Posted on November 13, 2013 in Archive

There are just four types of authors in this world


I thought we could spend the next two blogs discussing this multi-post article by Rob Eagar from Digital Book World, classifying and discussing the four types of authors in the world: Unsuccessful Authors, Successful Authors, Authors Who Play Dead and Dead Authors. There, that simple. The end.

The author provides a helpful matrix graph that shows where each type of author stands. To be honest, when I first discovered this article, I scoffed with disbelief – how could he possibly categorise every type of author in the world into such small groups? But the more I thought about it (and the more I failed to prove them wrong), I realized that this type of classification is probably the most accurate when it comes to book sales and marketing tactics, which are huge components for publishers when figuring out a title’s possible success. So let’s use this blog post to think about the top half of the graph – the authors in the land of the living!

Category One: Unsuccessful Authors

These fellas make a lot of effort with their writing, but don’t get much back in return. They could have the best marketing team working for them, but nothing will ever happen, because these guys usually end up getting in their own way.
Prime examples (and indicators that you or someone you know might be an unsuccessful author) include:
– You don’t want to offer free content or samples because you don’t think that’s a viable option for getting fans – but then you wonder why nobody is interested in your book.

– You don’t promote yourself!

– You flit off for long periods of time to write your next novel, and wonder why your audience has moved on.

– You bluff your way through promotional appearances and interviews without any preparation and wonder why you aren’t on the nearest bestseller list as soon as the interview has aired.

All of these examples have one thing in common – they blame or rely on someone else for success. Considering that most authors at publishing houses these days fall under this category (otherwise, the book industry would be a trillion-dollar industry), it might be just a case of naivety, with authors expecting their job to finish with the final page of their manuscript. Like the original article says – they work hard, not smart.


Category Two: Successful Authors

These authors are the ones you already know about. James Patterson, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling – they’re all in this category. The author Rob Eagar defines they category as “new and established authors who exhibit high marketing effort and exceed sales expectations.” Basically, they are good at what they do. It also stretches to include overnight–success authors, who achieve success with seemingly minimal marketing efforts (though apparently this is not the case – but their talent lies in making it look effortless). Their books share a widespread audience, they know how best to market and promote themselves and their works, and they produce consistent results. Eagar noted something that which I completely agree with – these types of authors always raise the bars for themselves. They are rarely one-hit wonders. They want to keep churning out bestsellers, so they do. However, they do tend to monopolise attention. In fact, Eagar claims that 80% of sales from many publishing houses come from just 20% of the author roster – so perhaps once an author has achieved success, much of the available marketing efforts are pigeonholed towards them – leaving unsuccessful authors to wallow in their own misery. Publishers want to keep successful authors in the successful author category.

The very serious condition of STS is likely to hit this type – Success Trap Syndrome. Laziness, snootiness and high expectations that everyone else should be doing the work are all symptoms (actually, this sounds a lot like characteristics from ‘Unsuccessful Authors’, but these authors have actually made sales before resorting to this behaviour). On a related note, J.K. Rowling recently released a crime novel under a pseudonym (The Cuckoo’s Calling) – she later claimed that it was a wonderful freedom to write under another name, without the expectations from the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy weighing her down. Admittedly, after it was revealed that Rowling wrote the book (not ‘Robert Galbraith’), sales did rocket, but the novel itself has been critically praised. Rowling didn’t want to become complacent or entitled, so she avoided STS. Well done to J.K.R.! Authors and publishers alike should avoid STS at all costs.

In the next blog post we’ll be looking at dead authors, and authors who might as well be. One has success, the other… not so much.