I’ve read reviewers complain about the characters in Olivia Goldsmith’s THE BESTSELLER (published 1996, ISBN 0-06-109608-3) being two-dimensional, but I don’t care that they are. That’s because I love how in this novel she writes passionately about the publishing world she lives in. And she knows it intimately, being a New York Times bestselling author. And being fiction, she can discuss some of the seedier pitfalls, abuses, scandals, and scams of publishing that writing guides don’t cover. For example, we get to see how an author who is also head of a publishing house can rig the royalty accounting statements in order to steal money from other authors.
Readers get to follow the progress of five novels in different genres at the fictional publishing house of David & Dash. Only one of the authors will hit the top ten NYT bestseller list in the story, and we get to follow what happens to all of them. There are also peeks at the lives of editors, publishers, and agents.
Goldsmith explores some of the psychological hazards of the fiction writing profession, such as depression and suicide and disillusionment. For example, Chapter 1:
Books, her mainstay and her escape, had turned on her. Every published book taunted her. Words, which had been her comfort, her tool with which to weave a story, were now a chain that was dragging her down.
And she also shows us the joys of being a fiction writer. For example, Chapter 110:
And then she’d write about it, because for some reason capturing life on a page was her talent, the thing that gave shape and meaning to her existence, the gift that had brought all the other rich gifts into her life.
Anyways, this novel is a fun way to learn about the business of fiction writing.