Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

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Happy Monday, everybody! So today I woke up to a pleasant surprise: Coffee Bookshelves shared a lovely review of  The New Mrs. Collins. *fist pumps*

And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! 🙂

So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.

Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”

“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).

Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:

I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”

“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”

“A what?”

I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.

I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.

Here are a few sobering facts:

  1. There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
  2. Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
  3. Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
  4. You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
  5. Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.

“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.

And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.

What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!




33 thoughts on “Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

  1. Lol, I think we all started out secretly dreaming about the martinis and the nonchalant chats about our books. I also dreamed of mine being translated or made into animations! I’ve heard of many claiming that writing series will boost book sales, and I’m fairly certain it would, but I think right now I prefer writing individual stories and starting the next with its own set of characters and plot. Congratulations on the raving reviews of The New Mrs. Collins, Quanie!
    Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books recently posted..FirefliesMy Profile

    • I know, right? And there is nothing wrong with dreaming, Claudine! Your movies could definitely be turned into animations. The sky is the limit. Truly! People do say that writing a series is a good business strategy. I wouldn’t mind writing one if the characters really needed more than one story. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother. And thanks for the congrats! *Blushing* I’m super excited that people are enjoying my book:)
      Quanie recently posted..How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2My Profile

  2. One of the wisest things I’ve ever read about overnight success is that it usually takes five to ten years. ^_^ But you’re right on all of this, and I know my expectations are farfetched to say the absolute least. Hell, I thought I’d be published long ago and be hitting conventions and getting awards by now. Not so much…

    But yes, the best – hell, the only – thing to do is keep going. Good thing that most writers I know have tons of books in their heads waiting to get out, so writing the next book is something we all can do. And the next, and the next….
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..A Little too Crazy.My Profile

  3. Love love love this! I’m not alone in my secret delusions of grandeur. I, too held dreams of being interviewed by Oprah. Even though she’s off the air there’s still hope for us. All we need to do is get a call asking us to appear on Super Soul Sunday. Practice your wise sage sayings. The day will come!

    But seriously, I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I’m building something. I want writing to eventually become my full time career, and there are a lot ways to make that happen. All of them involve putting in the time and effort to be about the business of writing. It’s sometimes tedious, but reading blogs like this one helps tremendously!
    Faith Simone recently posted..Mrs. IndependentMy Profile

  4. When I dreamed of publishing my aspirations were farfetched. Used to dream a get a great book deal from one of the big 6, have it turned into a movie, move into a huge house with a basement converted to a man cave for my hubby, etc. Now I’m more realistic. Only been self-published for 2 weeks and it’s a short book of poetry. Heard that there’s little money in poetry but oh well. I like writing poetry and fiction. I’m also working on my 1st NF book for NaNoFiWriMo.
    lidy recently posted..Name That Character!My Profile

  5. All of the authors I know who make enough to do it full-time are either romance novelists for category romance publishers like Harlequin (they put out 5+ books a year, in other words) or they supplement their fiction writing with other things. I’m about to write about credit card processing, for instance! But it allows me to write full-time. Many children’s authors make a living doing school visits for hundreds of dollars a day. To get those visits scheduled regularly, though, you have to be willing to travel and it helps to have a book that fits in with the core curriculum. That’s the reality. Honestly, most of us think we want to be the next Stephenie Meyer…but if we had that level of success, we’d have a whole new set of problems. She’s stereotyped as the Twilight writer for life, no matter what she does–and she’ll likely never match her Twilight-ish success. Even Stephen King has to face people thinking his best work was done 30 years ago…while he was under the influence of drugs…
    Stephanie Faris recently posted..Protecting Your SmartphoneMy Profile

  6. You present some solid reality here. Granted it’s become easier to self-publish more cheaply especially because of ebook potential, but I keep seeing writers with big aspirations getting shot back to the real world. I’ve known a number of writers who had a few thousand books printed with a sizeable investment involved and eventually ended up with a bunch of books they just give away to people. Personally I’m in no financial position to invest in publishing and expecting no return on that investment.

