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Brett Marie
03-19-2012, 04:56 PM
My narrator is a washed-up writer with only one book to his credit. I need to make his career plausible.

The way I have it, my character sold his first novel in his early twenties during the early 1960s. He accomplished this because a childhood friend started up a publishing company and took him on. A trauma a few years later has given him permanent writer's block.

The book was not a hit, but it was popular with progressive-thinking college professors, and included in Literature course syllabi across America throughout the sixties and seventies. This kept him and his family of three comfortable for two decades, and afloat for a third, but by the year 2000, its royalties have slowed to a trickle.

Is this a plausible scenario? Would the founder of a startup take his friend under his wing? Could he get by on the level of success I've outlined? And what would his relationship be with the publisher over the decades? If there's any forum that can provide an answer to this question, I figure this is it.

Debbie V
03-19-2012, 06:57 PM
The royalties from a bunch of college classes aren't enough to keep a family of three afloat, especially when some books will be passed on and not bought new.

Your description skipped the decade of the eighties. Considering inflation then, he'd be drowning well before the year 2000.

Does his wife work?

If not, what was his day job when the first book came out and why did he leave it? Was he lecturing to those college classes? Very few people can earn a living off a first book, never mind support a family, and his wasn't a hit.

As far as friends helping each other out, sure, that could happen. Dr. Seuss sold his first book to a friend who had just become editor of a new children's division at a major publishing house. The guy needed something to start with.

Drachen Jager
03-19-2012, 07:30 PM
I disagree somewhat. If there was so much interest among college professors then there would likely be ongoing interest from the public as well, so sales could keep him afloat, if not comfortable.

Inflation in the '80s included book prices, so as everything else got more expensive, he also earned more money if he's making a percentage of the cover price (which is normal now, I do not know what deals in the '60s looked like).

Siri Kirpal
03-19-2012, 11:18 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I once heard that one of the contributors to an important college textbook on poetry was able to live on the royalties for years. And he was just a contributor, mind. So, I think it might be possible. And yes, friends do take friends on.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Dozmonic
03-20-2012, 12:00 AM
Unless he had a massive advance, or perhaps sold films rights but the film never aired, an average book simply wouldn't generate the income needed to live that long.

WriteKnight
03-20-2012, 12:20 AM
A one book wonder, would need to have written something really definitive for the era. Something that captured the zeitgeist completely. Think "Catcher in the Rye" - or the fictional reclusive author "Terrence Mann" from "Field of Dreams." (Who was modeled after J.D. Salinger)

I think it's going to be more believable if that book was more in that vein, than something obscure.

Brett Marie
03-20-2012, 12:58 AM
Got it! The aborted film rights idea did strike me. Thanks to all of you!

jaksen
03-20-2012, 06:04 AM
Throw into the mix that he sold the rights for six figures to be made into a movie; but it never happened. That'll float him along a while. And there are books that sell so many copies each year, not enough to live on forever but enough to tide him over. If he's also teaching - which a lot of writers do before, during and after they're succesful - that would fit into the picture, too. Maybe he's teaching at a smallish private college that doesn't require a lot of him; maybe he teaches a few classes a week and grad students do a lot of the paperwork and correcting.

Maybe he struggles to write an article for the literary journals now and then, as he'd be expected to be published at least occasionally.

It reads true to me and I just described one of my English professors from about thirty years ago.

Edit add: I did not read those above me who also suggested that he sold the film rights.

blacbird
03-20-2012, 06:21 AM
Plausible writer's career arc:

He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.


He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

. . . . . . .



At least that's my experience. Entirely plausible.

caw
He writes something, submits it for publication, it plummets directly into the abyss.

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