Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Motivation - On disappointment

"If I could only sell a book to a publisher, then..."

"If I could only get a large advance and a big marketing push, then..."

"If I could only get some starred reviews, then..."

"If I could only make some lists, then..."

Then, I wouldn't feel so disappointed.

Sometimes it feels like disappointment is a writer's best friend.

I will not lie. When B&N decided to skip The Day Before, I was pretty disappointed. I knew that meant sales would be affected in a big way. And they have been.

Readers, for the most part, have enjoyed the book. It's also on some YALSA nomination lists, though I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I've had other books on these nomination lists in years past, and they didn't make the final cut.  My YA novels thus far are this strange breed of verse, which not everyone likes in the first place, paired with a more commercial story. I think some people like their verse, if they like it at all, much more literary. Sometimes, I don't think reviewers or other professionals "get" what I'm trying to do with these books. And at some point, when that happens, you just have to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well. My reader e-mails tell me there are lots of teens who DO get them, and that's what I try to focus on.

Anyway, there are a hundred ways to be disappointed and discouraged in this business. At least. I could easily be discouraged right now because sales haven't been what I'd hoped they'd be for The Day Before.

But do I feel washed up? Like my career is over? No way. And here's why.

Each book is separate and distinct from the one before it. Each book is a new opportunity. I write each book with hope that good things will happen! Because why not?

Do you think Kate DiCamillo knew which of  her books would become movies and which ones wouldn't? Do you think she could predict which ones would become Newbery winners and which ones wouldn't? No. She had no idea. She just wrote the best book she could each time, and then released it out into the world, and waited, like any other author, to see what would happen.

My next YA novel, not out until 2013, will be completely different. I'm trying something new, and with that, I have a new sense of hope that good things might happen. Onward and upward, I say!

My strategy for keeping disappointment at bay is pretty simple:

1) Keep writing. With each book, try to improve. Play to my strengths while at the same time, be open to trying new and different things. Sometimes changing it up a little bit is the best thing a person can do.

2) Do not compare myself to others. Some days, this is SO hard. But really, there is no way that will end well. I have to focus on me and my books and let everyone else do what they do well. I read a lot partly because it's a way to love authors I might otherwise be envious of. :)

3) Remember there are many ways to define success, and numbers are only one way. If you haven't, I encourage you to read this great post by Erin Murphy on the Shrinking Violet's blog.

We can't let disappointment get the best of us. I battle it by writing a new book and keeping hope alive.

I'm curious. How do you battle it?


  1. This post is touching in so many ways, THANK YOU!

    The Day Before is the first of your books that I read and I am so glad for it. It opened my eyes to how bold books in verse can be. Your writing is amazing and I recommend you at the library all the time.

    Looking forward to more of your work. -Ashly F.

  2. I haven't bought it yet, but it's just a matter of time.

    I'm really looking foward to read your books, and I think it's a shame TDB isn't going that well. But maybe it's just that people can't buy as much as they could last year.

    Keep writing! Keep doing what you love and the success comes as consequence!

    So excited to read IHYYHM here in Brazil! *-*

  3. This is a wonderfully inspiring post, Lisa. Thank you for being so honest - we all learn from it.

    Disappointment is one of the few constants in this business, so I guess it's just one of those things we need to deal with along the way.

  4. Lisa, I absolutely LOVE your blog and adore you as a writer. Thank you for these posts - it makes us aspiring authors feel better. :)

  5. You can never play the "if" game in this business. It's changing so fast it's hard to keep up. The best thing you can do is keep wtiting what you want and in the style you want. I love verse novels and I've loved yours. I will for sure be reading The Day Before. Your a source of inspiration-always.

  6. This is a tough question. As you said, there are a hundred ways to feel disappointed.

    I don't think I have one way to handle, though the thoughts that I keep at the forefront are the ones you mention here: don't compare myself; remember the different ways to define success.

    Sometimes constantly going back to these truths will do it. Other times, they remain words and ideas and don't touch the emotions. During those times, I just have to let some time go by and hopefully try to continue to work.

    Hugs from my kids really help too.

  7. I need to print this out and tape it to my desk. There are so many days that I need to read it. So many ups and downs.

    Thank you for this honest, inspiring post. You rock, Lisa!

  8. Couldn't agree with you more about looking at each book (for me: project) as a new and different opportunity.

    Frankly, learning how to cope with disappointment stinks. I'm up for learning how to deal with wild success! lol.

    Thanks for your transparency, Lisa. :)

  9. Couldn't agree with you more about looking at each book (for me: project) as a new and different opportunity.

    Frankly, learning how to cope with disappointment stinks. I'm up for learning how to deal with wild success! lol.

    Thanks for your transparency, Lisa. :)

  10. Great post! It's so easy to compare ourselves to others and then feel down...bc the only time we DO compare ourselves is when we're unhappy/disappointed. It only adds to our downers.

    I combat it the old fashioned way - by counting my blessings. Yup, it's cliche and not original but hey, it works. Usually.

  11. I really, really, really needed to read this post today. I've been battling disappointment about...stuff (including my book and writing). I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone in it! :)

    BTW- I *love* IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES and I'm a "grown-up." ;)

  12. I'm not an author, so I can't tell you from that perspective. But I will say, as a librarian, we face disappointment a lot in many ways. When we love a book that we can't seem to sell to teens. When we plan a program only to have no one show up. Really, you just can't take it personally (which is really, really hard!) and you have to hold your head up and say "next time" and keep doing what you're doing. If you only had one teen show up, oh well, they still had a great time and it was a great program for that one teen. Maybe you can't booktalk that book you loved, but a reader will find it on the shelf. You have to look at the positive, which is easier said than done, but it's possible!

  13. Lisa, this is the best post!! :-)
    Thank you. I think writers can relate to this no matter where they are on the career spectrum. So, what do I do? Well, when I'm at my best, I take a breath and keep writing because I love it. And it is such an incredible journey. And, chocolate helps, and exercise, too.

  14. I absolutely love this post. And you are so so right! Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Just what I needed to hear!

    I keep thinking I'd be happier if I could just sell this book, but with publication comes the stress of bad reviews, the anxiety of "am I marketing it enough? Too much?", the deadlines...

    Trying to enjoy each moment day by day until that time! Have a great weekend, Lisa!

  16. I, for one, can't wait to see what you come up with next! :)

  17. thanks so much for this post. hope springs eternal, even for writers.

  18. Found your post when I really needed it today after a rejection letter. Thank you, it's inspiring.

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