The Secret Behind a Best-Selling Author’s Success

In 1973, you would have never guessed that Stephen King would one day be a best-selling author. I say this because of:

  • Where he lived.
  • How he thought.
  • What he did for work.
  • How much money he made.
  • And the kind of stuff he wrote at the time.

That year, Stephen King’s pockets were empty and he lived with his wife, Tabitha, and their two young children in a doublewide trailer. He drove an old, beat up Buick, held together by baling wire and duct tape. Tabby (Tabitha) worked second shift at Dunkin’ Donuts while Stephen taught high school English in eastern Maine. Because he got paid so little, he worked summers at a laundry mat and moonlighted as a janitor and gas station attendant. Both Stephen and Tabby aspired to be writers, but both admitted—at the time their life was going nowhere fast.

And if it weren’t for Tabby, they might have stayed in survival mode.

We may have never heard of Stephen King.

Stephen had grown up with very little. When he was just two years old, his father went out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never came back, leaving his mother to raise two boys on her own. Needless to say—he missed a strong father encouraging him to chase his dreams. That is until he met a strong woman who married him. What did Tabby bring to the marriage? An old Olivetti typewriter she’d used in college. Stephen couldn’t afford his own.

Reflecting on their story, it now appears fortuitous that Tabby was also an aspiring writer. Like Stephen’s, her work got rejections too, but her intuition regarding words and stories helped her spot a promising manuscript. One day, she fished three pages out of the trash can and insisted Stephen continue writing. It was his first big novel, “Carrie,” and that manuscript turned everything around for the Kings.

What did Tabby do for Stephen?

  1. She provided the typewriter he’d use to write his books.
  2. She insisted he refuse an extra job offer so he could write instead.
  3. She pushed him to write while she cared for the children.
  4. She rescued his first novel, Carrie, from the trash can.
  5. She offered counsel on the main character and how she would think.
  6. She encouraged him to keep submitting the manuscript after 30 rejections.

Stephen King’s books have now sold more than 350 million copies, many of them have been made into movies and he’s won multiple international awards for his writing. When he won the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and was invited to speak at the National Book Awards, Stephen didn’t talk about success, or novels or money. Instead, he spoke about the woman who rescued his career from the garbage can: Tabby. An excerpt from his speech goes like this:

“There is a time in the lives of most writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world. In short, there’s a time when things can go either way. That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness … that the time had come to put my dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint. But the thought never crossed her mind. And if you open any edition of Carrie, you’ll read the same dedication: “This is for Tabby, who got me into it—and then bailed me out of it.” 

                                                National Book Awards Ceremony, 2003

May I say the obvious?  Every one of us needs someone next to us who genuinely believes in us so much that they won’t let us settle. For Stephen, it was Tabitha, his wife who married him when he was just 24 years old. Her vision was clear. Her will was strong. Her belief was high. Her patience was thick. Her love was genuine.

Who needs you to believe in them today?

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The Secret Behind a Best-Selling Author's Success