Guest Post: Anika Scott on Managing Expectations in a Pandemic

I’m so happy to welcome a guest blogger today. Anika Scott, author of THE GERMAN HEIRESS (the same novel is called FINDING CLARA, in the UK), writes about the release of her highly anticipated and bestselling debut, which coincided with the global pandemic. I met Anika in an online group for debut writers. She’s generous, empathetic, and kind–overall, just the type of person I love to root for. I couldn’t be more pleased that THE GERMAN HEIRESS is currently spending its 4th week on the Canadian bestseller list. And, I love the advice she gives in this piece. What Anika says about expectations, I think, will resonate for debuts even in the best of times. Read on! (And then, when you’re done, pick up a copy of THE GERMAN HEIRESS wherever books are sold, including HERE at Bookshop.org)

Managing Expectations in a Pandemic

Almost like a bad joke, the launch dates of my debut novel seemed coordinated with the virus.

In the UK, Finding Clara launched on March 5 when the virus was already spreading fast in Europe, where I live. On launch day, I had a healthy dose of existential fear. I worried the book would launch into a void and my publicity events in the UK would be cancelled (they were). But mostly, I worried about the health of my family and friends. It wasn’t a very joyful launch.

The North American edition, The German Heiress, launched on April 7. By then, the virus had rolled across the Atlantic. My book appeared in what at the time was called “the worst week” in the USA for new cases and fatalities.

What in the world was I to expect from my book in that situation? Sales numbers plunged across the board, bookstores and libraries closed, people didn’t know just how deadly the virus was going to be. Launching a book is uncertain at the best of times, and now this? Really?

By April, I’d mostly accepted the situation, and I enjoyed my North American launch. But after about a week, there was a lull when I began to think about what success means to me. At what point would I be happy with my achievement? Does the book have to do well sales-wise for me to be happy with it? Was that a fair measure of success in a pandemic and global recession?

The obvious answer is getting the book out there is a great achievement on its own, and it is. But this is not a hobby; publishing is a business, and the numbers matter even in a pandemic. When I got my first week numbers, I needed my editor to explain to me why they were strong. They were good numbers – I know that now – but my expectations, based on zero previous experience! – were higher. Without knowing it, I had a largely random sales number in my head and thought the book fell short. It hadn’t actually. It was my pre-virus expectations clashing with the reality of our times.

In many ways, things are looking a bit better for debuts now. There was a groundswell of support for debut authors in my situation, and those online book clubs and virtual literary events are more established now. Bookstores got creative as they fought to survive, and some are opening up in places. Readers are still buying books, many supporting authors and local bookshops like they never did before.

But still, it’s likely that everyone launching in 2020 will feel the fallout of our times. So what are your expectations? What is your measure of success? At what point are you happy with your achievement?

My biggest piece of advice is not to lower expectations. If possible, throw them out altogether. All of us are navigating in new and choppy waters. The achievement of launching a book is huge, yet the biggest joy should come from the writing itself. Even if that’s especially hard right now, it’s the one thing we still have in our hands, no matter our expectations.

 

Anika Scott grew up outside Detroit, Michigan and has a BA in International Relations from Michigan State University and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University in New York. She worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune before moving to Germany in 2000. Since then she has freelanced for US and European media including Deutschlandfunk, and taught journalism at the Technical University in Chemnitz. She now lives in Essen with her husband and two daughters.

 

About THE GERMAN HEIRESS

Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s now left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about the dark secrets of her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to come out of hiding and return home to Essen and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives in Essen to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. Alone and in fear of what the future holds, she sets out to find Elisa and reveal the truth of her family.

As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob Relling, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other survive in this world of unrest—as long as they can stay ahead of the British officer determined to make Clara answer for her family’s complicity in the Nazi regime.

 Propulsive, meticulously researched, and action-fueled, The German Heiress is a mesmerizing page-turner filled with vivid characters and a dramatically nuanced portrait of post-war Germany. In this riveting story of courage and morality, Anika Scott deftly shines the spotlight on the often-overlooked perspective of Germans who were caught in the crossfire of the Nazi regime and had nowhere to turn.

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Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.