The other evening I was at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff minding my own self’s business while waiting in line to see Saturn through their HUGE telescope. I’ve lived in Phoenix two years now, and we rarely have cloudy days or nights. It’s great for star gazing if you can get away from the light pollution of the city. Anywhoooo, it just happened to be one of Flagstaff’s partially cloudy nights when I was standing in the block-plus long line to see the ringed planet. When we’d entered the observatory, we’d been told of the cloud situation, but I held out hope. I’d come to see Saturn, so I’d see Saturn. No cloud would stop me!
So an hour into the line, I’m about twenty people from the entrance and getting excited because I’ve only seen pictures of Saturn and now I would be seeing the real thing. Then it happened. The clouds moved over this area of stars. I wasn’t worried. With the billions of stars out there, what were the chances this bunch of clouds had covered my view of the planet Saturn? One of the astronomers came out and said something on the lines of, “We didn’t want you all in line expecting to see Saturn, and not see Saturn. The clouds are moving and may be covering Saturn when you go inside, so let me give you a tour of what you’re seeing now.”
I was disappointed. I came to see Saturn and those dang blasted clouds were trying to stop me. I was disappointed because my expectations weren’t being met. He proceeded to whip out this way cool laser pointer that seemed to reach all the way to the stars. He pointed to different constellations and even Saturn. I was like, wow, I thought Saturn was another star.
By the time it was my turn to look through the telescope, I’d resigned myself to possibly not being able to see the rings of Saturn. Why set unrealistic expectations and then be disappointed? So I’ll give you one guess what I saw when I looked though the telescope—SATURN! Yeah baby, no stinking clouds would stop me. LOL. Seriously though, if I hadn’t of been able to see Saturn, I would have been slightly disappointed, but fine because I’d dropped my unrealistic expectations of seeing Saturn through the clouds.
How many times have you set your self up for disappointment by having unrealistic expectations?
Here are a few unrealistic expectations I hear way too often from authors looking for traditional publishers:
- Unrealistic Expectation: I won’t have to worry about marketing my book because the publishing house pays for marketing.
- Reality check – For most authors, unless you are bringing in Stephen King type money, the publishing house’s main goal is to get your novel into the bookstore and you will need to do the overwhelming majority of the marketing. The distributor for the publishing house usually creates a catalogue and presentation for book sellers such as Barnes & Noble to purchase your novel for their bookshelves. Many publishing houses have newsletters and websites that also promote the authors work, but for the most part, authors are on their own. You are responsible for your writing career.
- Unrealistic Expectation—My publisher is going to send me on an all expense paid book tour.
- Reality Check—Book tours are GREAT, but it’s usually the author who has set this up. The publisher may pay a little supporting role, but don’t expect a lot of cash to help you out. Expect flyers and sometimes they’ll give you contacts. At times book clubs will pay the authors expenses to come speak to their book club or the author pays out of their own pocket for conferences and such. Many times, authors choose to do a book tour, but to save on expense, they tour the region they live in or if they are on vacation, will do a signing or whatever while they are in that area.
- Unrealistic Expectation: I’ll be able to live off my advance and subsequent royalties.
- Reality Check—Most new authors do not understand how advances and royalties work. Here are a few facts.
- Advances for new authors usually range in the low thousands to the high hundreds. That’s not enough to live off.
- If an author makes eighty cents royalties off each book sale, they are ahead of most.
- Advance means advance on money you will be earning in the future. I have always thought of an advance as a payday loan without interest. Many authors do not understand that you must pay back the advance before you receive royalties. Don’t worry, the publishing house will not send you a bill. Let’s say you received $1000 advance and make fifty cent royalties from each novel sale. You’d need to sell 2000 novels to equal $1000. After you’ve sold 2000 novels, you will receive royalties on additional sales.
- Most authors (new or seasoned) do not sell enough novels to actually receive royalties. This is why many publishing houses are considering dropping advances.
Let’s move on to some unrealistic expectations in editing
- Unrealistic Expectation—The publishing house wouldn’t have picked up my novel if it needed developmental editing. Proofreading is all they’ll do.
- Reality Check—Your book may be fantastic, but there is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. ALL manuscripts go through editing, even the big name authors. True story. I was asked to edit this novel for a publishing house that was purchased as a traditional romance but was written as a mainstream fiction. I have NOOOOooooo idea what possessed them to pick up this novel as traditional romance and asked them to reconsider publishing it as mainstream. They still wanted it to be romance. Romance follows a formula, and this manuscript didn’t come close. Needless to say, when the author finished the rewrites, it was a different novel with a little of the flavor of the original. I felt so bad for the author, but when you sign that contract, you agree to make the edits. Granted, this horror story is rare, but once was too much for me. Many times authors have to change names, titles, settings, plots, eliminate characters, eliminate subplots…
- Unrealistic Expectation: When I work with a developmental editor, they’ll perfect my book.
- Reality Check—The developmental editor is not a ghost writer unless you pay them to be a ghost writer. The developmental editor can give you guidance on characterization, consistency, plot, setting, voice… and give suggestions on how you can make your novel the best it can be. But at the end of the day, the writing is yours. Not everyone has the same abilities. So when you complete your rewrites, you may not have that great American novel. Some write better than others. Some take comments and build on them, make them their own or come up with ideas that are even better. Some don’t. Some can’t. If you have comments from the editor you don’t understand or you need further elaboration on, don’t be afraid to ask.
- Unrealistic Expectation: When my novel is traditionally published, it won’t have any errors in it.
- Reality Check—Back in the day, novels went though seven to eight different pairs of trained eyes before they went to print and at times mistakes still slipped by. Those days are gone. No one can catch all of the errors, which is why so many pairs of eyes used to check to ensure the manuscript was correct. But not anymore. Cost cuts hit proof reading years ago. I HIGHLY SUGGEST everyone take a grammar/punctuation class at least every other year. Clean your novel up the best you can.
Whew, I’m tired. There are a TON more unrealistic expectations, but I thought I’d let you chime in. Come on, tell folks what unrealistic expectations you’ve come across and what the reality is.
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