In publishing, we love the underdog while supporting the big name. How sweet it is, then, to learn that in a world run rampant by authors like Jackie Collins, there's still room for authors like William Paul Young.
Granted, the multiple high-impact photographs of Collins in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution got considerably more space than the one low key photograph of Young.
Their stories in this morning's paper are a beautiful study in contrasts. Collins, who was famous before she wrote the first of her 25 bestselling books with sales of 400 million copies, arrived in Atlanta in a rock-band-style touring bus to read and sign at a bookstore. Her focus: the land of the rich and famous. The paper describes her as an "author who knows how to tease readers in a celeb-obsessed world." She's touring on behalf of her latest book Married Lovers. With a title like that, I'm betting a fair percentage of her readers wish the book was about them.
Young, a former salesman who grew up as a victim of child abuse was already in financial trouble when he wrote The Shack, a book that began as a Xeroxed volume created at a local copy shop and morphed into a self-published book with a 10,000-copy print run (costing the author $15,000 to produce). Now, Hachette group has taken over the book with a 750,000-copy printing. Young, who's been selling his book at churches and on the Internet has benefitted greatly by a rather overwhelming word-of-mouth campaign. He's stunned. He calls himself an "accidental author." With a title like The Shack, most of his prospective readers are glad they're not in the book.
The publisher's description of Collins' novel on amazon, where Married Lovers is currently #448, is strong enough to curl a reader's toes before s/he turns to the first page: "Three high-powered Hollywood couples, two hot affairs, one underage Russian ex-hooker, a passionate murder—and the players’ lives are changed forever."
Meanwhile, in The Shack, a man whose daughter was murdered returns to the scene of the crime years later only to find God (a black woman), Jesus (a Jewish worker) and the Holy Ghost (an Asian woman) in a mood to shoot the breeze for a long weekend. Young's novel is #5 at amazon and currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for trade paperback fiction.
Good for you, Mr. Young. There's hope. Praise the Lord and pass me another ream of writing paper and a new pen.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell, from my Trickster's World blog