A talented young writer emailed me and asked me what kind of expectations she should have for her first novel, which is soon to be published. I replied:
I think it’s best not to have expectations with your first book beyond the following:
1. You wrote a book and you sold it and they are publishing it and you love your book. So that is a huge success and you should be proud of yourself. Let yourself enjoy this moment.
2. This book will open new doors for you that you did not even know existed before. Maybe it means you will be able to get a grant, maybe you will be able to write for a new publication, maybe you will get into a fancy residency program, maybe you will win an award. The career of a writer does not begin and end with a book. It is just one part along the spectrum of the writing life.
3. There will be really lovely reviews that will make you float on air.
4. Someone from your past will probably contact you and it will either be awesome or creepy, but at any rate some sort of wormhole will open in your life, and most writers ultimately appreciate that sort of thing.
5. Book party.
6. Pretty dress for book party.
7. Seriously be proud of yourself. No one will ever be able to take this book away from you.
To the downside:
1. Maybe you will sell a few books, but do not count on making it big. It is so hard to earn out. My agent’s assistant just sent me my royalty statement, only now they call it my “unearned royalty statement.” For real.
2. Stay off the internet if you can help it.
3. There will be all this attention at once and then there will be none and then you will be sad. This is when you write/finish a new book or go out of town for a while or I guess you can drink a lot?
That’s all I got! Yes, do everything you can for the book. Invent stuff, make it fun, don’t fake it, be authentic to who you are and what you love and what your voice is. Your voice is a great asset! And remember: you live in New York City for a reason! Make magic happen.