This is an allegory – a tale that uses symbolic fictional people to express a true event in my life as a writer. I wrote it in 2005, but the response I received from writers in many countries makes me believe you also would like to read it.
Earlier in 2005, I’d published my sixteenth book – a young-adult romance novel, Date with Responsibility. It’s a fictional work based on a true story of a tragic date that forced a teen girl to grow up fast and build responsibility.
I sold several hundred copies of Date with Responsibility in the first few months, but I, like thousands of other writers, longed to see a “bestseller” award affixed to my book cover and to book data files.
I’d written a good book. Dozens of positive testimonials confirmed that. Mothers and teen daughters vied for first right to read it. Both teens and their moms were staying up far into the night to finish “one more chapter” before going to bed.
Nevertheless, I believed a bestseller award would dramatically increase my credibility. It would market my “personal brand” in a way I’d been unable to do up until then. It would show not only that I wrote a full-length teen novel, but I wrote a novel that the market judged to be better than other novels in the category.
I thought it might be my best work yet and I was excited about it – but what happened?
Well, you’ll learn that in the allegory you’re about to read: A Bestseller’s Tarnished Award.
The old pauper and his wife symbolize my husband and me in February 2005, as we entered an online mentoring program, and worked toward “Bestseller” status.
~ The Allegory
Once, in the Land of Wishful Thinking, there lived an old pauper and his older wife. The wife, a quiet woman, had used her daily allotment of words, for the past three years, to write many books – books that her readers loved, but books that remained unknown to most in the kingdom.
“If we could only get out the word, and sell the books widely,” reasoned the old pauper, “we might manage a few silver years, if not golden. But how can it be done?”
The old wife shrugged her shoulders. If her husband, the businessman of the house, had no ideas, no more had she.
And so the old couple went on. The wife continued to write the ideas that her imagination created, and the husband, when not occupied by his current job, continued to post notices here and there in the kingdom, selling a few books here, a few books there, looking for ways to sell enough books.
One day, the old pauper came home from his postings, hurried into the crowded little cottage, and said with guarded excitement, “Look, my dear. Two wizards posted this notice in the kingdom today. They may be the answer to our problems.” He began reading aloud.
The two wizards would mentor authors to make their books bestsellers in just 24 hours, they promised. Authors could use their new international bestselling author status to sell many more books and make much money. The wizards would teach them the strategy, and they could do it as often as they wished.
The pauper and his wife read the long notice right through to the end. Then they went back and read it again. They could “sell more books in a single day than many authors sell all year long,” it promised. They could sell books in many other kingdoms. There were more promises – many more.
The wizards had heard the horror stories of authors “maxing out their credit cards ending up with huge debt and totally disillusioned – and they’re still sitting with inventory of books.” They would help the old wife avoid that. They promised!
The Hidden Formula
“We’ve deciphered the hidden formula,” the wizards claimed. “Our greatest concern is witnessing other authors … end up with another enormous expensive book marketing endeavor gone sour. WE don’t want that to happen to you!”
To keep it from happening, they promised, they would provide everything to create a campaign that would have the author’s book “soar right up to the top of the charts; seamlessly and harmoniously.”
The couple could watch it happen on a magic screen!
Amazingly, the two wizards claimed that they would help the couple “avoid those terrifying pitfalls that can cost you thousands of dollars and endless amounts of headaches.”
It sounded too good to be true, and of course such things usually were too good to be true. But what if it were true? What if they could make a year’s salary in one day – and do it again next month – and the month after that?
The mentoring course was costly, and would take nearly every penny they had saved in the little crock behind the stove, but it might be worth it. Added to the upfront cost would be the “almost zero marketing costs” the wizards promised, and they didn’t know what those might be.
Nevertheless, they had to do something. The old pauper would soon be unable to work at his current job, and the wife’s books were their one hope for putting food on an aging table, keeping shelter over silver heads.
For several days, the couple thought about the notice. If only it were true!
They had read that “bestseller” was awarded only to books selling 10,000 copies in a year. 10,000 copies! Why, if just one of their books sold that many, it would be grand, and if one book sold 10,000 copies in a year, people would buy their other books – 16 in print already, and many more just waiting to be poured onto paper. What should they do?
As Valentine’s Day approached, the old pauper made a decision. He would give his wife the wizards’ bestseller course as a Valentine’s Day gift.
Quietly, when she was in the little room that doubled as a writing room and bedroom, he went to the stove, reached behind it for the old crock, and counted out the money. There was enough, and just a bit left over. That little bit would, he reasoned, cover the “almost zero” marketing costs.
Valentine’s Day Gift
And so, on Valentine’s Day, he presented his beloved wife with a vase of lovely flowers, and the too-good-to-be-true bestseller mentoring course.
He would work at it with her, he promised, and once the first book became a bestseller, they would use the plan to sell her other books – all 16 of them plus the 3 more she had planned. By autumn, he would be able to retire from his current work. By autumn, he would be her full-time marketing agent. Their troubles would be over.
(continued in Part 2)