Hello everyone! I hope you’re all having a fantastic Monday!
Today begins the first in a series of posts aimed at my fellow authors, and we’ll be talking about expectations and the damning little things they are. Reality rarely lives up to the expectations we have, and as an author, it can be incredibly difficult to be realistic in your goals and expectations when you’re taking your first steps into the world of self-publishing.
With two books out, a third and fourth in the works, and my fair share of mistakes, I can safely say that the expectations you set for yourself can make or break your attitude towards yourself, your work, your friends, your fellow authors, and anyone in between. Writing can be a very emotional process and we have a tendency to carry those emotions with us when it comes time to get down to business. And when things don’t go exactly as expected, well, those emotions are going to face a world of hurt.
Below are some of the common expectations I hear from writers and why reality won’t always live up to them.
Don’t expect to be an overnight success!
This is stupidly important and will save you lots of woe and misery in the long run. Success does not happen overnight. Say it with me now! SUCCESS DOES NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT. While it may seem like a lot of your favorite authors have discovered success seemingly out of nowhere, what you didn’t see was the hours of tears, blank word documents, rejection letters, hard work, and tenacity that went into their creation. While it’s fine to day dream about being a successful author, don’t ever let that day dream become your actual expectation cause you might find yourself a wee bit disappointed. It can take years to get even remotely close to that goal, so keep the reality of it in focus, work hard, write good books, and don’t quit your day job just yet.
At the end of the day, writing is a business and building a successful one takes time. Take pride in your small victories. Learn from your mistakes. Grow. Change. Adapt. It may take years, but if you’ve set realistic expectations for what it takes to get there, it’ll make the journey much, much easier.
Don’t expect everyone to be as enthusiastic about your book baby as you are!
Your book is your baby. You’ve spent countless hours writing and pouring your heart and soul into every word. You’ve set a release date. You’re completely over the moon and want to share the great news with everyone. You start telling your friends, family, and coworkers about your book only to find that people aren’t interested. Nobody is jumping up and down for joy or feeling the feels that are brewing in your own little author heart.
And guess what? It’s okay! Not everyone is going to understand the amount of work you put into your creation. Not everyone is going to care. Don’t let these people kill your enthusiasm. First and foremost, write for yourself. Be excited about your own accomplishments. There are people out there that your work will connect with and those are the people whose excitement and enthusiasm you want and need. Don’t base your success off of the initial reaction people have. It’s your own feelings that matter. It’s the readers whose hearts you touch. Everything else is background noise.
Don’t expect help from friends and family!
This sounds really negative but it is one of the unfortunate truths of being a writer. Considering the amount of times I’ve seen posts about this very thing, it seems to be a common expectation that friends and family would be your biggest fans, the best of helpers, and the most enthusiastic bunch of people you’d ever hope to meet.
The reality of this is quite the opposite. A lot of your friends and family members will probably not buy your book. Of those that do buy your book, not all of them are going to actually read it. Even fewer will leave a review. Less than that will ever give you feedback of any kind. While disheartening, it’s important to realize that there are hundreds of reasons why this happens and most of it is completely outside of your control. Don’t ever let it ruin your relationship with your friends and family, don’t take it personally, and realize that the kind of help and support your looking for is going to come from your readers and people going through the same struggle as you. Love and cherish the ones that go above and beyond to help you, but don’t ever expect it from them.
Don’t expect reviews!
Reviews are notoriously hard to get out of readers and often the reviews we do get may not be what we expected. Good or bad, reviews can be a valuable tool in helping other readers find books they might like, but not every reader is going to leave a review, no matter how much they loved your book. Do not go out of your way for reviews. Do not pay people for reviews. Do not swap fellow authors for reviews. Do not harass reviewers for writing/not writing a review. This way lies madness. Be thankful for the reviews you get whether you agree with them or not. Your time and energy is better used learning from the things said in reviews and using that feedback to craft a better product in the future. Reviews are not everything. They will not make or break you. Don’t fall into this trap of believing that if you don’t have hundreds of 5-star reviews that you can’t possibly sell a book. This is a fallacy and one that will bite you in the ass if you base your entire career around it.
Don’t expect everything to go as planned!
Self-publishing can be a bit of a wild ride. With everything from the writing process, to editing, to cover design, formatting, printing, shipping, marketing etc.. there is plenty of room for things to go wrong. And they will. Expecting things to go flawlessly is a big, big mistake. After stumbling my way through my first book release, I thought I had learned what I needed for smooth sailing with my second release. WRONG! Things still went wrong. A first batch of books was cut terribly, effectively cutting off part of the title, despite the design being made correctly. There were last minute formatting issues that had to be corrected, my hardcovers were delayed by weeks only to have them shipped to the wrong place before being shipped back to me.
Things can and will go wrong and you really just have to roll with the punches. Be prepared for the inevitable and don’t take it too hard when something goes wrong. Educate yourself on the process to make it as easy as it can possibly be. If you have a solid foundation, when something does go wrong, you’ll know how to go about fixing it instead of panicking and making it worse. The best advice I can give is to give yourself enough time to go through all the steps. I’ve made the mistake of getting caught up in the excitement and stress of a book release, rushing, and having it cost me in the end. Allow yourself the time to do each step right and you’ll have a better product, an easier transition, and more successful book releases in the future if you just keep your head on straight and take things a step at a time.
To wrap things up, just remember that writing and self-publishing is a journey. You’ll struggle, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll get discouraged. This is all part of the process. Learn all you can on how to make that process easier, realize that it takes time, forgive yourself for any mistakes you make, and most importantly, keep writing.