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Great Expectations

In a twist of fate, former contributor MJ Rose sent an email this morning mentioning she had written a from-the-gut post that seemed right for WU. We had no post scheduled for today. The rest is history. Please welcome MJ Rose [1] back to WU for a post on the after-pub blues, which comes on the heels of the publication of her latest novel, the beautiful The Witch of Painted Sorrows [1].

photo by Fernando Messino [2]
photo by Fernando Messino

Apropos of a few blog posts I’ve read elsewhere and posts here and there, and my own book coming out last week… I’ve been thinking about “post-pub-blues.”

I think one of the real problems we authors face is that in order to write a book–to do all the research, to juggle day jobs and family and make sacrifices to find time to write, to sweat over words and paragraphs and characters, to sometimes bleed on the page–we have to believe what we are creating is not only wonderful and amazing and worth what we are giving it, but that there is no other book like it.

We have to be huge optimists.

We have to believe in the impossible.

Certainly our books are good. But in reality, there are hundreds of good books published every month…and thousands and thousands every year. And no matter what I tell myself while I’m writing, to keep myself writing, I know the truth. And the truth is I don’t write miracles. I just tell stories.

Yes, they are often fine stories. But are they really wake-up-in-the-morning-and-shout-from-the-rooftops-no-one-has-ever-written-a-book-like-this-before-oh-my-god-stop-the-world stories?

No. Not even if that’s what it took for me to believe that in order to write it. They are not.

And that’s where the problem lies.

The contracts we are offered and the reception our books receive, no matter how good, almost never ever ever matches what we expect, because what we had to believe in order to write the book put the book on a pedestal where it almost never belongs.

The only authors I’ve ever met who are not disappointed post-writing–including those who make seven figures a book and/or get reviewed in the NYT–are the authors for whom true lighting has struck and lotteries have been won: those one or two authors a year who hit Gone Girl level.

cover_witch_sorrows [1]The rest of us? We moan and try to drown our great expectations in dirty martinis or wine–or pick your poison–and curse the writing gods and feel sorry for ourselves.

The fact is this: Writing is an art and publishing is a business. If you tie your happiness to the business instead of the art you are bound to be disappointed every time. That’s because no business is kind; rather it’s a machine that needs product to keep itself going. And as much as we like to think we are making art, once we turn it in, it’s a product.

But if you can tie your happiness and expectations to the writing, you can be thankful for a talent that takes you on great escapes and gives you pleasure, or when it gives you pain makes you feel more alive than almost anything (except maybe sex). When you tie your happiness and expectations to the writing, it’s all in your control and you can revel in it.

And, if you can do that, it becomes much much easier to let the business just happen…even if it never matches up to those great expectations.

About M.J. Rose [3]

M.J. Rose [4] is the international and NYT's bestselling author of several novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. In 2005 she founded the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz [5], and is the co-founder of BookTrib [6] and Peroozal [7]. She's a founding member of ITW.