Do we really have any control over our book’s destiny?

Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a scene from The Remains of the Day.
Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a scene from The Remains of the Day.

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE between writers and actors?

Not a lot.

Actors are hardly ever the characters they portray on stage on in film.

The meekest actor may become the meanest villain.

The most heartless actor can touch your heart and make you fall in love.

It’s gift.

Writers are hardly ever the characters they create, mold, and allow to walk across scattered pages of paper.

The gentlest soul can invent the most heinous of plots.

The writer who never laughs can make you laugh out loud.

It’s a gift.

Several weeks ago, I watched Anthony Hopkins dispense good, sound advice that has a deep meaning for us all.

It was an old episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio.

Hopkins was the guest.

Hopkins is the consummate actor.

A student actress in the audience asked him for advice on how to pull herself out of her acting funk.

She kept auditioning.

She gave each performance her best.

She worked hard to master the role.

But still she was rejected.

Over and over again, she was rejected.

What was she doing wrong?

I immediately understood her predicament.

Anthony Hopkins told her: Enjoy the profession as it unfolds for you. Think the best. Just surrender and let go of it. It has nothing to do with you. None of us have any power. We are totally powerless. That’s the great comfort.

He may just as well have been talking to a room full of writers.

We spend long hours with the characters residing in our heads.

We write.

Then we re-write.

We send our manuscripts to editors.

Then we revise the words.

Does the story have holes?

We fill them.

Does the story have a hook?

We develop one.

Does the story have heart?

We give it one.

And we do our best to keep that heart beating.

We produce the most entertaining book we can write.

We find the most striking cover a designer can create.

We add a title that reaches out and grabs a reader by the throat.

And we dare to publish.

From that moment on, we are totally powerless.

From that moment on, the book is out of our hands and beyond our control.

We try to market it.

We try to promote it.

We write blogs.

We place the book on blog tours.

We clog up Twitter and Facebook with tweets about the book and links to the book on Amazon or any other eRetailer that has accepted it.

We buy advertising.

We do all we can do.

Then we hope someone discovers our book.

But, always, we are the mercy of the reader.

Does anyone like the book?

Will anyone buy it?

Will anyone even find it?

If the book fails, who’s to blame?

No one.

As Anthony Hopkins said: It has nothing to do with you.

None of us have any power.

And that’s the great comfort.

Some authors catch lightning in a bottle.

Some don’t.

And hardly anyone ever knows why.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Conspiracy of Lies.

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