Expectation vs. Reality

This month I polled Twitter for a topic and one that intrigued me was “author expectations vs. author reality.” I’m going to limit it to my top three (because wow, that got long quickly), and add how I cope with these differences, but I want to know what you guys think too!

Expectation: Publication Day is life-changing. Suddenly everyone is reading your book. Bookstore rankings are shining gold.

Reality: Nothing really changes on publication day. I mean, it’s really cool! But it’s also a little anticlimactic. There’s all this build up to the day of the book release, and then the day arrives and it’s just another day, albeit a day that people can now purchase the book you’ve spent so long writing and slaving over.

The day, while it feels like it should be all about you, isn’t really. Not totally. Other books are coming out too. Some of them might have more hype and promotion and therefore feel like they’re getting more attention. It’s a bummer. It’s really humbling. And it’s so easy to just sit at home and wonder why this life-changing event (your book is coming out!!!) feels like a let-down.

How I’ve learned to deal: The day my first book came out, I stayed at home and watched the numbers on That Retailer Site. (I was disappointed.) I answered lots of tweets! (That was great.) I went to a bookstore to find they’d lost two copies of my book and hadn’t put the other two out. (I wanted to shrivel up and die.)

The next two books, I decided to travel. And I will likely be traveling on release day for all the rest of my books if I can help it. Traveling gave me a sense of control, like I was doing something useful. When the airport small talk happened, I told people I was heading to my book launch party and I gave them my card (with my book cover on it). Traveling also keeps me from checking numbers or comparing myself to others. I don’t have time to look at those things! And, as self-centered as it may sound, it gives me the feeling that the day is all about me and my book.

And while I’ve learned to accept a slight anticlimactic feeling, I’ve also started reminding myself that things have changed. My books are out. People can buy them. People I don’t know, even. And that’s pretty great.

Expectation: I can totally write several books a year.

Reality: I’ve always been what a lot of people view as a “fast” writer. Before I was published, I often wrote two or three books a year, occasionally more. I thought a book-a-year schedule was nothing — maybe even too slow. But now that I’m on the book-a-year schedule, I realize just how difficult it actually is.

There’s not just writing the book, but editing and more editing and more editing. Crit partners get a crack at the book. So does the agent. And the editor. And just when you think you’ve spent more than seven months revising a book to death and you can’t look at it again, copyedits arrive and the book must be read yet again. And no, that isn’t all! Pass pages!

As if that wasn’t enough, while you’re getting those pass pages and copyedits, often you’re already writing a new book, so you must tear yourself from the new book, stick your head back in the first book for a week or so, and then jump into the new book again.

And then, you must promote the first book while you’re editing the new book and planning (or possibly already writing) a new new book.

And boy, if you want to write novellas or collaborate on another project in there, just forget about sleep or answering those emails piling up in the inbox.

How I’ve learned to deal: Planning and schedules has become very important to me. Also, communication. I give my agent an idea of what I have coming up, how long I think it will take me, and she doesn’t so much keep me on track (I’m an adult, after all) as check in every now and then to make sure I’m still good. That way, if I need more time on something, or I’m struggling with a book, she can help me out. I do the same thing with my editor, though that’s more limited to what is actually under contract, with harder dates for when I’d like to turn something in.

And any time I start feeling like the book-a-year schedule is too slow, I force myself to think about how busy I am this time of the year, when I’m editing a book, promoting a book, planning a new book (and in this year’s special case, writing four novellas and co-writing another book). Remembering that there insanely busy times keeps me from getting out of control.

Expectation: I can just write all day. In my pajamas. And eat cookies. It’s great.

Reality: Well, it is great, but it’s not all just writing in my pajamas and eating cookies. Sometimes people ask what a typical writing day looks like, but the truth is there is no typical day besides trying desperately to make sure you get enough writing done that you don’t feel like a failure.

There’s the never-ending emails to answer, social media accounts that like to be maintained, and all the non-book writing you do (like this blog post!) that doesn’t pay but is still useful. There’s traveling, school visits (and preparation for), bookstore visits, and festivals to attend.

