Definition, [American Heritage Dictionary] 1) To make a strenuous effort; strive. 2) To contend or compete. 3) To progress with difficulty.
Perhaps when we often speak of this word, we fail to grasp its meaning, its purpose. Nothing in this life is promised, nor should it be. When it comes to the world of literature, specifically authors, there are a select few who don’t quite understand what this word means. For one, it doesn’t mean you call yourself a bestseller, when in fact, you are not. By another definition, a bestseller is “an article (as a book) whose sales are among the highest of its class” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) or “A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling or frequently borrowed titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics and then published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains.” (Wikipedia).
A recent trend has appeared in our trade where authors who haven’t ’paid their dues’ are claiming bestseller status. TaNisha Webb covered this in her piece, “Why Are More and More Authors Faking Their Way to the Top of Bestsellers Lists?” Ms. Webb explains authors who wish to stay relevant in the book business use the technique of ‘price points’, particularly used in e-books. She also discusses how certain authors are placing their books in the wrong genres in order to grow an audience. Please check out the rest of her article. It is informative, cautionary for new and aspiring authors, and a method I suggest they never try. I also came across this article which should be of interest as well, “Fake “Best-Sellers”: Can We Sue the Authors?”. If readers feel they are being ripped off by the pretend bestselling book, the author may potentially be taken to court. As of this time, I am not sure how much this has gone forward, but for new and aspiring authors, this is quality reading.I know it is difficult to see one’s peers in the literary profession advance in their careers while the lesser known author continues to struggle (aha! There’s that word) and toil with their work. You know these people personally perhaps, read about their book signings and television interviews and even have a project based on one of their books considered for a mass audience. It can be literally frustrating to sit there and watch their legion of fans and colleagues celebrate while the author desires the same attention. It’s normal and a part of human nature, but not by deceiving your fans and even yourself of ‘juking the stats’. It’s wrong, totally wrong, point blank.
That word, ‘Struggle’ means as a writer, you have to devote your energy into producing the best work possible. Yes, you may not get the fame you desire, but as I’ve asked over the years on this blog, what’s more important? The celebrity status or the work? If it’s all about the status and if new authors expect that’s their main goal in this business, I have but one piece of advice for you: get out. If you believe it’s all about the work, then whatever results gained from it will have its rewards and benefits. In a conversation with my wife I mentioned once upon a time I had the large book signings, the appearances on radio and television, even read in front of large crowds. My main objective wasn’t to expect any of these things, but it was because of my dedication of writing quality poetry were folks able to appreciate and support what I do. Whether it’s the books, an article in a local paper or magazine, I personally strive to write the best work possible. If someone else does a better job, then all I can do is tip my hat and wish them well.
There is competition in the literary world. More authors in the last decade are producing stories and non-fiction material than ever before. With that said, the only competitor a writer should be concerned about is themselves. I have no desire to write stories in any other genre other than the ones that interest me and I can tell a good story or express a conscious thought to. Whatever the author chooses to write, they should be proud of their story if it’s fiction and just let the readers make the determination whether or not they support it or not. Let’s not lose sight of the fact the great, legendary authors and even some contemporaries had their rough starts, rejections and challenges in the production of their works. They didn’t try a method of saying they’re a bestseller when truthfully, they were not. If we’re in the business of writing books, then we owe it to the authors who came before and dealt with that one simple word as mentioned in the beginning.
Struggle means staying up late at night writing a story or novel, not sure if the pacing, grammar or dialogue is correct. It also means the act of revision, the process where the author begins to doubt a lot, questioning the direction of their projects and if it is worth finishing. It means the tedious act of research, finding examples of everyday life or history that would fit in their story, it means cutting out distractions, such as living in the world of social media when those characters or scene call out to the author, demanding to be made flesh by the pounding of a simple keystrokes or with pen touching the coarse edges of paper. Struggle means challenging oneself to be just as good as the last story or poem. That’s what it means and hopefully every writer and author in this twenty-first century world can understand that.
There is no shortcut to success. It has to be earned and paid for, depending on what type of success the author wants. Either way, taking a quick route by calling oneself a bestseller is not the way to go and readers will find out if the author who claims that title, is worthy. I prefer gaining that trust and respect simply by the quality of the work itself. If readers can see it and come away with a desire for more, then as an author I’ve done my job. I would rather know all of the effort put in wasn’t in vain and the struggle I went through to publish that book was the reward I sought all along.
President, Chatmon’s Books
(Via Authors N Focus Extra)