Guest Author Anna Banks: Publishing Confessional — Expectations vs. Reality

Oh how naïve we are when we sign our first book deal. Remember those carnival games where you take a hammer and hit a platform just to see if you can hit the bell at the top? That’s how publishing is. But you don’t have to be physically strong to hit that bell, you have to be mentally strong. For now, we’ll call that bell Twilight level success. We’ll call the bottom, as a debut author, your book. You’ll have a few good strikes that will catapult your ball closer and closer to that Twilight bell. But here are a few things you should know about getting to the top:

1.) Spamming Oprah and The Ellen Show about checking out your book seems like a fun and effective way to promote your book. It’s not. They don’t contact you through those avenues. Or so I’ve…uh…heard. If your tweets are entertaining though, you may get a few more followers, so your ball moves slightly closer to the Twilight bell.

2.) Your book is awesome and you know it. Your mom knows it, your agent knows it, your editor knows it. But that one chick on Goodreads hated it and gave it one star. Now how good is your book? If you let your ball fluctuate closer or further from the Twilight bell based on reviews, you’re giving reviewers too much power.

3.) Your book sold in February, so by the end of the year you’ll be able to give out signed copies to your family and friends for Christmas right? Yeah. No. Publishing is on a very tight schedule — a schedule that has been penciled in about a year in advance. You’ll get tired of people asking you when your book comes out — because YOU won’t likely even know until closer to release date. During this time, focus on writing more, promoting more, networking more. All these things? They move the ball closer to the Twilight bell.

4.) After you get published, you feel validated, like you’ve accomplished something. Like you’re not a fraud. But people will still give you weird looks when you say you’re an author. They’ll still sympathetically pat your hand and say “I hope that works out for you.” Don’t grab them by their Adam’s apple and ask how their hearing is because you JUST SAID you’re a published author. Just let it go. They don’t understand the industry. Though going to jail for assault might move your Twilight bell — one way or the other.

5.) It’s release day. People are tweeting about your book. You’re tweeting about your book. You may even be on book tour. These are all things that move you up on the Twilight bell. Making the NY Times Bestseller list would move it higher, but remember you’re a debut. It’s bad, in that you’re an unknown; people might not even have heard of your book despite the best marketing efforts. It’s good though, in that you’re unknown; you’re making a name for yourself, branding yourself, and moving up that carnival bell in a natural, steady way. You’ve got your head on your shoulders and not up in the clouds.

Because expectation vs. reality in the publishing industry requires you to stay firmly planted with us, while the whole writing community works together to make your book a success.

Now run along and be proud of where you are, where you’ll be in a month, where you’ll be in a year. And one day you too might ring that elusive bell.

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