I wrote for six years, with no positive response from the publishing community. Then, a friend introduced me to an editor, who knew a lawyer, who knew an agent…the same old story that happens in a myriad of ways.
Today, I’m a household name (depending upon which house you’re in) and occasionally strangers call me out on the street. More often than not, the recognition comes when I pay for something with a credit card and my name raises an eyebrow, a smile, or an expression of gratitude for the books I write.
That’s quite enough for me, thank you very much. The ‘overnight success’ arrived and affected my friends more than it affected me, to be candid. I had a demanding writing and promotion schedule that left me with little time to really savor that sweet smell initially.
My friends, educated and hard-working people one and all, were a little intoxicated with the reflected glory of being a ‘close friend’ of a ‘famous writer.’ Then they got burned by people…who only spent time with them…in hopes of getting to know me…in hopes of selling me something: an investment (usually), a private jet (really?), or a great idea for a novel (again, really?).
Most of it, I’m sure, is that the new simply wore off. Before we reached that point, however, I did have to consciously steer the conversation back to what was going on in their lives, not just my career. After a couple of stories about meeting a celebrity or a book being optioned for a film, the dish is a little warmed-over. I don’t want my friends hanging on every word I say. I want my readers hanging on every word I write.
A tradition that my friends and I held onto strongly: we all throw in a 20 or a 50 dollar bill for our prorated share of the meal or drinks or whatever when we get together., depending on the damage. (I’ve only paid for everything twice, both times when I invited everyone to celebrate a big publishing deal and a film deal. Those were special moments that have value far beyond the final tab for food and drink. I had accomplished something, and my friends were there to celebrate it with me.)
Another constant I’ve maintained is the way I dress. I have always wanted to ‘look nice’ but without attracting too much attention. When I met with agents and publishers, I needed to strike a balance of looking professional enough, in a ‘literary’ kind of way: discreet enough to convey modesty, but not so impoverished that someone might think they could low-ball me in negotiations for my services.
Like many writers, I stuck with the basics that had served me well in college. The khakis, the tweed blazer, the Mercer shirts. The psychology of this sartorial choice is fascinating: people can intellectually know that I sell several million books and get hefty royalties from the sales, but if I don’t show it with obviously expensive clothes, they sometimes have difficulty in connecting that fact in their heads.
This puts a buffer on their behavior. Sometimes. They can be less eager in expecting me to pick up the check for a lunch (one in which they invited me.) They can be less demanding in their requests for contributions to their charity. They can be less outrageous in their requests for a cash loan.
So I remain, anchored with my preppy wardrobe, my old friends, and the unforgiving, blank white page that awaits. That’s how I’ve handled things, Byron. Best of luck in your endeavors.
- An Anonymous Author with a Measure of Notoriety