The work should speak for itself.
This is a mantra I carry with me everyday. Writing is nothing more than just that: Writing. I believe that good writing is writing-centric, not author-centric.
But in some instances, that’s just not the case.
Kerouac became Kerouac because of who he was in society. His work was less about his writing and more about the culture he was building in the process. Same for Ginsberg and Burroughs. Sure, their writing was very much the anchor (have you read Howl?), but they weren’t necessarily staple ‘writers’.
On the contrary, J.K. Rowling is. She wrote a crime novel titled ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ under the pen name Robert Galbraith. A man.
It did well. I’m sure her Harry Potter fame and funds helped push a big campaign for the book’s promotion, but the point is the same: It’s not about J.K. Rowling, it’s about her stories.
Art has a cultural impact
From what I can tell, writing is art, and artistic success comes down to cultural impact.
Andy Warhol, Paulo Coelho and even technologists like Steve Jobs changed society as a whole. Their work had an impact so big that they (as people) became ‘icons’. Even Stephen King — with his quirky personality — is a cultural icon. He defined a genre. His personality became that definition. So much so that it was beyond his work.
Here’s what I’m trying to say…
You can write all you want. You can publish all you want. You can build up a social media following all you want. But to do something significant with your work, to have an impact on people, readers don’t need to buy into your writing, they need to buy into you.