The Writer’s Life In A Changing World—Lower Expectations?
In his insightful blog, Seth Godin offers two separate lists (list 1, list 2) of marketing tips for writers. I want to reflect a bit on what he has in the number-one position on each list; they’re closely related:
1. Lower your expectations. The happiest authors are the ones that don’t expect much. (2005)
1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business. The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed.
On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority. (2006)
Any comparison of the number of books published versus the number of authors making useful amounts of money at it is damn sobering stuff. Seth Godin certainly has his facts straight. The odds are definitely against you achieving anything that resembles business success.
I have, however, a question about lowering our expectations. Does the unlikelihood of ever realizing material success or fame from your writing mean you should lower your expectations? Or should you, instead, adopt different sets of expectations—aligned with marketplace realities—that are high nonetheless?
I have a lot of respect for Seth Godin, especially because he makes me think hard about things. Moreover, I think he’s right, but only to a point. This man, who’s forgotten more about marketing than I’ll ever know, is somewhat off the mark here. What he said applies only to your business expectations. Here’s why that’s important: