I recently visited the Margaret Mitchell House while in Atlanta. I found the 30-minute tour about one of America’s most successful novelists to be fascinating. It’s hard to believe she was a one-hit wonder.
Apparently, she reluctantly published Gone With The Wind in 1936. It was her first book, and despite wild success – she sold a million copies in six months – and despite the box office bonanza of the movie three years later, she never tried to get another book published.
She died 13 years after her book was released. She lived to see age 48, but certainly she had time to write and cash in on her fame if she wanted to. She did apparently write after her book was published, but she had strict instructions in her will to burn any manuscripts she left behind.
Was she afraid to have another book published that would compete with her first one, inevitably to be compared and held to a higher standard? Was she concerned with endangering her legacy and the success of her first book?
She began writing her book when she suffered injuries caused by a car accident. She was somewhat disabled by it, and her husband suggested she write a book. Mitchell, a journalist and the daughter of a historian, was fascinated by tales of the Civil War. Ironically, she wrote the book due to a car accident, and she died in another car accident years later.
Mitchell went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, sell over 30 million copies worldwide, and to have a movie come out based on her 1,000 page book. The movie, which has grossed well over a billion dollars (with inflation factored in), celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
Her book took more than a decade to write and get published. She was shy and secretive about anyone reading her manuscript. But by chance, a publisher learned she was working on a book, and encouraged her to share her work with him. The unknown, never-before-published author was an instant success, and her fame continues to this day.
It got me to wonder how many authors who would die to experience a tenth of her success, yet how many would trade in their life for hers – to die young and to never have published anything else? I guess such things aren’t up to us, but if we could choose to have her life, would we?
Authors live for their legacy. They want to be read and loved while they are alive, but they desperately want to be talked about long after they are dead. Maybe we should all strive to write that one perfect book – and not worry about writing anything else?
There are more books written about Margaret Mitchell than there were written by her. Perhaps that’s the sign of truly being influential, even if it makes you a one-hit wonder.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.
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