There are expectations too, your own and from others, but like the meticulous planning of your novel that went out the window with draft seven, you can’t control expectations or how your book will be received.
What you can do is accept that you’ve reached a huge goal, and a few other things, such as the following…
Things To Accept When You Put A Book Into The World
You’ll Get Support… The First Time Around
If the book you’re putting into the world is your first release, congrats! There will be plenty of support.
If you’re active in the writing community and have supportive friends and family, everyone will be just as excited as you. They’ll buy your book, tell others, share your social media posts, and some will even leave you a review.
If your latest book is your second, third or more, the reality is that the support will wane.
Is anyone obliged to buy, read or support your work? No. Do you expect them to? No. Are you a little hurt when they don’t acknowledge a release, no matter if it’s your fifth or fiftieth? Sure, you’re only human. But support is support, and you’ll humbly and graciously take whatever anyone is willing to give.
Marketing Doesn’t End
It doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published or self-published, most marketing is up to you.
You’re also required to do regular long-term marketing. You need to keep it going months after release, and most of the time, you’ll feel you’re getting nowhere and just shouting into the void at people who don’t care, would never buy it, or have bought it and just scroll on.
By the time you’re onto multiple releases, there’s multiple marketing to keep on top of. I currently alternate between both books I have published (promoting the first one week, then the other the next), and soon I will add my third book into that mix. Does it help? Hopefully.
In the world of social media, you’re gaining new followers all the time. Not all of them have heard of your work, so it is important to talk about your releases regularly. A snippet of your story shared, or a glowing book review could catch the eye of a new follower and just might be what encourages them to take a chance on your work.
Market around anniversaries too. Do giveaways if you can. And if you notice Amazon has reduced the price of your book at some point (they seem to do this randomly and with no notice to you), make sure you let your followers know. Just a screenshot of the special price and a post about it is enough.
Try not to worry that you’re bothering followers or talking about your books too much. As long as you’re not spamming your feeds multiple times a day with the same post or posting nothing other than book/marketing posts, you’ll probably find you’re not actually doing enough (the irony!).
Balance marketing content with different writer/you content, and keep it consistent and regular. It’ll all help in the long run.
Elements Of Your Book Will Be Misunderstood
No matter how clear you think you’ve made things, how you picture a character in your head or your intention behind your written words, someone will misunderstand or misinterpret what’s on the page.
This happened to me when a review incorrectly stated that my books don’t have any diverse characters. One of the main characters of the series is mixed race, the main character in book one is a POC, and there are minor characters throughout the entire series who have diverse backgrounds.
I tried to get this information across in the names of characters and minimal descriptions because I wanted readers to make up their own minds about how a character looks without me imposing it on them.
This, of course, is most likely what led to the confusion of this reader. That’s a lesson I’ve now learned for future releases, and if I was just starting to write this series now in 2022 instead of when I did, which was back in 2001, I definitely would have taken a different approach.
At the end of the day, you can put as much info into your book as you think is necessary to lead a reader in the right direction for picturing a character, understanding their actions, getting their personality, even what they’re wearing and where they’re standing within a scene, and it can still be misunderstood. Someone else’s interpretation is not in your control.
What you can control is making things as clear as possible, and then learning and improving from the experience if you find out later that you fell short of that goal.
Reviews Will Always Be Scarce
In the two years since my first and second books were released (6 months apart), the first has so far garnered 51 reviews, and the second 19 (this is on Goodreads. Amazon has 20 and 12).
I’ve sold more of each book than those numbers, so I know more people have read them or (hopefully) intend to read them at some point (who among us hasn’t bought a book and then left it languishing in our TBR pile for two years? *Raises hand*).
Some readers don’t have Goodreads or can’t leave a review on Amazon because they haven’t bought enough Amazon products (yep, that’s a thing). Some just don’t leave a review because it’s not what they do after reading a book. That’s fine, they’re not obligated to. This is why reviews will always be scarce, and why you need to chalk them up to another author issue that’s out of your control.
In the same way that you can’t control if a review will be terrific or terrible, you just have to hope and be happy with every review that you do get. So, thank you to anyone who has or will ever leave a review for one of my books. It is always appreciated.
Sales Can’t Be Predicted And Will Ebb And Flow
Sales could start out high, slow to a dribble, then dry up completely until your next release. Or they could come in low, have a boom for a reason you may never know, and sell a few copies a month for a good stretch of time, and then nothing for 6 months.
You’ll try different marketing options, Facebook ads, Book Bub campaigns, social media posts, book cover competitions, and learn how to make an animated book teaser video. Some of these options may work, but some will be more work than they’re worth.
Your sales may surprise you, or they may be bitterly disappointing. Most likely, the only thing they will be is not enough to allow you to quit your day job.
You’ll Be Surprised By Who Picks Up Your Book
My books are YA, which means they’re written for young adults and feature teenagers as the main characters. I only personally know of two actual teenagers who have read my books. Everyone else has been older, some even in their 50s and 60s.
Does that mean I’ve failed to find my target audience? Yes. Do I care? No.
I read across genres too. If a book sounds appealing to me, I’ll read it, no matter who it’s supposed to be written for. A good read is a good read. I hope that’s what anyone who picks up my books thinks too.
It’s You Who Will Be The Harshest Critic
And finally, no one will know your book like you do.
No one will love it as much. No one will spend as much time reading its words as you. No one else will know about the bad first drafts, the darlings that were cut, and no one will agonize over the typos spotted a year after release.
No one else will remember that one slightly negative comment in an otherwise glowing review or the misunderstandings about your book and the characters. They won’t feel the failure of book sales that grind to a halt or experience the wishes that you’d written/edited/done things differently.
The harshest critic of your work will always be you, but you also need to be your biggest cheerleader.
If your book is out in the world being read by strangers, you’ve achieved something others—writer or not—may never experience. Embrace that!
Accept it along with the much-appreciated and waning support, the endless marketing, the misunderstandings, the up and down sales, the elusive reviews, and a wonderful and unpredictable audience.
From time to time, please remember those things over your self-doubt and give yourself the praise you so rightly deserve for putting a book into the world.
— K.M. Allan