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The Wild-Ass and Often Unrealistic Author Expectations

I know that I often start these posts off by saying “I love authors” because candidly, I do.There are just a few of them that I would like to send on a Carnival Cruise. I think if I was a freelancer, I would go on this cruise myself. To some degree, this ivory tower I find myself in keeps me protected. Unlike, say, my friend, a freelance publicist, who is out there promoting authors with nothing to keep them from getting to her. She’s even had one or two show up at her house (no, really).

So, last Monday she calls me and says that she’s just spoken to an author who was “devastated” that her book didn’t do better. You know, I can totally get my mind around that. This is often an unforgiving and relentlessly difficult industry. The next part, however, left me baffled.

The conversation was a wrap up call. So the author’s campaign was over and my friend was doing a final call with her before she sent her on her way. The author was livid. Few book sales, no media. How could that happen? Well, it just does. Some books do well, some don’t. I wish I was a magician but I’m not. Bookselling is not for the faint of heart. So, then the author started yelling: “I’ve spent my last dime on this and I have nothing and I needed this to succeed.”

Silence.

Well, first off, she spent less than you’re thinking. Somewhere *very* south of $10,000 (very south). Second, why on earth would you spend your last dime on anything unless it’s to buy medical treatment for a loved one? Perspective, please.

My friend responded and said that she felt that wasn’t a good business move on the author’s part. A book is an investment and, like any investment, it can either grow over time or not. I find that most authors don’t treat their books like a business. Books, to many authors, are magical tools that will connect them with fame, fortune and a date for the Oscar’s. Books are not magic carpets, they are not instant fame builders and money makers, in fact most books don’t net the author more than $100.

If it’s all so hard and books so difficult to promote why do we do it? Because in the end we all want to believe in magic. Some books surprise us and we love that. We love the random success stories about the author who marketed his or her book tirelessly and suddenly thousands of copies were being sold.  That’s why we do this and that’s why you should, too. Because it can happen and sometimes it does but it won’t happen if  you don’t do the work.

As authors, you have the power to either make your book or break it. The quickest way to break it is to blame everyone for the lack of success you are seeing. Keep perspective. It’s a wonderful thing that you wrote a book but it is, in fact,  a book. It needs an investment of not just money, but your time and attention. If you’re three months into your marketing wondering why Ben Affleck hasn’t called to turn your book into a movie, you may need to go on a Carnival Cruise and gain a much-needed reality check.

Keep perspective and please don’t throw every dime you have at a book. We all love the stories of authors and movie makers who mortgage their homes and spend their last dime marketing their work to become a success but these stories are rare. In reality the person who does this winds up with a lot of expenses and a lot of dashed dreams. Keep perspective, it’s a business, not a magic carpet ride.