Friday, August 10, 2012

Writng a Bestseller Doesn't Require Instant Success

Every author probably dreams about becoming an overnight success the moment they put the first word on the first page of the manuscript. The dream is reinforced by books like Twilight and the Harry Potter books -- which were practically household names before they even hit the shelves. But some books are a bit slower in the bestseller race...and that doesn't necessarily mean they've lost. 

It's much easier if your book becomes a bestseller in 20 minutes, instead of 20 years...but would you really be disappointed if decades later something you wrote became one of the most famous books of all time? That's what happened to children's author Margaret Wise Brown, who wrote a book way, way back in 1947 that you've probably heard a thousand times. 

It's called Goodnight Moon, and it's one of the best-loved and best-known bedtime stories ever written. It's also a bestseller, but it didn't gain that title for many, many years after its initial publication. Though published in '47, Goodnight Moon was not a bestselling book in the '40s. Or in the 1950s. Nor was it a bestseller in the '60s or even the '70s. Margaret Wise Brown had to wait a long, long time before her little book cracked the big list.

In 1953, Goodnight Moon was selling around 1500 copies a year (which even in 1953 was way short of setting the literary world on fire). By 1970, it had started selling around 20,000 copies a year. When New Year's Day dawned on January 1, 1990, more than 4 million copies of the book had been sold. More recent estimates put the book's sales right around 16 million total.

Maragaret Wise Brown lit a small spark with her children's book, rather than a roaring fire. But slowly, the flame began to grow and spread. Today, Goodnight Moon is read by and read to many millions of children all over the world. It wasn't an instant hit with readers, but slowly they began to discover this wonderful bedtime story.

Everyone wants to write the next Twilight...but it wouldn't be the worst thing if maybe you wrote the next Goodnight Moon instead, would it?

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