Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

Expectation is a Bitch

on January 24, 2014

I haven’t posted about something personal in a while, but I’ve been thinking about it. I’m just not sure how to talk about this. How to talk about how it feels to put all your hopes and dreams and needs and wants into your little book baby and have them come back to you with nothing but an empty echo.

For a mid-list author, which I’m not even sure I can call myself, this is sometimes how a new book release can feel.

You think, this book is the one. The one that will make people see how awesome I am. That will make me a “name”. Well, you hope it anyway and when it’s not, what are you left with?

That’s what I’m struggling with right now. When a book gets great reviews, great blurbs, has a great cover and concept, but hasn’t reached your expectations, who is to blame?

Here’s what I’m left with: A niggling worm at the base of my skull that is trying to tell me that maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. A cloud over everything that seeps in and says maybe I’m good, but not great. A cackling voice that repeats that maybe whatever faith my agent, editor and publisher have in me is misguided.

This all just makes me wonder if  I will never reach the expectations I have for myself.

See, releasing a new book feels a hell of a lot like watching a baby bird take it’s first flight. Everything hinges on whether it soars, or falls to the ground in a heap because it wasn’t strong enough to fly. It can wobble in the air for a while and you can fool yourself into thinking yes, maybe this one will fly, but two months after a book has been out you can’t fool yourself anymore. Even if it’s still in the air, it isn’t going anywhere.

None of what I’m sharing should make anyone think I’m ungrateful for what I’ve achieved thus far. I know how hard it is to even have one person like your book, let alone enough people to publish it, but there is a truth that a lot of authors don’t talk about.

How do you keep writing when your career doesn’t necessarily feel like one?

They tell you not to worry about the business side. That you should focus only on what you can control– the work– but when you have a few books under your belt and you aren’t much further than where you were when the first one came out, it gives you pause.

I feel paused.

I wish I had some answers because I know that some of you reading this are looking for them, but I don’t.  All I have is that little light inside me struggling hard against the negativity and darkness that still believes I can do this.

I hope it never goes out.


11 responses to “Expectation is a Bitch

  1. We’re twins. But you already knew this. Chin up, my brave friend.

  2. Jen McConnel says:

    Hugs! I understand the feeling of expectation, but maybe a slow, steady burn is just as good as that missing explosion…at least, that’s what I tell myself.

    Keep writing. We need your words, and you need to live authentically. ❤

  3. You’re absolutely not alone in this. This is precisely how I feel too as an agented, published and yet still struggling author. The way I see it, my primary goal was to create and to have my creations, my stories, shared with the world. That’s happening albeit it slowly, so my primary goal has been achieved. As long as I keep writing and keep putting my stories out there for however many, or few, people to enjoy then that’s enough to fuel the light within me. I’m trying to focus on the positive and channel all the worry over sales figures and general career angst into something more positive too: the next book, because who knows what’ll happen next time.

    Don’t stop writing!

  4. I completely understand. I thought I was going where I wanted to go…published four books with a small press. And then….nothing. I could hardly even buy myself a value meal with my royalties. (I’m being completely serious). I asked myself all the questions you did, but I decided I wasn’t ready to give up. I knew I needed to make changes, and I did. I FINALLY wrote a book good enough to land me an agent. And she sold it to a big 6 publisher. I was ECSTATIC!!! But I won’t let myself get too excited. I have no clue what will happen this summer when that books comes out. I so badly want it to succeed…for it to take me where I want and need to go with my career…but there is a very good chance I could end up sad and disappointed…asking myself the same questions again. But if I am back in that place…where is there to go? I have the agent…I have the big 6 publisher. I can sanely tell myself now I will keep writing and keeping working hard, keep learning, keep praying for that big break. But if that time comes, who knows how I’ll feel. It won’t be the first time I wondered if I should give up.

    In this type of business….I think it’s natural to feel the way you feel. Our business is an art form and there’s no magic formula for success. Most other lines of work…you do the job, you do it to a certain specification, and boom…success. That’s not so with us. And sometimes that can really really suck.

    Sending hugs 🙂

  5. This could’ve been me writing this blog. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I don’t have answers either, except that at a certain point you have to let go of those high hopes for the current release and shift them to the next book. The NEXT book you’re writing will be “the one.” Eventually you’re bound to be right! (Statistics don’t lie) Keep writing! Keep dreaming!

  6. Ash says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    My debut novel just came out a month ago, and I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to not. As it turns out, expectations are the one thing that shouldn’t equate to happiness, but somehow success finds a way to weigh in, whether you want it to or not. I’m a broadway nerd, and one of my favorite shows is [Title of Show] (no, really, that’s the name of it). There’s a song called “Nine People’s Favorite Things” and every time a weasel of doubt, of failed expectations, of something that shuts my happiness and passion for writing down… I listen to it. And, no, it doesn’t magically lift my spirits, but it has a point, and it’s a point I agree with.

    “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than nine hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.”

    And, for me at least, that’s true. Because, in the beginning, writing was never about making money. It was about the exchange, between my words and the reader, and, for me, it’s sometimes hard to remember that when everyone else is caught up in Best-Sellers and book conventions and all the perks of being Really Liked.

    But that’s not being Really Loved, and being Really Loved doesn’t need to come with perks. It doesn’t need to yell.

    Your books are really loved, Lisa. I’m one of those nine people. ❤

  7. allysonlindt says:

    As an author, I can feel everything you’re saying, and I’m nodding in agreement as I read your entire post.

    As a huge, fan-since-Pretty-Amy fangirl, I hope that light grows brighter, and you’re able to cling to it with every single ounce of immense talent and skill you have.

  8. sophifrost says:

    The hope that the next one will be it. Best of Luck.

  9. Lynn Rae says:

    Boy, ooh boy can I relate to this. My expectations were for decent sales on my two books so far, but the dismal figures I have despite all my promo efforts are enough to make me cry whenever I allow myself to tally up the wasted effort. BUT, I’m writing another book, and it’s going to be better than the last, and I’ll submit it and it will be published and I’ll get on to the next one. That’s the part I can control and frankly, that’s where my satisfaction and joy are going to have to originate for the time being. Onward!

  10. Emmy Neal says:

    I think it’s Ally Carter who said that the best way to build a fanbase is to have a backlist, and the only thing that sells a backlist is a frontlist.

    I’ve been reading a lot of posts about persistence and patience on the internet this week (maybe it’s the New Year?) exactly when I needed to hear them. This business is HARD. Even when you’re not being rejected, sometimes it feels like it.

    You’ll catch your break. I know it. Just keep writing 🙂

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