As I await responses from various publishers on my novel queries, I’ve been reading reams of info on the publishing world. Learning what to expect in terms of selling your work can make you wonder if it’s worth it at times, when you think of all the love and effort you put into your project.
If there is one tidbit of advice I keep reading, it’s that you better be in it for the enjoyment and satisfaction of writing, and not for making a ton of money, or even a living. But that’s a topic for a future post.
I wanted to share this book list with you. It may give you more incentive to keep striving for that goal, to get your own work in print.
- Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
- Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees
- Harper Lee’s only novel To Kill a Mockingbird
- Margaret Mitchell’s only novel Gone with the Wind
- Boris Pasternak’s only novel Dr. Zhivago
- Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
- Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook
- Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants
- Daniel Dafoe’s The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
- Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
All of these ten wonderful works of fiction, are, of course, bestsellers. Some of them even won the Nobel and/or the Pulitzer Prize.
But what is most interesting and inspirational to me about this list is this: they were all first novels. Yes, that’s right, these were debut novels that were wildly successful, and in fact there are many more ( I shortened the list). The older classics are known to still sell thousands of copies a year.
And many of them were rejected by numerous publishers before ultimately being signed.
As an example, Kim Edwards found great success with her first novel The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, the last one on my list, and the second to most recent I’ve read on the list. Published in 2005, it made it to #1 on USA Today’s list of bestselling books. As a result, in 2006 USA Today chose her novel as the Book of the Year. As they put it:
Book clubs and word of mouth helped send The Memory Keeper’s Daughter to Kite Runner heights, and once you’ve read this heart wrenching story, it’s easy to understand why it has connected with millions of readers.
On a stormy winter’s night in the 1960s, a doctor delivers his own twins. One is a perfect son; the other is a daughter with Down syndrome. He tells his wife the little girl died, and his lie reverberates across the years and affects every character.
Prepare for tear-blotched pages and a redemptive, hopeful ending that makes the tears easier to bear.”
I loved that book and loved finding out it was a first novel. So take heart, burgeoning writers. Perhaps your debut novel will make money. And if the stars align, perhaps it could be added to this list before long. Wouldn’t that be a dream realized? Stories like these are what keep me hopeful in selling and promoting my work.
You miss 100% of the shots you didn’t take. ~ Wayne Gretzky
What keeps you optimistic in your writing life?