Becoming a Famous Writer the Wrong Way

Duane Gundrum
4 min readJan 25, 2022

I’ll start this story like so many others have probably started theirs: I’ve written a lot of stuff, and I’m pretty sure no one in the world has a clue who I am. After that, it usually turns depressing (if it hasn’t already), and then we get ready for a somewhat sad story moving forward. Instead of that, I just wanted to point out that I recently discovered that five of my novels are bestsellers. And yes, I just said “discovered”, as in this was not news to me until just a few weeks ago.

You see, it turns out that just publishing isn’t the answer. I used to think that’s when it would all happen for me. Decades ago, I wrote my first novel, and I got it published. I thought the world was going to open up for me right after that. And then I sold my second novel. It was all about to happen.

And then nothing happened. I wrote a third novel, tried to publish it, and then a bunch of things happened. The third novel was accepted for publication. And well, that’s when the world opened up and swallowed me.

First, the publishing company that accepted the third novel went bankrupt before publication. But it was still in control of that novel. And it languished. And basically went into a slush pile of books that were intended to one day be published once the publisher got out from under. And then the owner kind of went silent. And more time passed.

Then my agent got into a really bad car accident. She literally left the business overnight and disappeared. Then she had some head injuries that indicated she would not be returning. And then she did. And she didn’t remember I was one of her clients. She asked me to send one of my novels, and it just sort of disappeared in the mail. I never really heard back from her again.

And then Amazon arrived. Amazon reinvented the entire publishing industry so that the new way to market books was through social networking, not actual writing, unless you had already established yourself before Bezos came along. Basically, if you wanted to make it as a writer after that, you were essentially in a brand new industry. To be honest, in the decades following, I suspect that atmosphere was never going to be the one to benefit the type of writer that I was.

Duane Gundrum

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.