So I think it’s time for another one of THOSE posts.Disclaimer: This blog post is written to make a point. Resemblance to any writer, living or dead, is not intentional. Things are elaborated and boiled down to make a point. Resemblance to any events that have taken place, or actions committed, is accidental. This blog post is not calling you out, you are not being targeted, and I don’t secretly hate you. Promise.
I’ve heard several stories in the last few weeks all about one topic. How important it is for authors to hit bestsellers lists, win literary awards, etc. But this isn’t advice, it’s authors who are putting so much stock into their book: it MUST do this, it HAS to hit that. And the thing of it is, the writers in question are typically debut authors expecting a gland slam right out of the gate (can you mix those metaphors? Oh well). They equate the success of their book, their personal satisfaction with being published, and their self-image with this idea that you HAVE to win awards like the Printz. You HAVE to hit the New York Times bestseller’s list. You HAVE to be listed on the YALSA list of best books of 2009 or 2010. And it will be completely unfair/unacceptable/soul crushing if you don’t.
But here’s the thing…
Having your book published is NEVER a failure. So why act like the only thing that will salvage your book being in stores is if you achieve X, Y, or Z? Some people or books are predisposed to hit the bestseller list – it’s true. Sometimes, the buzz of the book is so huge, or the promotion put INTO a book is so significant, that a debut author DOES hit the list. But the fact is that this isn’t the norm.
I feel kind of like these things should be like a fantastic surprise. If I wake up tomorrow and there’s a present on my doorstep, that’s awesome! But I should never wake up expecting that there’s a present there, waiting for me. The point of getting awards, becoming a bestseller, and being listed is that it’s an honor, not an expectation.
When you hold yourself up to a level where you expect to hit the list, and you’ll be disappointed if you don’t (especially as a DEBUT author), then it stops being about putting out the best book out there. It’s not about the book at all. You’re just looking for the attention: you want someone to pat you on the head and acknowledge that you’re special.
Think about how this sounds, too. When you tell people you expect to hit a list, or it will be completely unfair if you DON’T, you sound entitled. Spoiled. Arrogant. People talk. And saying things you shouldn’t is like playing a game of Telephone with your reputation. By the time that story starts to spread, who knows how it sounds?
I don’t write my books for awards, lists, and bestseller lists. I write my books because I have a story that I want to tell, or I have a theme I want to explore, or I generally like a concept. My reward is in hearing that other people liked the book, that it made someone else’s day, and that someone enjoyed my characters. That’s what it’s about.
All the rest is cake.