Ask most unpublished fiction writers about their goals and they’re likely to tell you they want to land a publishing contract and secure a spot on the bestseller list. The odds are heavily stacked against that kind of success, even for writers who produce a high-quality novel. High expectations can lead to disappointment and dejection.
My expectations have shifted over the years–not that I ever got deluded into thinking I would get on The New York Times bestseller list. It’s not that I don’t believe I am capable of writing a bestseller, but I’m a realist. Goals and expectations are two different things. A writer should set realistic goals and work to achieve them. Expectations are a different animal. Writers in many cases set realistic goals and unrealistic expectations. There is a school of thought that if a writer puts in the time and effort over a period of years, success will naturally follow. In short, a writer could do everything right, from learning the craft to producing a gem of a novel, and still struggle along as an unpublished author.
I’ve read numerous blog posts by writers (accomplished or not) who seem stunned and hurt that they have not gotten published. It’s a numbers game. By some estimates a million books (traditional and self-published) are produced each year. Publishers select books that they believe will sell. I know unpublished writers who are probably in the 90th percentile among traditional and self-published authors in terms of the quality of their writing, but they have not succeeded in attracting a wide audience for their work.
My expectation is to produce and publish a novel each year. My goal is to eventually achieve sufficient revenue from sales to support my writing habit–enough to hire a book editor, designer, marketing support and maybe attend a writer’s conference or two. About ten grand would be nice, but I’m nowhere near that now. That is clearly a “stretch goal.”
Some might describe these as low goals and expectations, but unreachable goals only produce frustration and disappointment.
What are your goals and expectations?