The Anti-Climax of Publication

Head in HandsSelf-published novelist Arthur McMahon has given his very frank breakdown of how publishing his book didn’t rock his world. I was directed to discourse by GalleyCat who lead on his piece with their very apt title: “Publishing a Book will not Change Your Life“, 


It’s a little depressing to see another writer’s take on it. Yet, looking at it logically, it must be true. Especially in the realm of self-publishing – where the only thing standing between being an unpublished novel and a published novel is a click of a button. *click* That’s it. No phone call from your agent, no exultant feeling of your manuscript finally being accepted by an old-school publisher, and the kudos and validation that I imagine one would have from your book being accepted by a gate keeper of the literary world. Not that the latter will ultimately change your life any more, but I imagine that the elation would at least be longer lived. Perhaps.

failed expectations

I suppose it’s much like New Years Eve parties, or an over-hyped movie, or first-time sex. There are so many expectations caught up in it, that it can’t help but disappoint. Perhaps we can only hope to be mentally braced for that scenario when it finally comes. That publishing your book won’t solve your woes, it will just be a very awesome milestone that you can place in your trek through life. Expecting more from it may just be setting yourself up for a fall, for which Arthur McMahon has put himself forward as a case study. I do really respect and admire his candour on his experience, his closing words on the subject as follows:

I wonder if this is why so many authors are depressed drunks. Completing a novel didn’t change my perception of life like I expected it to. It filled no gaps in my soul or heart, and may have in fact widened them.

Still, onward I go.


9 responses to “The Anti-Climax of Publication

  1. But Arthur McMahon still pressed on. There are so many reasons why people write and life does have its pitfalls, one of them is failed expectations! Several writers that I know barely scrape by and that’s the strangest thing about writing, you just keep going and sometimes… when you least expect, things can change, even with a click of that button!!

    • Indeed he did! And I do find it really inspiring that he is pushing on regardless. And, the amazing thing with publishing is that you never know how it will do until you put yourself out there, it could be a slow burn, but better to have a steady climb than a flash in the pan…

  2. How depressing. I don’t think the issue here is that publishing a novel is anti-climactic, I think that the problem is with a writer putting all of their happiness and self-worth on that achievement. I haven’t published anything myself, but I have had people tell me that they enjoy my work. That is the driving factor for me, not publication. And every time I finish a story, I look
    forward to the next one. I have found that writers as a whole are a very self-critical bunch. I think that we all need to believe in ourselves and cheer up! And little in life is what we anticipate it to be, publishing a novel really isn’t any different. Perhaps we should just let the experience be what it is going to be, without expectations.

    • Amen to that! I agree that it’s really dangerous to put all your self worth into your writing. At the same time, when you put years of your life into something (like a novel), it’s a little hard not to have some expectations attached to it. But we really can’t forget to enjoy the journey.

      • Absolutely. My sister has written two novels, and seeing her disappointment when she can’t get people to read them (she’s self published) is heart breaking. This is such an unforgiving profession.

  3. Thought provoking post. 😦 The lack of readers/purchasers of something that took years to produce must be difficult. I am no expert, but I believe success with self-publishing and traditional publishing is a mixture of a good story, well written, publicised/promoted effectively and luck/public mood. One or two of those and some success is likely, all four and it might fly, or at least provide a living for a while.
    Traditional publishers do not always promote a book well, even for established authors. For many self-publishing, promotion seems to be an afterthought at best, as few authors have any marketing skills. A good blog may go some way to creating a small to medium base for promotion of a finished novel, however published.

    • Thanks, and well put. Kudos mostly to Arthur McMahon, who put himself out there. Nowadays, even if an author does have a mainstream publisher, to a large extent, they still have to be their own editor and publicist. As you’ve said, it’s not a given that traditional publishers will promote your book well. A good blog should be part of every published author’s repertoire, I guess I’m aiming to get a head start! 😉

  4. Thank you for expanding on the topic and linking back to my post. It really does come down to a “click” these days.

    I have thought to myself about how many people in the world never even desire to write I novel. I thought about how many do think about it but never act upon it. I thought about how many do start one but never finish it. How many finish a novel but never publish it. How many publish a novel and never move on to the next one.

    I decided I don’t want to stop at one novel. I don’t want to be one of the ones that gave up along the way. There are too many. Moving onward is the only option.

    • Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for your original post, I really enjoyed it. Getting a novel finished and published is no small feat, many many congrats on that. And huge kudos for pushing forward with the second one.

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