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Confusing Your Legacy With Your Meal Ticket

I know I kvetch a lot about author expectations, best seller lists, and the downhill spiral traditional publishing is on, and well, so much more, but this weekend I was reminded that it’s sometimes so much simpler than that.

I was at another author event this past weekend, which, as regular readers know, usually spawns a ranting blog post that takes the place of what I’m sure would become a serious drinking problem. This event was different though, and simply because of one man that managed to snag a moment of my time.

He introduced himself as a widower, right off that bat, which usually sets off a warning signal that someone has mistaken me for a therapist (common mistake). But before I could interject and excuse myself he explained that his wife, who had recently passed, was an author who wrote a book, and he had promised to help get her message out there. Okay, he had me.

It was a children’s book and her purpose for writing it was admirable and sweet, far from self-serving. It included a fantastic message for young readers and their families. And even so my natural instinct is to sniff out a “but”, something that dooms an author and a title, be it unrealistic expectations of fame, or the fact that it’s the same book that’s been published 50 times by other get rich quick types that hope to retire before the end of the year on their earnings. But this man had no “buts”, he really just wanted to help his wife tell her story, to make this book a part of her legacy.

I wanted to recruit him instantly. Set him up with a desk in my office. He was fantastic, and grounded and sincere. I’d have him sit down with my clients and remind them that in the midst of wanting a bestseller it’s too easy to forget that a book should be an extension of one’s self, the mark you want to leave on society, the best representation of your own personal knowledge or creativity. Not something fueled by dollar signs.

If you write a book to get famous, forget it, because that goal never works out.

But even as I’m writing this I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, plenty of people get famous off their books,” and you’re right. But most of these people, especially the new authors, shouldn’t be your role models. E.L. James of Fifty Shades fame is a laughing stock in the industry, a one hit wonder, whose 15 minutes will be up any day now – she’s not a core shaker. Aim higher, aim to be that core shaker, so when your book does find its market, you can feel confident that it’s for all the right reasons.