Debut authors get told, a lot, to moderate their expectations.
I didn’t need to be told that. Sure, I might dream of selling millions of copies of From Unseen Fire, getting a Netflix deal, having people obsessively discuss the series and write fanfic and wonder what will happen next. My parents certainly think all that’s going to happen. I want all that to happen. But expect? Of course not.
I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to be the ridiculous girl who thought things were going to happen that then didn’t come through. So I dropped my expectations so low that I sort of lost sight of the fact that… publishing a book is a really cool thing, all on its own.
It’s a weirdly hard thing to keep sight of sometimes.
Because the publishing world is a constant feeding frenzy where we’re all just trying to spread as much of our own blood in the water as we can. And it never feels like enough. A few months out from publication, you’re told that the window for garnering interest has closed. You’re not on the “best of” lists. You’re not on lists highlighting books with features that yours definitely has. You’re not being begged for interviews or panel appearances. You’re not a stunning new darling. You’re not a bestseller. You’re just slicing open your own veins, again and again, begging for at least a few little lemon sharks to take a nibble.
(That metaphor got weird. Sorry. I’m living at the beach and it’s almost Shark Week on the Discovery Channel).
The reality is that… nothing much in my life has changed since publication. I have not been transformed. I’m still the same person, living the same life I would’ve been otherwise. I still spend many days feeling small and inconsequential.
Except that I have a book out in the world. Except that people are reading it. Except that some people are loving it.
So this is what I try to remind myself. Maybe those dreams will come true someday. Maybe they won’t. But right now, I can take joy in every reader. I can be thrilled by each new five-star review. I can twirl in giddiness when a friend I hadn’t expected to hear from tells me — or tells Amazon — how much they enjoyed it. I can blush with delight when a total stranger proclaims it the best book she’s read this year. I can be excited every time a customer at the shop holds up From Unseen Fire and says, “Wait… this is you?”
I’m not George R R Martin. I’m not Naomi Novik or Cat Valente or Kate Elliott. I’m not even enjoying as much immediate success as some of my fellow 2018 debut authors.
But there was a day when they weren’t them yet, either.
I have no expectation that I’ll get there. But I’m sure gonna keep trying.
Want to be the next person who makes Cass smile? Get yourself a copy of From Unseen Fire and leave a review!