Failing as a novelist goes far beyond merely writing a bad book. If all it took was an inane plot, one-dimensional characters and poor writing, some of today’s best-selling authors would be receiving welfare checks.
To truly fail as a novelist today, you need to do a lot more, including all of the following things:
Refuse to succumb to social media.
Continue to view Twitter as a time-waster, Facebook as foolish and blogging as B.S., and you’ll be well on your way to being a failed novelist. When I first became a published author, I scoffed at social media as a marketing/engagement tool, and as a result I had tremendous success with poor sales. Since then, I’ve sold my soul to the social devil, and have subsequently seen my success with poor sales start to wither.
Write just one book.
To help ensure your failure as a novelist, be careful not to be prolific. I’ve seen many authors fail to fail by continuing to write and publish compelling fiction on a regular basis. Instead, go with the one-and-done approach. Sure, you might get unlucky and have your failure marred by having your lone book soar to the top of the bestseller list, but the chances of that happening are Salinger to none—especially if you follow the rest of the action (or inaction) items featured in this post.
Talk only about your book.
One of the best ways to become a failed novelist is to get all up in everyone’s grill about how they simply must buy your book. Pressure your family and your friends, and your friends’ family and friends. Turn every conversation toward your book. And while I earlier noted how embracing social media is frowned upon if you want to fail as a writer, using it with the sole purpose of flagrantly promoting your book is actually recommended. Don’t share compelling info written by others on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t write intriguing blog posts that may captivate people—such actions increase the risk of attracting readers and having them become genuinely interested in who you are and what you’ve written. That can doom your success as a failed novelist.
Be an island unto yourself.
Whatever you do, do not hang out with other writers or attend writing/publishing conferences if you have any hopes of achieving a high level of failure as a novelist. Networking and exchanging ideas with others in the writing and publishing field will only help to provide you with insight and open doors that may very well lead to you being successful. Top failed novelists spend all or most of the day at home or in the basement of their parents’ house, holding on to the notion that they are an undiscovered literary genius.
Get publicly pissed at critics.
Received an unfavorable review from a book reviewer, blogger or regular reader? By all means lash out at the culprit publicly—directly on the webpage where they left the review. Let them know how they missed the whole point of your novel and how they aren’t mentally equipped to grasp your overarching themes and unique literary style. This will ensure that as many people as possible see you are not a writer to mess with. Many will be so scared of not liking your book, they’ll play it safe and not even bother to buy it.
All reading does is take you away from your own writing and provide you with new ways of developing characters and plot—ways that put you in danger of improving your writing to the point of greatly increasing your appeal to readers and burdening you with big sales numbers. A true failed novelist keeps all the books they once read—or had planned to read—in a prominently displayed bookshelf in their house to show family and friends how smart the failed novelist thinks she or he is. However, she or he never cracks open any of those books or any of the new ones she or he buys to bolster the collection, which, as mentioned, is all for show.
NOTE: Having already succeeded as a failed novelist, I recently decided to explore new horizons and shoot for actual literary success. And while I‘ve already made some progress down that path, I still have a long way to go. You can help! All you need to do is make a tiny donation by purchasing one of my books. A portion of your donation will go directly toward helping me buy liquor.
Greg Levin writes subversive thrillers and crime fiction. His novels include The Exit Man, Sick to Death, and In Wolves’ Clothing. Levin’s work has been optioned by HBO and Showtime, and has earned him a number of awards and accolades. He’s won two Independent Publisher Book Awards, and has twice been named a Finalist for a National Indie Excellence Book Award. In a starred review of In Wolves’ Clothing, Publishers Weekly wrote, “This author deserves a wide audience.” Levin’s agent and mother agree.
Levin lived in Austin up until recently, but had to move because the authorities were after him for refusing to say “y’all.” He currently resides with his wife, dog and cat in Sydney, Australia, where he’s already in trouble with authorities for refusing to say “g’day.”