It’s one thing to hope for the best, and quite another to cling to false hope. It’s good to have faith, but not to leave one's fate in the hands of wishful thinking or fantastical fantasy. There’s a fine line between being enthusiastically positive and utterly unrealistic. Sure, Don Quixote taught us a thing or two about living with passion and hope. But he is a fictional character (not to mention, crazy).


So where’s the balance? Never is this question more important than when venturing into the strange world of modern-day publishing. The mere decision to write a novel is itself a leap of faith—faith that anyone will care enough to read it; faith that our idiosyncratic ramblings might actually entertain or touch someone. This faith requires a certain trust in the Universe and its flawed human inhabitants—that it and they will treat us kindly, yet be constructively honest; that our wholly illogical choice to expose and render ourselves vulnerable to the fickle whims of the “literary marketplace” will be met with affirmative interest and not apathy (or worse, ridicule).

There isn’t a writer among us who does not embark on this path with visions of landing a six-figure publishing deal and becoming obscenely popular. But like the five stages of grief, we must slowly adjust our expectations when reality inevitably sets in. As we begin to receive rejections (either in the form of terse emails or, more typically, silence) we consider it a huge success if a lone agent asks to read a chapter or two. If we’re lucky enough to have this happen, our emotions spin out of control in a maelstrom of deranged optimism. Then, our hopes are just as instantly dashed when we receive the inevitable rejection (the only difference being that this time, it came later rather than sooner).

So we decide to self-publish. We’ll show them! Our book will be the one-in-a-million that “goes viral” and attains astronomical sales figures. We tell ourselves this, even knowing that the average self-published book sells only 100 to 150 copies (a few more if you have an especially big family or large circle of friends).  When faced with our particular version of that inescapable reality, we eventually go through those five stages:

           Denial (Amazon’s not showing all my sales!)

           Anger (I cannot believe readers are so stupid they can’t appreciate what a masterpiece I’ve written!)

           Bargaining (Please, God, if you’ll just take that zero off my account this month, I’ll do anything–I promise never to write another book again!)

           Depression (What’s the point? I’ll never be a successful writer!)

           And finally, acceptance (Okay, I’m not selling a thousand copies a month; in a good month, I’m lucky to sell ten. But you know what? That’s great! Someone out there is actually buying my book!)

If I could offer a few words of advice to new writers, it would be: Keep your expectations realistic. Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Miracles do happen, but they are few and far between. Don’t waste your time getting swept up in fantasies of fame and fortune. Channel that energy into honing your craft and writing the best book possible—something you can really be proud of—now, and years from now.