Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How Did Jacqueline Susann Create a Runaway Bestseller?

Valley of the DollsFailed Broadway actress Jacqueline Susann wrote one of the most popular, most widely-read modern novels of all time, Valley of the Dolls, published in 1966.

After years of struggling to make it as an actress, Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to try her hand at writing, stating in her diary, “I can’t die without leaving something. Something big”.

She wanted to make a fortune as her son was autistic, and needed to have enough money to ensure he would receive the care he needed in the event of her death.

Valley of the Dolls
was turned down by several publishers. Jackie portrayed actresses using drink and drugs, having sex and having lesbian relationships, all of which were taboo subjects at that time.

There were rumours that Jackie had had affairs with Hollywood and Broadway actresses and that the characters in Valley of the Dolls were based on them.

She knew how to tell a good story, which is, of course, what everyone wants. That was one of the keys to the popularity of the book. Once you picked it up, you didn’t want to put it down.

The coarse language she used reflected the way showgirls and others in the entertainment industry spoke. Susann’s earthy language and subject-matter proved to be highly popular.

Valley of the Dolls was later made into a film starring Patty Duke and Sharon Tate.

Despite her success and the glare of the media, Jackie managed to keep her cancer a secret.


Valley of the Dolls became a runaway bestseller, selling more than 30 million copies despite being slated by noted authors including Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. How did she do it?

She and her husband, publicist Irving Mansfield, drove across the U.S.A. and later travelled the world, networking with small, independent bookshops.

Jackie would make note of the birthdays of shop-owners and either send them a card or turn up to their store on the day. She treated bookstore-owners as personal friends, often sending them thank-you cards. She also linked up with the truckers who would be delivering her books, treating them like stars.

I am not sure if this formula would work as well today, as many independent bookshops have gone out of business, big chain stores proliferate, and many customers now buy their books online. But it’s certainly worth the effort to establish good relationships with your local bookshops.

The internet is not destroying literature. Check out this great blog about Twitter from Publishers' Weekly.

See also: Using Visualization for Publishing Success.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Her Husband Burned Her First Novel

Joys of MotherhoodNigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta, author of Joys of Motherhood and Second Class Citizen, was my college lecturer when I did a fiction-writing course many years ago at Goldsmiths College, London.

She came to Britain as a young married woman with several children and, in between working full-time and studying part-time, she produced a novel based on her experiences. Her husband burned it.

Her commitment to her creativity was such that she has since had over 20 novels published. Click here to read my interview with Buchi Emecheta.

See also: Nigerian Literature.

I've got lots more writers' secrets in More Black Success.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Using Visualization for Publishing Success

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A NovelChinese-American writer Lisa See wanted to be a successful author. Today, she is the international best-selling author of novels such as Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

How did she do it? In this interview, Lisa See describes how she used visualization to achieve her goals, and how she still uses it as part of her writing process today. Click here to read it.

Lisa’s work reflects her love of Chinese and Chinese-American history and culture, and her commitment to discovering women writers who have all but disappeared, and restoring them to their rightful place in history.

Her work reminds me of that of Alice Walker, who set out to find the burial place of Zora Neale Hurston and placed a headstone on her grave.

What do you think of this blog? Please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Nigerian Literature

The Famished RoadI've been listening to this excellent podcast about Nigerian writers, presented by Mayowa Atte.

I am familiar with first-generation writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, who could be described as post-colonial writers. I'm also familiar with the works of second-generation author Ben Okri.

In this show, Atte explores works of some third-generation Nigerian authors, including Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta and Chris Abani. This is a delightful introduction to these writers. Click here to listen.

It would be great if he had included work by Nigerian women authors as well. More on this anon.

For writers' secrets, visit More Black Success.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Truth about Article Writing

The purpose of the Writers' Secrets blog is to help you to produce, market and promote your books, articles and blogs. I will list resources for writers here.

I just read this great article on The Truth about Article Writing by Jonathan Fields. Click here to read it.

He is talking about driving traffic to your website, which is great. Article writing is also an important way to establish your reputation as an expert in your field.

To learn more, click here to read my article on Making Money through Writing Articles.

This article is for writers and particularly for ebook publishers. Click here to read my article on The Best Content for Your Ebook.

Squidoo is one of the best article sites on the internet. Squidoo pages tend to have high Google rankings. It is free to join, and there's a profit-sharing scheme. To join Squidoo, click here to post an article.

Here's to your success!