Like Pooh, I had a wondering: would I rather have a long-term career as a midlist writer, or be a one-hit wonder with one book that sold a gazillion copies, followed by failure?
There's a certain appeal to the one-hit wonder thing. First off, it means you wrote a great book, even if it's the only one. And some of those books survive in the public consciousness forever. Harper Lee and S.E. Hinton and J.D. Salinger are all one hit wonders. Not a bad way to go, really. Write a classic, have a great run, then hang it up and spend the rest of your life ... oh. That's right. Spend the rest of your life what? Discussing the same book over and over? Wondering how you did it the first time and wishing you could do it again? Is it possible to smile with equanimity and move on from that kind of thing? "Yes, it was a fabulous experience, but now I run a bakery."
Maybe it's counterintuitive, but there's also an appeal in a long career with a smallish audience, as opposed to a very short career with a huge audience. I hate the idea of reaching a peak and then downsliding. I hate the thought that you can reach a point when your best writing is behind you. Writers aren't like athletes. We get better with age. And I like the idea of spending years and years improving, tending to a small garden rather than watching an award-winning, 100-pound tomato win the county fair and then rot in the sun, never to grow another tomato.
What do you think? One-hit wonder or years of small sales?
(p.s. And we're discounting the obvious: years and years of massive sales ... that's cheating!)