    Arlee Bird recently posted..Give Me Liberty or I’ll Just Take It!My Profile

    • And that’s the beauty of an ebook and print on demand publishing: an author doesn’t have to worry about having a bunch of boxes in the garage filled with books they couldn’t sell. I think nowadays, most of an author’s budget is spent on marketing. There are companies that charge an arm and a leg just to “market” your book and when an author doesn’t see a return on their investment, I can see how they can get frustrated and quit. That’s why it’s about having a long term plan and understanding that success doesn’t happen overnight.
      Quanie recently posted..Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?My Profile

  7. All fantastic advice, Quanie.

    It’s funny—I think my expectations were incredibly unrealistic my first go-around, as most novice authors’ are. But they were solidly crushed when my first book deal fell apart, and now I approach the business more realistically. (I think this, unfortunately, needs to happen to everyone once. It’s whether you can move past it and keep going that shows your true mettle as a writer.)

    You’re so, so right about just simply needing to write more books. Only a few very lucky make it “big” with their first book. Just have to keep at it! And sales of your first few books will continue to grow as you publish new ones.

    The key to social media marketing really is to be genuine, put your real self out there, and engage with people without any other agenda. It’s so tricky 😉
    Kiersi recently posted..HOW WE FALL Book Treasure HuntMy Profile

    • Kiersi, I remember you blogging about your first book deal. I also have to tell you that I was SO looking forward to reading The Devi’s Fire and hope that it makes it way around once more. But you’re right: it’s whether you can move past it that shows your mettle. So true about the sales of your first book growing as you publish new ones. Unfortunately, so many writers get crushed when their expectations aren’t met that they just lose faith. So important to believe in yourself and keep trucking!
      Quanie recently posted..Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?My Profile

  8. fantastic and SO true. I used to fantasize Oprah would come back for me too. Although something tells me even getting on Conan will be hard, and this coming from a girl who worked as an intern for a year and made sure his coffee was always ready (2 splendas. Skim milk. 2 wooden stirrers in case one dropped on the floor). Sigh. Then the Snookies of the world write YA novels and get to have huge signings and don’t even care.

  9. #7 has proven to be the sweet(est) spot for me, but that book probably should have #5. But… live and learn, LOL! Realistic expectations are sooo important, because once the disappointment of reality meets those over inflated fantasies…. whew. I’m pretty sure it’s been the demise of many potentially awesome authors. And the advice to keep writing? Again, whew! Yessss! It’s why I’ve been a pretty fearless publishing junky. I’ve grown tremendously as a writer and learned so much about the dos and don’ts of publishing in the year that I’ve been doing it. I don’t know that it would have happened if I didn’t have a backlist to learn from. IMO, publishing the book is the BEST teacher. All the reading in the world will only give you theory. Gotta practice too! Make the mistakes, grow from them, and be better next time.
    Christina recently posted..Sample Sunday : From Didn’t Mean To Love YouMy Profile

    • That’s fantastic that you didn’t give up! You’re probably one of the most prolific writers I’ve come across. You sneeze and, bloop: there goes another book, LOL! You give some great advice here about publishing being the best teacher. I agree with you. I learned so much from publishing my first book and I know I’ll just continue to learn as I move forward and publish other stories. And this: “Make the mistakes, grow from them, and be better next time.” Gold!
      Quanie recently posted..Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?My Profile

  10. This was on point, Quanie. Five is the sweet spot. I have to keep reminding myself of that. ::sniffle:: I want to release book 1 and then instantly have a following. But that is just unrealistic. Thanks for posting I really needed this post today.

  11. Great post! I’ve spent this year educating myself really well on publishing, so I’d say my expectations are fairly realistic. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that success as a writer comes with writing more, and that I shouldn’t expect things to really take off till book 7–at least. Are you interested in writing a series? Do you think a series would help you get more readers?
    Dee Connell recently posted..Two Easy Models for Creating Believable CharactersMy Profile

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