A popular Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe’s success story should inspire you that anyone can achieve their dreams if they set their heart to it.
Writing his first book, Things Fall Apart, he first carved it to his liking; after which he took advantage of a London advertisement offering a typing service. He sent the only copy of his handwritten manuscript (along with the £22 fee) to the London company.
After he waited several months without receiving any communication from the company, Achebe began to worry. Fortunately, his boss at the NBS, Angela Beattie was going to London for her annual leave; so he asked her to visit the company. She did and angrily demanded to know why the manuscript was lying ignored in the corner of the office.
Instantly, the company sent a typed copy to Achebe. Beattie’s intervention was crucial for his ability to continue as a writer. Had the novel been lost, he later said, “I would have been so discouraged that I would probably have given up altogether.”
In 1958, Achebe sent his novel to the agent recommended by Gilbert Phelps in London. It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fictions from African writers had no market potential. Finally, it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae, just back in England after a trip through West Africa, read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”.
Heinemann published 2,000 hardcover copies of Things Fall Apart on 17 June, 1958.
According to Alan Hill, employed by the publisher at the time, the company did not “touch a word of it” in preparation for release. The book was received well by the British press, and received positive reviews from critic Walter Allen and novelist Angus Wilson.
Three days after publication, The Times Literary Supplement wrote that the book “genuinely succeeds in presenting tribal life from the inside”. The observer called it “an excellent novel”, and the Literary Magazine Time and Tide said that Mr. Achebe’s style is a model for aspirants.
Having read through that story, you should without doubt know that you can become a great fiction writer if you’re determined to be.