Yes, trying to follow up a best seller must be a tough task. While Rowling has kept on writing and each of her books so far has outsold the previous one, some authors become literary one hit wonders - Wuthering Heights and Black Beauty spring to mind, although to be fair their authors had little chance for a second crack of the whip: Anna Sewell died five months after publication of her masterpiece, and Bronte a year after hers. There is of course, the possibility that having achieved her purpose - of highlighting the inhumane treatment of horses which was current at the time – Anna Sewell might not have written anything else.
We’ll never know, but in my opinion, it would have been difficult to cap Black Beauty.
Some writers deliberately toss the towel in: think of To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye and Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell hated fame and declared she would never write another word, while Lee and Salinger both became virtual recluses.
Then of course there are those who tried but failed: Bram Stoker will forever be associated with Dracula and Mary Shelley with Frankenstein. Kenneth Grahame and Richard Adams also wrote other books, but it will always be the best selling and much loved Wind in the Willows and Watership Down for which they are best remembered, and which, like Frankenstein and Dracula, continue to sell. And then there’s Three Men in a Boat, an instant runaway hit, of which J K Jerome’s publisher declared “I pay Jerome so much in royalties, I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue. I often think the public must eat them.” Jerome himself remained puzzled as to its success, averring that he had written much better and more humorous books. Yet he never succeeded in recapturing the popularity of Three Men, which has never been out of print since it first appeared in 1889.
Perhaps success isn't always everything you'd hoped for.
Yes indeed, who wants to write a best seller?
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