Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Recognition & Success

Where is the reality in recognition and success?

In 1915 Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest in San Francisco. Not only did he not win, he failed to even make the finals.

©2013 From the Norton Book of Facts to Blow Your Socks Off

There have been experiments of writers submitting classics or Pulitzer winning manuscripts of others to editors, to see if they will be recognized, requested as originals, or rejected. They were rejected with personal comments that indicated they had merit, but were “not quite ready.”

J. K. Rowling’s own experiment with making it both critically and commercially without her established name nearly failed miserably. Her editor, who knew the real identity of one “Robert Galbraith,” was happy to take The Cuckoo’s Calling. But the public was less impressed, and the sales were lower than others for the genre. It was rescued by a leak of the real identity of her authorship, and rose to the rare stratosphere of mega bestsellers.

This is what I gather from our infatuation with brands: the next time anyone suggests that worldly success or failure is an indication of intrinsic worth, I can safely and assuredly ignore their assertion. But there may be many more lessons in there that I am missing.
 What do you make of it?

Onwards, to do good work.


  1. I think our society and culture (for the most part) has a very skewed set of values. When I compare the recognition and success (in monetary terms) that is heaped on sports figures and film stars, compared with what is given to teachers and other humanitarian workers, I question our whole culture's right thinking.

  2. Name recognition does sell. It's unfortunate but true. I always cringe when I read a really great book that doesn't get the attention it deserves, all because the author isn't well-known. Then there are bestsellers that I don't understand either because they aren't really any better than other books out there. I guess it's a game of chance.

  3. I think many of the literary classics wouldn't work today because the public's tastes have changed so much, sadly. But that aside, I think big-name authors get away with things smaller authors never could...just because whatever they write will likely sell! I found it interesting that J.K.'s book received FAR better reviews than her previous book did, even when the reviewers didn't know it was her work. (Or maybe BECAUSE) they didn't know!

  4. I know that I gravitate toward reading certain authors--tried and true favorites who won't let me down when I buy their books (although the kindle "sample" feature has taken the last vestiges of risk out of this). And I agree that established authors can get by with a LOT more than newbies (especially in picture books). So much of this business is subjective. I guess we just have to keep believing that hard work will pay off, even if ours is not a "big" name.

  5. We're a fickle lot.

    So much of personal opinion changes from day to day. I'll bet you could do a study of editors' moods and increase acceptance levels by submitting manuscripts on their "good" mood days.

  6. Very interesting! Makes me wonder about celebrity picture books...

  7. That Charlie Chaplin failed in his own contest puts a great perspective on all this.

    I'm with Becky and Ev on this.

  8. The Charlie Chaplin story reminds me of one of Woody Allen's jokes in which a real moose wins second place in a Halloween costume contest, losing to a couple dressed up as a moose. :-)

    Shakespeare didn't think much of the name brand theory. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But methinks he doth protest too much... ;-)

  9. I finished a book recently that your post reminded me of: You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney. We are an easily manipulatable lot.

  10. How funny about Charlie Chaplin. Unfortunately I have to agree with everyone else, names sell. And as much as I want to give new artists a chance, I find myself guilty of shouting out during movies, 'oh, oh, isn't that the guy from....?' or 'wasn't she in ....?' I guess we like the familiar.

  11. I suppose the silver lining here is that even if the newbie author doesn't get recognized right now, as long as she keeps putting out good work after good work, her name will be recognized by more (maybe not many more, but hell, one book at a time) and will grow.