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'Author delusion'

There’s one thing I can say about my job: it’s interesting. For instance, the plots I read, the promotional creativity I encounter….and the people I meet.

I genuinely love my clients – they’re talented and fascinating. However, I do sometimes come into contact with writers of a certain breed that don’t become clients (and it’s probably a good thing) but who end up as ‘near misses’. Those suffering from what I playfully call ‘author delusion‘.

This condition doesn’t derive from the authors’ talents necessarily, but their attitude and approach. “I’ve written a book, now where are my millions?” is a common cry. As is the belief: “My story doesn’t belong to a genre, readership or audience – it’s for everyone.” Okaaay.

Hand in hand with their beliefs is their ‘blinkeredness’ (this may be just a term I’ve invented). These authors don’t need advice. They’re so sure they’ve a best-seller on their hands because their friends and family have told them so. As have a handful of ‘professionals’ keen to get their hands on the author’s budget. (It’s easy to tell someone what they want to hear when you need the work.)

It’s a condition that seems to favour the novice. Once an author has had a few titles out and been round the block a few times, they tend to rein in their expectations for a vision that’s a little more realistic. They begin to understand what bloody hard work it is to promote a book and gain readers; writing the book, in comparison, is the easy part.

Years ago, I used to try and help authors suffering from this affliction, but it soon became obvious to me that they’re best left to it, to wander the corridors of obscurity alone.

Occasionally, a suffering author breaks through and gains a little notoriety, but their perception of the industry eventually alters and they become more humble, especially once peer reviews and readers' feedback arrive. There are only so many voices you can drown out.

I’m lucky that so many writers I work with and guide are eager to hear thoughts and feedback on their productions, because they know it will ultimately help them improve, and further improve. They’re keen to master new techniques, new concepts and learn from others. They’re aware of the uphill, but not insurmountable, climb ahead. They understand that readers are to be cherished, interested and engaged, not sold to or dismissed as ‘just another sale’. They ‘get’ how authorship is in this age of digital and social media, and how connections and relationships are tantamount to the longevity of their career. They look beyond their book.

Author delusion, thankfully, is a short-lived condition, and usually brings no lasting damage to an author’s career or platform. Vodka is a quick-fix remedy, but a hearing test is advised if authors think they’re suffering from the disease. Other senses may compensate, though rarely that of the author’s humour, and a blindness to reality is seen in most cases. Exposure to beta readers, writers’ groups and professional critique reduces symptoms drastically.

(This tongue-in-cheek post is written to entertain, not offend. If you’re affected by this post, there is a helpline available.)


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