As I was researching Dr. Richard Carlson (author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff) for the How to Write Fast, Right Now! call I did for the WritingSpirit community of writers, I found this on his website, DontSweat.com (which is now run by his wife):
At one point, [Richard] almost quit writing because he received such a low advance on a book. We were talking about how he might have to give up writing when the phone rang. Oprah’s producer was on the line. She said she was just in their library looking for a book on stress management and You Can Be Happy, No Matter What popped off the top shelf and hit her in the head! She asked if there was any way Richard could fly out to Chicago the next day to be part of a guest panel on the Oprah Winfrey show? This event marked a shift in the energy of Richard’s career. Three years later, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff became a #1 Best Seller all over the world [and has since sold over 25 million copies].
- J. K. Rowling It took J. K. Rowling's agent a year, and 12 rejections, before Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the book's British title) sold to a small publishing house. When Rowling received the book's £2,500 advance for the initial print run of 500 copies, Rowling was advised to find a day job and not rely on writing children's books for a living. It was only after the book started winning awards that interest in Harry Potter began to soar.
- Mary Higgins Clark Every one of Mary Higgins Clark's 42 novels have been a bestseller, but it took her 6 years and 40 rejection slips to sell her first short story. 18 years after that, in 1974, she sold her first mystery novel, Where Are the Children, for an advance of $3,000. It's now in it's 75th printing.
Of course there are also magical publishing stories, like that of:
- Patrice Karst On November 11, 1995, Patrice Karst woke up from a dream seeing the words, GOD MADE EASY in her mind's eye. Something within commanded her to sit down and write, and an hour later the small book was completed. Not knowing the publishing business, Karst simply picked up the phone and called three publishers. She signed a contract with DeVorss & Co. a month later. While gathering testimonials for God Made Easy, her little book fell into the hands of a big agent--who loved it. DeVorss & Co. stepped aside when Time-Warner expressed a desire to publish God Made Easy. Although the figure is not on her website, I seem to remember from hearing her speak years ago that she received a $50,000 advance.
Whether your road to publication is long or short, and your advance big or small, the ups and downs of the writing life are common to all writers. Yet what is common only in successful authors, is that no matter what happens, they keep writing, writing, writing and submitting.
What if JK Rowling had listened to the naysayers, and been satisfied with working 9 to 5.
What if Dr. Richard Carlson had quit writing because he believed it would never support him?
Wherever you are in your writing and publishing journey, keep going, keep writing, keep submitting.
What's your favorite (most inspiring) publishing story?
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