What to Expect, and Not to Expect, When Your Book Is Published Managing expectations and the realities of book sales, being an author, and the writing life.

Publishing a book is a big deal and you should be proud of your accomplishment. Writing is hard, often thankless, work. Authors are known to toil away at their keyboards, often at odd hours of the night, pouring their guts and soul onto the page. Sometimes, they do things that would appear utterly nonsensical to non-writers — things such as scrawling phrases like, “the dying strawberries are her mother,” on bits of napkin and then organizing the bits of napkin in a binder, or printing and rearranging phrases of articles about 16th century farming practices at four in the morning.

Even the most organized writers, are by definition, dreaming. To write is to tell stories about things that might not have even happened, on pages that might never be read. There’s an advantage to dreaming, however. After all, if everything goes well, you’ll finish your magnum opus, get a multi-million-dollar book deal and retire early.

Except, that’s not typical. So few authors are able to survive solely off publishing their books, writers wonder why they don’t just play the lottery instead. Here’s a no-nonsense list of what to expect, and what not to expect, when your book is published.

  • Do expect everyone you know to ask you for a free copy. Remember all those people you explained your book to? They’re going to want to read it, for free. Kindly direct them to where they can purchase a copy.
  • Don’t expect to have a free copy for everyone who asks. Whether you use a publishing company or self-publish, copies come at a cost.
  • Do expect the world to keep turning. Life will go on as usual. This might anger you. Stay strong.
  • Don’t expect to wake up to a new life. You’re the same person you were yesterday — published, yes, but still the same.
  • Do expect your friends to tell you that they saw your book in a bookstore window.
  • Don’t expect to actually see your book in the very same bookstore window.
  • Do expect to feel proud of your accomplishment. You’re published! Think about all the “writers” who only think about writing.
  • Don’t expect that feeling of pride to last forever. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Then get to work on how you’re going to market, sell, and manage your publication.
  • Do expect other writers to ask you for advice.
  • Don’t expect to know what advice to give.
  • Do expect reviews.
  • Don’t expect good reviews. Not all the time, anyway.

Being a published author is not for the thin-skinned. Having realistic expectations about your book’s success is integral to more than just protecting your ego. Even famous authors’ books have flopped, and some authors never even published in their lifetimes. Publishing your book is a tremendous accomplishment; however, that accomplishment just might not come with a tremendous check.

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