In this continuing series, I will show you how not to give a fuck about your book rejections, bad reviews, and disappointing sales. Please see the table of contents at the bottom of this post for more in this series.
This is a lesson that’s usually learned the hard way, but if you can learn it up front, you have a lot less work to do. Plenty of authors go into this business thinking their manuscripts are hot shit and they’ll sell really well. They think they know the market, that their book is perfect, and the NY Times bestseller list is only a few weeks away.
And I’m sure you’re reading that last sentence and thinking, “But surely, she isn’t talking about me. I’m going to make it big.” This is me over here laughing at you. You’re precious, really, you are. The sad fact of the matter is that so few authors “make it big time,” meaning they have immediate success and are able to make a living off writing right away. And quite frankly, very few authors even can consider themselves mid-list authors after a few books published. Being an author is a career where you start out at the very bottom and work your way up. And I do mean work. You will need to work for every sale, every review, every bit of word of mouth you can get.
If you go into this business knowing this ahead of time, you’ll be better off. Temper your expectations! Understand what’s ahead of you. Lots of authors nowadays quit in the first year because they weren’t prepared for what’s to come. The first year is the hardest. You will work, blood, sweat, and quite a few tears into your manuscript, your business plan, you advertising plan, and everything else you have to do before the first book is out. Then the first book is out! You celebrate! Now what? You go back to work, immediately if possible. You promote the first book while you get the second one ready to publish. There are no breaks. If you rest, you lose momentum. It is extremely easy to burn-out, especially in the first five years when this is your pace. Especially if you want to make a livable wage at this.
Temper your expectations! If you want to go slower, you can but know that income will slow down too until you’ve reach a point where your backlist sells as strongly as your new releases. If you want to change genres, you can but know that your readers may not follow you and you’ll have to build a new audience. Anything can be done if you know what you’re getting yourself into.
If you’re prepared and ready to live this author life before you go to publication, you’ll be less likely to obsess over the numbers because you came in ready to work for a long time BEFORE you got those numbers.
Now, I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here because, honestly, being an author is an AMAZING career, and there are hundreds of things you can do to make things easy for yourself and improve your odds at doing well. You can write a whole series before you publish the first one. You can build a mailing list ahead of time. You can do your research before you publish your first book! So don’t fear! It’s hard but it’s also fun and rewarding, too. By improving your odds, you make it less likely that you’ll fail, less likely you’ll be crying over the lack of sales or the bad reviews. You’ll be working hard and not paying attention to those things!