The “I Know This Book Will Sell” Myth

Like most newer authors trying to navigate the publishing waters alone, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done. I wrote a book I thought would sell. I convinced myself the book was what agents and/or editors would want! It’s not that I regret writing the book, because having a finished book is never a bad thing. What gets me is the expectations I put on myself and the book.

When we write what we think others will want instead of what we’re passionate about, we set ourselves up for failure. What I mean is we get it into our heads that the book is a sure thing…when we all know there is no such thing as a sure thing.

So why do we do it? Why do we hype ourselves up and trick ourselves into that way of thinking?

While I can’t speak for anyone else, I know I did it out of frustration. I had parted ways with my literary agent and dissolved a three book contract. I had been hurt by the industry and wanted so badly to succeed. I lied to myself.

I’ve learned a lot over the past two years. More than I thought I would, and in different ways. I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I sought validation through a project I just knew would sell. And even though I’m proud of the book I’ve written, I don’t think it was the right decision at the time. Plus, putting such lofty expectations on it only left room for failure…because anything other than selling that sure thing would be just that, failure.

Navigating the publishing waters is difficult enough. It’s even harder when we put such ridiculous expectations on our work. There is a difference between confidence and believing you have a sure fire hit on your hands.Every author should stand behind their work. If we didn’t, we’d be little more than frauds. What we shouldn’t do is think we have some kind of golden ticket.

I posted some time ago how I was writing a book based on a successful short story of mine. I thought if the short story sold and was received well, the book most certainly would too. The truth is I never got that far with the book. It never felt right. The timing still doesn’t feel right. After much thought, I decided to write the kind of story that makes my inner geek excited. It’s a sci-fi and horror mash up similar in tone to the Aliens franchise. Survival horror always makes my heart sing. (Believe me, I don’t like talking about doing something without having done the thing first. I think it makes me look like a braggart d-bag.)

Don’t get me wrong anything that helps an author finish a project is a good thing. It simply rings truer when the creator is behind the project body, mind, and soul.

Minor Note: The “I know this book will sell” way of thinking can work. You just need to be a successful author with a proven fan-base first. If you don’t have either of those things, the “I know this book will sell” mentality won’t work because you have no track record of success.

What about you? Have you ever written something simply because you thought it would sell? If you have, let us know how that turned out. We’d love to know. Until next time, thanks for reading…and be good to one another.

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