Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Expect The Moon With That First Book

I love the enthusiasm of those new writers. There are stars in their eyes and they think the world of their writing. Unfortunately, that excitement is often creating an unrealistic picture of what they really have for them on the other side of "the call". No, this isn't something that is bad, but the thing they forget is this business takes time.

My wife and I had a friend in college that had this same vision. We were sitting in the lobby of the communications office at the school and he came out of a professors office in an uproar. He couldn't believe what this professor had to say. He had just been told that the starting salary for his job would not be that 6 and 7 figure deal he thought it would be. Why???? He was amazing. He was good at what he did!!!

We all laughed.

The reality is, with the exception of a few (and these are those rare cases):
  • You will not be sold out in the first week of your book.
  • You will not have a contract for a book with a lot of zeros after it.
  • You will not be sent on a publishing book tour with an entourage
  • Your editor will not be dropping everyone else just to work with you
  • You will not immediatly have a following of 30,000+ readers
  • You will not have stalkers that "want to be with you"
  • You will likely have mediocre sales
  • You will attend book signings and no one will come
  • You will be writing several books before something big happens
  • You will have to keep working hard to keep your name in front of the editor and agent
  • You will find it to be tough.
There is nothing wrong with shooting for the moon! Go for it! But always remember that it will take time.



  1. Nothing like a little dose of reality with breakfast!

  2. Perseverance prevails! This post goes nicely with Jennifer Laughran's post today about "What if My Book doesn't sell."

  3. Scott, I love this post. When my took care of my father in law with his Alzheimer's I keep a journal, and after he died I sent out queries to get this journal into a book. A year later a publisher called me and I was so excited.I paid him the money and we worked on editing my book and finally got published. I drove to all the book stores in Phoenix to have it put on the shelves. What a shocker it was to find out how hard it was to get the book on the shelves and they would only order one to three books. But I did it and I think most of them sold, but they were never replaced. I also got some book signinigs and it was disapointing to sit there with an empty table except maybe a person or two just because they accidently saw me sitting at this large table, or they were a first time author also. I was so naive. I thought I was helping the world with my book, but I found out there are millions of them out there and I am just another person taking up space. I have no regrets. I have gotton some nice comments on my book and I have been told I have helped out some families. But the reality of it was a shock. lol

  4. So, don't put a down payment on any luxury items till "after" the sales are in? I don know - that sounds patently unAmerican. ;)

  5. Thanks for the reminder. It's too easy to get stars in your eyes when you're dreaming big.
    You do have to dream big though, otherwise you'll never get anywhere.
    But what you're saying is right - all good things take time. I'd rather start slow and establish a long, solid career than burst onto the scene and fizzle out.

  6. Sorry Scott, but the list you describe as the moon sounds like a lot of moonshine to me.

    Either way the option seems to be that being a writer equals being in purgatory, for a very long time, even if you make it, and then even longer.

    Hell, I'm unpublished without a book finished with no deals no readers and no money. But I make up stories every day. I'm in heaven!

    Stuff purgatory, stuff the moon.

  7. Great post, Scott! I'll keep shooting for the moon, but while I'm working to keep that roof over my head, the perspective I maintain is that my book was published, the readers have had lovely things to say about it, and I get to keep writing and aiming for the moon as I go. Sure, the million dollar contract wouldn't be hard to turn down, but you have to ask yourself if you're in it for the love of writing or making a buck. I'm in it for the love, so I'm living the dream as far as I'm concerned.

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  9. Oh, so true. : ) Forever (not just for awhile) you'll work your tail end off, and you'll most likely make less than someone flipping burgers if you consider the hours you put in for years before you even get your first book out there.

    Still, it's worth it in the end. : )

  10. Excellent post Scott. I'm new here, but your analogy to working salaries is bang on. As you say, "shoot for the moon", but keep your feet on the ground to give you balance in the shot.