Monday, June 8, 2015

Why You Can’t Be Margaret Mitchell Anymore

I always thought that Margaret Mitchell had a pretty sweet gig. Raised in the south, like another author we know, Margaret Mitchell wrote about the stories that she heard growing up. She wrote "Gone With the Wind," and that turned out to be the only book she needed to write. Margaret Mitchell never wrote another one. But I can't be her, and neither can you. Authors can't just write one book anymore. And if Margaret Mitchell was around today, she wouldn't be able to, either.

One Book Wonders

Lots of authors actually do write just one book, but you don't know who those people are. Most of them don't spend the rest of their lives reading fan mail and turning down interview requests. For the most part, authors who write just one book simply fade away. A rare few are remembered...or at least, they were.

Emily Bronte wrote a book that I personally don't like, and those who read my books will find more than one reference to it if you go looking, but lots of other people totally love it. She died shortly after "Wuthering Heights," and never saw it become a success. The rest of the world did, however, and now school children are forced to read her words. Her name is remembers, and t appeared on just one book jacket.

Anna Sewell also died shortly after her one and only book, "Black Beauty." She was sickly as a child and broke both her ankles. Because it was hard for her to get around, she rode in a horse and carriage. This is where she developed a love of horses, and why she wrote "Black beauty."

JD Salinger wrote many short stories, and people consider him to be a prolific writer, but he only ever wrote one full-length novel. “Catcher in the Rye” has gained a certain level of notoriety among conspiracy theorists because of its involvement in the John Lennon assassination. Maybe that’s why Salinger never wrote another book. He lived to be 91. 

But it doesn’t really work like this anymore. Most authors just can’t get away with writing one book, even if it’s a great book. What if Stephenie Meyer had stopped at “Twilight,” or there was just one “Divergent?” Can you image a single “Harry Potter” or a world without 900 “Pretty Little Liars” books? On that, I may be inaccurate about the 900 PLL books. That estimate seems way too low.

The point is, one book can get you noticed and that’s great. But today’s authors are expected to write more than that. Constant interaction with fans and continuous engagement are how today’s authors are expected to behave.

So, I must put away my hoop skirt and hang the curtains back over the windows. If I can’t be Margaret Mitchell, I’ll have to figure out how to be the author that I am...and you will, too.

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