Here's another one of those annoying hypothetical questions. Which do you think would be preferable: writing one novel that was a huge success both critically and financially and then fading into relative obscurity, or selling forty or fifty books over a period of twenty or thirty years, while remaining in relative obscurity the whole time?

In other words, I guess, would you prefer the career of Harper Lee or the kind of career that a lot of mystery writers seem to have?

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I would much rather have the forty or fifty books and have just one person say to me after each one "I really liked your book". And, having had one book published, I know the pleasure of the whole process - the writing (ESPECIALLY the writing), the having it accepted for publication, the editing process, and the joy of holding that lovely shiny new book in my hand. I'd rather do that 40 or 50 times and would consider myself very very lucky if I did so.
Well, having read that first one of yours, I can say, "I really liked your book."
Aw thanks Bill :o) For me the absolute biggest thrill and joy, and it still is, is when I open my e-mail and there's one from someone saying that they liked my book, or that I made them laugh. While I would, of course, love to write something that would be classed as a 'great' book. I would much rather make 50 people laugh. Or one person laugh 50 times. Or 2 people laugh 25 times each. Or...ummmm...my maths was never very good :o) And thanks Bill, it does mean a lot.
I should have mentioned that I laughed, too.
I've done the fifty books. I'm tired. Right now the blockbuster sounds good to me.
Too late! (Well, maybe not for you. But I figure it is in my case.)
How about I take a blockbuster over writing another fifty books? I have a feeling the next twenty years of writing are going to be a little harder than the last twenty.
I mentioned Salinger up there somewhere. He pretty much took the first option, and rumor has it that he's still writing now, though he hasn't published a thing in, what? Forty-five years? Rumors could be wrong, of course.
Salinger apparently was going to have something published not too long ago and such a fuss was kicked up that he backed off from the deal. I read that today... somewhere.

I equate it with being a one-hit wonder. Nobody wants to be the band with one great cd and then never puts out anything else. It's the "fading into obscurity" part that gets me - it means you've been in the limelight. Not exactly why I started writing.

Plus, I think it's impossible to be in scenario #1, at least in the sense that it sounds like never having anything published again. If I could have scenario #1 and then a modest career still being published with a loyal following, I'd be fine with that. But I'm of the camp that writers write. And I have just enough ego to want to see my work get published. I'd find never being in print again defeating and depressing, no matter how great the success of the one-hit wonder book.
I like the one-hit wonder comparison. But at least a writer wouldn't have to tour for 20 years playing the same song every night.
i'll take the first one.

but i'm looking back over twenty years of toiling in obscurity.
I know the feeling.

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