Let's file this under “Banal and Obvious.”
Yesterday at Facebook, a guy I know, Jeremy Banas, posted a photo taken at what I took to be a local Costco store: A pile of copies of his new book, a history of beer in San Antonio, Texas. For a writer, it’s a big deal to make a book. To have the book at Costco is also a big deal. (Very, in fact.)
I posted a comment along the lines of Wow and congratulations. (See above. Costco. Piles of books. It's a good thing.)
He replied with this:
Thanks Maureen! I hope my book is even half as successful as yours. Thanks for your advice of talking one chapter at a time.
And I replied:
Jeez, I HOPE your book is more successful than mine, because mine was hardly successful. And yeah: One sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at at time.
Later, I thought: What a dumb response on my part. Totally stupid. Am I honestly, and at my age, measuring “success” in terms of money? That absurd! What a stupid, knee-jerk reaction.
So I returned to Jeremy’s FB page and wrote:
Was the book successful? It actually changed my life, in MANY MANY ways that I never expected when I started writing it. I just thought I was writing a book, you know? And instead... I got you and a zillion other fabulous people in my life. Smart, creative people. So in that sense? The book was a FANTASTIC success. Monetarily, zero. Life enhancement? A bajillion and counting.
It’s true. I earned little money from the book (a grand total of about $60,000 after taxes and agent’s commission). (1)
But I “earned” a life that is, literally, immeasurably more rich than had I not written the book. Because of it, I’ve met hundreds of smart, talented, creative people. Some have become friends. Almost all have inspired me. (There have been a couple of assholes in the mix.) Thanks to the book, I've been able to observe, with knowledge and understanding, the ongoing creation of a capitalist enterprise. My work as a historian has gained depth and character.
That ain't nuthin'.
So. Success. Take care how you measure its meaning.
See? I TOLD you this would be banal beyond belief.
1: I may have already mentioned this, but on my 2016 To Do list is start the process of regaining the rights to both the beer and meat books. I know I won’t ever earn serious money from those books or any other writing. But as of now, they’re owned by a publisher who doesn’t even remember publishing them. God damnit, if someone's gonna ignore them, I'd rather it be e.