Balancing gratitude and entitlement

Authors are terrible people. I feel sorry for those who need to deal with us in a professional setting. Even authors who are perfectly nice in their personal life become extremely anxious when it comes to issues related to their career. For instance, every author I know feels annoyed that their publisher didn’t ‘do’ enough for their book. This is one gripe I’ve never had, to be honest. Like, shit, with my first book, that thing was everywhere. Tons of people had heard of it! They just didn’t like it. If people had liked the book, it would’ve done a lot better. (Note, I still love the book, just saying it didn’t exactly click with the market).

And with my current book, I’m like shit, this book is everywhere! People are tweeting every day that it’s one of their most anticipated books for 2020. I’m like how do you even hear about books like mine? Jesus, I have NO idea which books are coming out this year, and I am an author! But somehow they do. I mean I don’t think the publisher has done much to make them aware, but they seem to be hearing about the book okay.

But I still have anxieties. I have written A LOT of books that haven’t sold to publishers. And each time I’m like, “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy???? The book is so much better than the crap you normally publish!”

I’ve also written a lot of books that my various agents have not wanted to put on sub. Each time I’m like, “But yyyyyy?????? If it’s not salable just let the editors decide!”

It must be unbearable.

See, the thing is, I completely get it. If you are on the outside (or, I suppose, if you’re a successful author, but I’m not friends with too many of those), you have no idea how brutal the book business is. Editors are getting fired all the time. And as for agents? They’re all the time putting projects that they really believe in on the market and seeing them not sell! There are so many books out there looking for homes, and there really aren’t enough readers for them all. I mean my first book was an example! Both the publisher and the agent (and myself) thought it was going to be a breakout hit, but once it got onto the market, people were like…but I don’t like this character. Reading this book does nothing for me. It brings me no pleasure.

Now I was reading Enter Title Here the other night, and I have to say, this book is amazing. It’s so good. I love this book. And yeah you could be like, the book didn’t find its readership. But…sometimes…the readership just isn’t there. I think we’ve found that the YA audience isn’t really looking for anti-heroes. (Maybe that’s because the YA audience is mostly girls? I dunno. Although actually I never thought of Reshma as an anti-hero, to me she was just a hero, but I am literally the only person in the world who has that reaction to her. Even my wife hates Reshma! Although she does love the book).

I definitely feel like the book should have been a hit. I just don’t see how it could have been a hit. I don’t think the publisher can actually manufacture hits where no hit-potential exists. But I still feel like the book should’ve been a hit! I think it’s really hard for authors to face the fact that sometimes the readership isn’t there*.

This is what I mean about authors being insane.

Writing wouldn’t be nearly so infuriating if the books that got published weren’t quite frequently so terrible! Like, when I was a baby author, I just assumed terrible books were published because they’d run out of good books to publish. Now, as a grown-up author, I know that good books go unsold so that terrible books can be acquired. And then those terrible books often become hits. It’s madness, but what can you do?

Even writing these sorts of thoughts often strikes people as entitled. In fact, much of the whining that published authors do comes across, even to me, as pretty entitled. Like…nobody owes you the publication of your book. Nobody owes you awards. Nobody owes you their attention or their readership.

And yet…on some level, I have to admit, I do think that great books are owed all of those things. Maybe this is the impetus behind English department curriculums. You just feel like people ought to somehow be educated into loving all the things that nuanced and complex and beautiful.

But to what end? Ultimately, it’s okay for people to not read stuff. It doesn’t really hurt anybody. And the people who want good stuff have plenty of it they can find.

Which is where gratitude comes in. I am honestly grateful just to be in print. As I learn more and more about this industry, it strikes me as even more of a miracle that my books sold in the first place, and I’m extremely happy that my second book is gonna be unleashed on the world in a few months! I haven’t lost the hope that it’ll be a hit. It’s not entirely impossible! But I think that the people who need to read my book will manage to get ahold of it, and that makes me happy. There are so many books that need to be out there–books that could make a huge difference to one or ten or a thousand readers–which will never get that chance.

*On a sidenote, sometimes authors complain because their books are exactly as bad as the books that did become hits, and they’re like, “My book is exactly like the popular stuff; why didn’t it get picked?” I wanna be all like, err, that’s not something to be proud of, but I keep quiet.