When I first started writing seriously, one comment I got repeatedly was, “So, are you going to be the next J.K. Rowling?” Uh, no. First of all, I don’t want to be the next anybody. I want to be me. Second of all, J.K. Rowling’s success isn’t the only model of success. Just like not all doctors become Dr. Oz and not all people who work with computers become Steve Jobs, not all writers will be household names. But that does not diminish the success. Just getting a book published is worth celebrating.
In recent news, it seems that even J.K. Rowling isn’t the next J.K. Rowling. Ms. Rowling published a new novel under a male pseudonym. There’s a lot of speculation as to why, but I suspect that famous authors have some of the same insecurities that newbie authors do: Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? Ms. Rowling may have wondered if she’s riding on Harry Potter’s super-magical trench coattails or if her writing can stand on its own merit.
The thing is, while the latest Rowling novel wasn’t a runaway smash like Harry Potter, it was doing quite well for a debut novel. The reviews were good. The sales were respectable. It’s a book worth checking out.
And so are a lot of actual debut books. Just to get published in this ultra-competitive market, a book has to have merit. Not only does one person—the acquiring editor—need to like it, but the whole publishing team at the house need to be on board. They all need to think it’s worth putting their logo on the cover. They all need to think it stands a chance of snagging readers’ attention, even without a superstar author name to carry it.
There was another article about how some editor turned down Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling and how embarrassing that was. I don’t believe it’s embarrassing at all. There really is different criteria for well-known authors. Readers are already familiar with their work. They already trust them. A famous name is guaranteed to sell.
All the more reason that a novel by a debut author has to stand out. The premise has to hook readers. The prose (or poetry) has to sing or ring true or both. The story must be strong enough to carry the reader all the through. The story needs to resonate and entertain. It needs to make readers laugh or cry or think. The story needs to be strong enough to stick with them and make them talk about it later. After all, if the by-line isn’t selling the book, the story has to.
While I haven’t read every one of the Class of 2k13 books yet, I have read quite a few. And, honestly, I’ve been impressed. Even those that are outside of the genre I usually read have drawn me in and held my attention. They are worthy stories. I invite you to check them out, to give them a chance.
You never know, you might discover the next mega-famous author. Not the next J.K. Rowling though. She’s already famous. The next big name might be Alex Lidell, Liz Fichera, Caela Carter, Debra Driza, Tamera Wissinger, Nicole McInnes, Liesl Shurtliff, Justina Ireland, Polly Holyoke, Jennifer McGowan, Stephanie Kuehn, Kate Karyus Quinn, Tara Sullivan, Demitria Lunetta, K.A. Barson, Corey Ann Haydu, Geoffrey Girard, Mindy McGinnis, Cristin Terrill, or Lydia Kang.
Better yet, you might just find yourself immersed in your next favorite book.