Author Chunking

2014 is the year of the reading list. At least, that’s how it’s looking in my tiny corner of the internet. I’ve been keeping an eye on a few different people’s lists as they link to them. (Gratifyingly, some of them use my Reading List hack.)

One thing in particular struck me about almost every list, a pattern that I’ve followed in my own reading for years. I’m sure this is a common thing, but I’d never been struck by how widespread it was until I saw so many other people follow it. I’m talking about what I like to call author chunking: once you’ve read something you liked, devouring a number of other things by that same author. If you look at my reading list you can see the same pattern.

I think there’s a comforting lesson to be learned here for writers — especially those who have written more than one book but haven’t hit it big yet. In fact, I just stumbled across much the same lesson in this post by Hugh Howey, whose works I’m chunking through right now:

This is going to sound strange, but you are MUCH better off with your 10th work exploding than your 1st work. You’ll never have quiet time to crank out quality material ever again. And when your backlist matches the growth of your first breakout, you’ll do very well for yourself.

It’s akin to the great secret of building an audience for your writing online: keep showing up. It’s much more pleasant to realize that, in the majority of cases, writing doesn’t pay because of some freak signing or lucky movie deal. It pays because you put the work in.

For me, that knowledge reduces literary success to something that a normal person might actually accomplish, rather than an impossible dream reserved for the lucky few.

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