While it’s true that a lot of that is fun (maybe too much fun sometimes!), it’s all time that’s spent not writing. And if you’re not careful, it can really pile up and end up with missed deadlines. After all, that stuff is work too. And writing can sometimes feel like a reward (other times punishment) that you do after all the hard work is done.

How I’ve learned to deal: I remind myself that writing is my job. Not tweeting (though how cool would that be!) or any of those other things.

When I get invited to places, or requests to do school visits/interviews/blog posts, I ask myself honestly: do I have time for this? Can I do all of this stuff around writing my book? If I feel like maybe I can’t meet my deadline and attend the fun book festival all my friends are going to . . . then I stay home and write.

For the day-to-day stuff that can make writing vanish, again, I make writing the priority. If I’m feeling distracty, I close everything else that wants my attention. And I just write. Then, after I’ve accomplished my goal for the day, I go in and take care of some of the stuff I missed.

And then I go do something fun and relaxing, because I am the kind of person who will easily overwork herself and by golly sometimes I just need to knit.

So, those are my top three expectation vs. reality. What about you guys? Any others up there? How do you deal with reality?

8 Responses to Expectation vs. Reality

  1. Anna E. Jordan Nov 12 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Love this. I think another expectation v. reality is about payment expectations which include not only the amount that one is paid but when. Long stretches of time seem the norm between a house accepting a book, the actual signing of the contract, and the payments (even if the contract says payment upon “signing” or “delivery”). I think this is something that needs to be more out in the open.

    • jodimeadows Nov 13 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Ah, yes, good one!! There are a lot of mysteries around the payment schedule, it seems like. When authors get paid, how much — all of that.

  2. Angelica R. Jackson Nov 12 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve linked to this in our Fearless Fifteeners board–we debuts worry about so many things that aren’t likely to happen, that sometimes we forget to plan for the things that will likely happen. Posts like this help. 🙂

    • jodimeadows Nov 13 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Oh yay! I’m glad it’s useful. There were a lot of things I knew about before going in, but it’s different when they’re experienced, you know? But it’s encouraging to realize we’re not alone, either.

  3. Logan Nov 13 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Jodi typed: ‘Some of them [books] might have more hype and promotion and therefore feel like they’re getting more attention.” — I would have written: “… and therefore they’re getting more attention.” — omitting ‘feel like’. More hype and promotion nearly always equals more attention. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Assuming that Jodi’s books are on equal or superior footing to much more successful ones, it would appear as if her main problem (stumbling block) is insufficient promotion. Therefore, perhaps she should try to figure out why other authors have better promotion and then try to figure out if/how she can match them in that area. I realize that all of this is mostly left up to literary agents.

    Hopefully, Jodi will attain the level of success she craves and deserves!

  4. Paula Stokes Nov 15 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    I remember when my first work-for-hire book came out in 2012. Man, I was excited on release day! My mom bought me a Venetian mask to match the one on the cover and we drove around the city to three big bookstores for photos ops. All of the stores had my book…in a box…in the back room…at 3pm. I felt like I was harassing them by asking if they could shelve it so I could photograph it. It was so awkward.

    Now my release days are half for me out in the woods hiking or somewhere far from That Retail Website’s rankings, and half about my readers, interacting with them on twitter in my @ feed or via some kind of chat/contest. And the day after release day? It’s back to work on other books 🙂

  5. Daveler Nov 19 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Expectation number two hadn’t occurred to me, although it should have. When I started writing, I really just enjoyed the process and I didn’t focus on publishing at all. So I wrote one novel then moved on to the next with the idea that eventually I’d go back and edit them and actually attempt the publishing thing. It never occurred to me that I could write a lot because I wasn’t spending any time polishing it.

    Course, the other issue is now I have a whole slew of books already written (and some polished), which means that I have a lot of work backed up.

  6. Melody Maysonet Feb 2 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    Thanks for this, especially the bit about book launch day. I’ll try not to drive myself crazy with expectations.

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