and everything in between. You can also write full length novels, novelettes, or collections of short stories. It’s entirely up to you.

Perhaps you’d like to share a real-life story about something you experienced. That’s called a memoir, and many people write them. Maybe your desire is to help people make their lives better. There are all kinds of how-to books out there. How to improve your finances. How to find the right career, how to have better relationships with others and so forth. Keep in mind, however, that many how to authors are also public speakers. Their books give them their credibility as experts in their field, but they make their money from their speaking fees. Their book sales are an income supplement. Most of the authors I know aren’t public speakers. They’re people who work regular jobs to pay the bills, and they do their writing on the side. That’s the reality of the writing business. 

Gayle Martin