Does successful writing consist in being from an influential family where your work, in spite of its failings, is pushed to success against all odds? Does it consist in your work being endorsed by renowned writers, say, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chukwuemeka Ike, Nadine Godimer, Ama Ata Aidoo, and what have you? Disappointingly yes, for that is what it means nowadays to be a successful writer. There are a thousand and one budding authors out there, bereft of influence, finances and knowledge of renowned authors, who have written successful works that require publishing, but who are hamstrung by these factors.
Last year (2014), Etisalat organised a writing competition for published books and requested that the publishers themselves have to enter the competition with these books for their authors. Then I asked myself, what of self-published authors like me who need all the help they can get, to bring their works to limelight? So then is the basis for successful writing nowadays defined. If an author, no matter how bad their work is, has the financial wherewithal to take their work to a renowned publisher, say, Macmillan, Drumbeat, African Writers Series, or what have you, by its very publication, it becomes successful writing and makes its author successful.
The question is posed: Is there objectivity in deciding who a successful writer, and therefore successful writing, should be? If the answer is yes, how does this objective standard come to play in determining who a successful writer should be? It is only through the removal of barriers such as placed by some writing contest organisers, which smoke out teething authors, that such objectivity can come to play through the sound decision of judges armed with such the instruments of judgement.
Hence, a successful writer nowadays is one who has the influence, financial wherewithal, and connection with renowned authors who endorse their works. Unfortunately, these should not be the bases for determining successful writing. Successful writing is determined in a free and fair competition where published, self-published and unpublished authors submit their works, to be judged by an impartial panel of judges. This, for me, is how a successful writer should be determined. The writer that scales through the hurdles of judgement is the successful writer, and his work would, indeed, meet the reading taste of the public.
Talking about influence, is a successful writer one who knows influential people in, say, the Ministry of Education, who would approve their work for use in schools? Unfortunately yes, for that is what consists in successful writing nowadays. If, for instance, I have a father, mother, uncle, aunt, or what have you, who is in charge of approving books for use in schools in the Ministry, I automatically qualify as a successful writer. This is because, my work is given publicity through its use in schools, and the influx of naira power means successful writing by today’s standard. The officials in charge of the approval of books are thus deadened by nepotism and so lose sight of the good qualities that make for successful writing that are present in other alternative works that should have been approved instead.
Talking about financial power, is a successful writer one who has the money power to publish their work by a renowned publisher? Unfortunately yes, for that is what consists in successful writing nowadays. If, for instance, I have enough money to have my work published by Macmillan, I invariably become a successful writer. This is because looking at the publisher alone, by today’s standard, is sufficient to conclude that a work is successful and so its writer. Many a book has been tagged successful by this means of judgement, so that the self-published author, in spite of whether they are an Achebe in the making, is kept at bay and his budding talent frustrated.
Talking about knowing a renowned author who would endorse your work, is this what makes a writer successful? Unfortunately yes, for that is what consists in successful writing nowadays. I remember when I wrote my first book. I was advised by friends to look for renowned authors who would make positive comments on the book, so that the book would gain the approval of the reading public. Then I asked myself, is the success of my writing external to, or inherent in, my writing? Do making positive comments about my book by renowned authors change the quality of my work along successful lines? No! But, unfortunately, it is one of the conventional means by which a writer’s work is judged successful nowadays.
In conclusion, from the foregoing argument, a successful writer nowadays is unfortunately judged successful based on conventional standards that defy the real quality of their work. These means of judgement have to be reversed, for they have produced in their wake many a successful work which, by objective standard of judgement, falls below expectation. This is not, however, to mean that there are not some few books which are actually successful both by these conventional means of judgement and by the objective standard of judgement which I suggest in my writing.