So my seventh novel goes on sale tomorrow, online and (with any luck) at bookstores throughout the country. Tomorrow morning I will beg friends and fans to buy the book and will continue to do as much online promotion as I can, all in the hopes that attention will be paid. But will it?
I had an interesting talk with my 12-year-old son this weekend. (Actually, virtually all the conversations I have with Will are interesting: he thinks seriously and creatively about a lot of different topics and knows more than I do about most of them.) We were on our way to his second debate tournament. His previous and only experience at a debate tournament had been mildly frustrating: he hadn’t done as well as he’d hoped. But during our drive that morning, he said to me, “I’m going to go in thinking we’ll win all four debates and that I’m going to get high speaker points. I know that probably won’t happen, but I might as well think it will, right?”
And I told him that I thought that was exactly what he should do. And I said that every time I publish a novel, I have a moment when I think, “Maybe this one will hit the New York Times Bestselling List.” It is, as Samuel Johnson famously said about second marriages, the triumph of hope over experience. In my earlier days as a writer, when the thought would come into my head, I’d push it away, embarrassed: Look who thinks she’s so great! No one even knows who you are. You’ll be lucky if you sell enough copies to get another book deal. But then I read an article that said people who daydream about success tend to be more motivated and resilient than people who don’t. And I realized that daydreams don’t cost you anything: they’re free and they’re private and they’re, frankly, kind of delicious. So why deprive yourself? Reality comes along to slap you in the face soon enough: why not bathe in a little happy “what if-ing” first?
So my son walked into his tournament with a smile on his face because he was thinking about a future where his team won every debate and he got 90’s on his speaker points. Neither of which happened. They won half their debates and he was disappointed by his speaker points, but he left that day saying that he loved the tournament and wanted to debate more. He wasn’t cast down by the contrast between his dreams and reality. The dream had been lovely and the reality had been exciting.
And even though I’m not nearly as goodnatured and fine a person as this son of mine, I’m going to learn from him. I’m going to dream big today: the book will go on sale tomorrow and thousands of people will flock to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores everywhere to buy it and it will soar to the top of the bestseller lists!
And then I’ll settle for reality, which is that I’m lucky to get books published at all, and that my last YA novel Epic Fail did just fine and has allowed me to continue writing books for HarperTeen, and there’s a good chance this will do equally well. And no matter what actually happens tomorrow, even if not one single copy of The Trouble with Flirting gets sold, my husband and I agreed we would open a bottle of champagne at dinner and make a toast together. To publication dates and the dreams that go with them.