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Would you rather be a critically-acclaimed one hit wonder or well published yet relatively unknown?

We're all guilty of mentally jumping the gun a bit and imaging what life will be like when we can finally quit our day jobs - when the only 'current' job listed on your LinkedIn profile is 'author'. But what sort of author do you want to be? Critically-acclaimed one hit wonder? Or prolifically published yet relatively unknown?


This is an interesting one. I’ve got to the point in my writing career where neither of the above seem likely, so it’s difficult to choose one; I’d bite your hand off for either at this point, to be honest.


That said, the lazy part of me thinks it would be pretty wonderful to do a Harper Lee and then rest on my laurels forever more. It would be fantastic to have finally produced ‘my book’ after decades of feeling creatively constipated.


On the other hand, to hit a creative seam and be able to produce book after book that someone wants to publish and people want to read sounds great too - although I’ve often had the thought that nothing would be scarier than a five-book deal. What if I couldn’t think of any more good ideas after the first two books were published? What if I’d already spent my advance and then had to pay it back? Or had to churn out stuff I wasn’t happy with, just to satisfy the terms of my deal?


So, on balance, I think I’ll go for the one-hit wonder. Nothing will ever stop me writing for my own pleasure, in my own time. It’s just what I do. But to produce one piece of work that says exactly what I want to say in just the way I wanted to say it, and have it appreciated by a wider audience? Yes...that would do me just fine.


One hundred percent, I would rather be prolifically published but relatively unknown. Some of the very best books I’ve read have been accidentally discovered hidden gems, or out of the box recommendations. Something I’ve never heard of before.


Wouldn’t you be a bit paranoid if you had one hugely successful book but couldn’t replicate the success with subsequent works? Would you spend the rest of your career desperately trying to hit the literary jackpot again and being disappointed when it didn’t happen? Would it make every other publication feel like a let-down? Would you begin to doubt your ability as a writer? Would you wonder if your big hit was a fluke and start to think you don’t deserve the accolades? I have no interest in finding out.


Or even worse, what if you’re a one hit wonder because you only write one book! I love writing, I want to spend my life putting stories out into the world. One just isn’t enough. Neither scenario fits the vision I have for my future.


I particularly have no interest in shooting for ‘critically-acclaimed’. If I write something which ends up being critically acclaimed then great, but I’m certainly not going to be disappointed if that never happens. For starters, I don’t tend to enjoy a lot of critically acclaimed literature and I don’t write things that I wouldn’t enjoy reading myself. I’d rather read (and write) a bloody entertaining, not at all profound paperback that people can escape into when they need a break from reality. I’m not interested in creating challenging works of art. I have entire shelves on my bookcases dedicated to just one author, with spill-over space. If they publish something new, I buy it, because I know I’ll like it - because I liked the previous twenty four books they released.


I’ll take that please.


Prolifically published yet relatively unknown. Sure, I wouldn’t be too upset if millions of people bought my book and loved it and shared it with their friends and then I sold the film rights for lots and lots of money. I could manage I suppose. I’m sure I’d get along fine if I had to spend the rest of my life learning a new hobby and going to the cinema. The thing is, what am I supposed to do, never write again? That might be the deal-breaker. Or spend the rest of my life trying to match my previous success and drying my tears with rejection letter after rejection letter. People don’t even write letters anymore. Rejection comes in email form and I’m not sure my laptop could handle the water damage.


I wouldn’t turn my nose up at ‘critically-acclaimed’ or ‘best-seller’, but the thing is, that’s not why I write. I write because I love it. Because I have to. So there’s my answer.


If I have to choose, I’m going for the latter. To spend my life writing whatever I want to write and hoping that somebody out there likes what I do enough to publish me (prolifically, of course).


This is an odd one, I've got reasons why I'd love to be both and I'm not entirely sure I can choose a side!


Part of me says one hit wonder, not for the fame or for the critically acclaimed stuff, I'm not overly fussed about any of that, but because it would just be an incredible feeling to know what something I'd written resonated with and was loved by so many people. That's got to be a really great feeling, right? Especially if the themes were quite personal or important to me. I just feel like it could be such a special thing, knowing that your book had made an impact on that scale.


On the flip side, I love writing. I really, truly do and being properly published is a massive dream for me so the idea of being published multiple times? It makes me feel a little dizzy just thinking about it! I write for the love of it, not for other people's approval (although that is nice) so it would be incredible to have several things I'd written out in the world!


There are pros and cons to both and being published is just really cool, so I wouldn't turn my nose up either way! Sorry guys, I think I'm firmly staying on the fence for this one!


 

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Cover image by Ying Ge via Unsplash

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