Claire King


On not being the most anticipated…

Posted on: December 29th, 2014 by admin - 14 Comments

I was reading my twitter feed this morning, which suddenly seemed to be flooded with links to articles listing the Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2015! the 10 Authors to watch in 2015! and What’s going to be hot in 2015! and whilst I’m always happy to see authors being bigged-up and their books recognised and given a leg up in the sea of new releases, I couldn’t help but feel for the many debut authors who might be hoping to see their books on those lists and who are now feeling the pangs of disappointment because they are not.

I remember how, as a debut novelist in 2013, at the end of 2012 these lists were coming out and I came to the realisation that even though the launch of my first novel was MY most hotly anticipated moment in 2013, I wasn’t going to be making much of a splash in literary circles. At least not in that way.

I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years, and I made a comment on twitter to the novelists not on the lists about how it doesn’t really matter at all…and ended up having a lovely (backstage) chat with author Sarah Perry, whose debut novel After Me Comes the Flood was published this year (to much critical acclaim, by the way).

The thing is, MOST new authors go through this. MOST of us are not the most anticipated. But if your pool of debut authors is limited to you and the ones everyone is shouting about on twitter and in the newspapers it’s very easy to feel like the poor relation. It’s very easy to have your perspective skewed and your excitement diminished by things that, quite frankly, don’t really affect you that much at all.

Other people, family and friends, may unwittingly add to this feeling, because they are excited for you and they too don’t see how your book is, in fact, a drop in an ocean. Hopefully you are able to have an honest conversation with your agent and your publishers, because they have done this all before with other debuts before you, and are face to face on a daily basis with the vagaries and the difficulties of the publishing industry.

In 2013 I was lucky enough to have other authors to talk to, like Vanessa Gebbie whose debut The Coward’s Tale had been launched the year before mine, and Kate Worsley whose debut She Rises launched the same time The Night Rainbow did, also with Bloomsbury. But you’ll still need to find a way to manage this yourself.

I was going to say you can’t compare yourself to other people, or compare your book to other books, but of course you can and you probably will, in all these ways and more:

World of buzzwords

The list goes on and on and on and you can let it drive you crazy. In fact you probably have to take a conscious decision *not* to let it drive you crazy, not to diminish the pure unbridled joy of signing that book contract a year or two before (I can hear all the unpublished writers out there yelling, “Seriously? You got published! Be grateful!”).

In the end – in publishing just as in life – the noise and the superlatives and the LISTS and the rankings, they detract from what is important. From what is important to YOU.

Do you really care if you didn’t make a top ten list? Does that spoil it for you? (Because it’s not necessarily an indication of how well your book is going to sell, you know?) Does it truly matter to you if someone else’s book has more buzz around it than yours, or more marketing budget? Would those things have mattered to you when you were pitching your novel for publication? Have your publishers let you down? Have you let yourself down? Has Lady Luck let you down? Or is it, in the end, just buzz and fluff that can be the icing on the cake for those who get on the lists and win the prizes? It’s not as if you still don’t have the cake itself.

For all the debut novelists of 2015, I have three pieces of advice:

1)  Don’t lose perspective of where you are, what you have achieved, the dreams that you have brought to life.

2) Keep on hoping, but focus on the things you can affect: Writing the next book. Reading other people’s books. Improving your work.

3) Talk to other people. Talk to other authors about their experiences, because all of this is the tip of the publishing iceberg and after all this launch business dies down, what you are left with is this – you’re a writer, and somewhere, some readers are already anticipating your next book. You need to sit down and write it.

Happy New Year to you all, and may 2015 be wonderful for you in a myriad of unexpected ways. xxx

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post Claire. My debut novel comes out in late 2015 and this is great advice, especially no 1. I will work hard not to lose sight of how far I’ve come to get to this point.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Helen. I think most post-debut authors would tell you to just enjoy it. You’ll be a changed person at the end of it all and actually it feels really good 🙂

  2. Annecdotist says:

    Lovely post, Claire, and very generous to those of us trying to follow in your slipstream with a novel out in 2015. I’m not sure whether it might be a little easier for those of us coming out via small publishing houses with a lot of enthusiasm but not a lot of clout (because it can’t be that I’m getting more grounded in my old age).
    I think you make a good point about how difficult it is if the only writers you know (of) are yourself and the Big Names – friends especially are often in this position, as I’ve had to explain that no, I’m unlikely to be interviewed for the Jeremy Vine show!
    I look forward to discovering more debut novelists for my website Q&A’s next year, whether they’re on the big lists or otherwise.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you Anne. I do think there’s a lot to be said for the smaller publishing houses. One of the reasons I love Bloomsbury is that it’s a relatively small team and relatively small lists, which keeps things pretty personal for the authors and as you say, enthusiasm is very high!
      Looking forward to cheering you on through your launch!

  3. Thanks for this great post, Claire – I’m not in this league (only published abroad), but I still find myself doing the inevitable comparisons (eg on Amazon). I’ve had to get strict with myself and go back to why I started this journey in the first place. Originally, it was to see if I could write 2,500 words – then suddenly my name was listed next to ‘HG Wells’ on my agent’s website! It’s so easy in the buzz-filled social media network to get swept along and then feel aggrieved when sales/recognition/rankings aren’t up there with the best. Thanks for this reminder! And The Night Rainbow is beside me on my PC desk as a truly aspirational novel!

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Alison. Oh I really don’t think it’s a question of league! And “Only” published abroad is still published! But I know what you mean. Sadly even with great, agented books, so many factors mean they don’t get picked up for years. Or if they do, sales can be disappointing. It’s a funny old business, the success stories I like best are those who have been at this for years and finally get their big breakthroughs. They’re the best illustration of what it takes – stamina!

  4. This is a great post – thank you! My debut comes out in March and I’ve had all the doubts that you mention, and even though in some dark recess of my mind, your advice was already something I’d considered – seeing it written here from the perspective of someone who knows, really cements it for me! I need to get going with the next book after lots of false starts… because hopefully soon, even if just one person is waiting for the next one, I have the duty to write it! 🙂

  5. Claire says:

    Thanks Susi. I’m really glad you found it helpful. I think that in places like twitter we don’t necessarily like to admit to our disappointments because partly it seems ungracious to our contemporaries who have made the lists (and most authors I know are always delighted for others who are doing well) and partly not wanting to seem silly for having held out the hope in the first place. And perhaps not wanting to come across as ungrateful for what we do have. But if you read too many of the plaudits as a debutante it’s a bit like reading Cosmo as a teenager and thinking all women can look like the airbrushed models rather than realising what we have is already brilliant.
    I hope you have a lovely year launching your debut into the world, and that you have the confidence to crack on with the next one! x

  6. Wise words, Claire. Being a contrary besom, I tend to avoid the most-likelys and the listed. Have a great year of writing in 2015.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Anne, and you too! I have to say I am feeling extremely positive about 2015. I’m full of new words for book 3, and also looking forward to polishing up book 2 with my editor.
      I tend to go on word of mouth for my reading. Rarely disappointed!

  7. Gail Nall says:

    Love this. Thank you for posting it, Claire! I’m a ’15 debut (next month, in fact), and have found myself stepping away from Twitter in order to avoid seeing those “most anticipated” lists. Must remember that I already have the cake! It’s so easy to get caught up in what we don’t have, that we forget what it is we do have.

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