You might have read about "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith, a crime novel praised by critics and largely ignored by the public.
Until the public found out Robert Galbraith was actually a pen name for J.K. Rowling. The notion that I took away from the above article is this: just because something is well made does not mean it will be successful.
The article is poignant to me because I just published my own novel. I used my real name, which, if you count my facebook friends, is known by roughly four hundred people, maybe a thousand if or so if I branch out to people that I know that aren't on facebook. When my book is not selling I have no ace in the hole to save me.
As I was writing my book and getting fairly positive feedback I started to get a little bit ahead of myself. I started counting money that I hadn't received. Of course I kept telling myself that I was keeping it in perspective, that I would be happy even if one hundred people read my story (which is true).
I just assumed that if I made something good enough that there would be an audience there ready to embrace it. I forgot that lots of talented folks are often superseded by less talented folks who just happened to be there when the stars aligned and someone handed them the proverbial golden ticket.
I should have remembered this, having been in and around bands that were trying to make it. Everyone who has ever been in a band has had this thought: "I'm more talented than that *expletive deleted*. And he's getting paid millions to strum that guitar and sing sophomoric lyrics with a heavy helping of auto tune. When I sing I almost always sing perfectly in tune, and if I miss, you better believe that it's only within a few cents."
Ok, maybe that example was a little too specific, but you get my meaning.
Critics praised Galbraith's/Rowling's book, which is evidence of her prowess. So why did it not take off until she revealed her name? And why did Harry Potter succeed? What made Harry Potter break through, more or less creating a new genre and cash cow called young adult fiction? She was snubbed at least twelve times before someone finally picked up her manuscript. What if she had decided to write her crime novel before her story about the Magnet School for the Magical Arts?
I like the idea of a book making it completely on its own merit. No massive advertising. No distribution. Just one person recommending a book to friends and family, and on it goes. It's very organic. But there are no guarantees, as I found out when my book stalled out around eight or ninety copies sold (meaning that my sweet friends and family had already made their purchases). I can only wait and hope that my book is good enough that people will want to share it with others. Because that's what you do with music, movies, books and art that you really like. You get that excited feeling in your chest because you can't wait to tell your friend about it.
Who knows? Maybe my perspective will be different in a year or so. In the end I am content knowing that there are people out there reading my book, and dare I hope, enjoying it?