|Photo credit: Mark Morgan Trinidad B on Flickr|
Now while I largely don't believe that the overnight success as we like to imagine it exists (Nathan Bransford wrote a fantastic post about it here), the idea of sudden, massive success with an author's debut novel is one that many writers dream about while pounding away at their books. The idea of achieving celebrity-like author status with your first book is a tempting one, even if you're probably more likely to win the lottery and get struck by lightning at the same time.
But all that talk about so-called overnight success has got me thinking—is it really something that we should strive for?
I'm not going to pretend that there aren't any pros to achieving massive success with your first published book: I imagine the financial security alone is a pretty fantastic plus, and it certainly can't feel too terrible to walk into a bookstore and see your book highlighted on the shelves. Depending on your personality, the hoards of raving fans that can't get enough of your books is also a pretty nice side effect of being a highly successful author.
Yet there's a dark side that people don't often like to talk about, namely, pressure and expectations.
I imagine achieving massive success with your first book feels pretty great—more likely than not it way outdid your expectations for the kind of success you'd achieve with your first novel, and it can't feel too horrible to see just how many people really enjoy your words.
The thing is, however, no author wants to be a one-hit wonder. And if you're writing a series, you now have hundreds of thousands of people waiting for the incredible new book that you might not have written yet. Suddenly you have an audience—a publisher expecting your work to give them another boost in sales—who have probably already paid you a nice sum of money for the next book, and readers clinging to every update on the sequel. You have people counting on you, who fully expect books two to be as wildly successful as the first one was.
And chances are, once you've made it that big, it will be pretty successful, but it's still a lot to handle while you're trying to write, and it's a pressure that will follow you for the rest of your career as an author.
Look, I'm not saying it isn't nice to make millions with your writing, and I'm not saying it's absolutely impossible to do so (we all know it isn't impossible). All I'm saying is working your way up to a successful career with an accumulation of mid-listing, then more successful novels with the experience of publishing book after book behind you and a slowly growing, but loyal fan base supporting you isn't a bad way to do it. All I'm saying is overnight success might not be the dream without a single downside we like to imagine it to be.
All I'm saying is be careful what you wish for and don't sweat it if you don't get it. There's more than one way to the top.