Perception v. Reality

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 01 2011

I have a friend who runs a retail store, and in the course of a conversation I asked what her bestselling items were. She laughed and said that until recently she would have been convinced it was the red bracelet, but after running reports just the night before she was shocked to learn that not only was she wrong, but so wrong that the biggest seller wasn’t even on her radar.

The only thing she could attribute her mistake to was perception v. reality. Because she had recently sold two red bracelets and heard many other customers comment on how lovely it was, she was convinced it had to be a hot item. Thanks to inventory tracking software, however, she’s always able to keep on top of the truth about her business, something that makes the difference, a big difference, in success versus failure. If she had ordered based on perception she would have a backlog of red bracelets and hardly enough yellow necklaces, her true bestseller, to meet demand.

Understanding the importance of reality is important for any business owner to be successful, and that means you too, authors. It’s so easy to get caught up in the letters we receive from readers and the good reviews for our books. Those are the things that keep you writing and excited about your work, but five people writing to tell you that your series is amazing and asking for more books does not mean your series is a bona fide success. It’s simply your perception of how successful the series is, or should be. The reality can only be seen in your numbers. Five people aren’t going to make a book a bestseller. Heck, they aren’t even going to make it worthwhile to self-publish. However, it is quite possible that five people could write to you, begging for more, and 50,000 more buy your book. Now you have numbers and numbers are reality.

Let’s face it, reality is often one of the hardest things to face, but facing it head-on is what will help you achieve the success you want. Facing reality means you know what your career looks like, and knowing the truth can help you make decisions, the right decisions, about your future.


15 responses to “Perception v. Reality”

  1. Avatar Todd Smith says:

    I've always written to escape reality.

  2. I had a similar problem when i had a small side line business selling Amish made items. A few folks would ask for a certain item, id order it and they would never come back. So they stayed with me until i had to reduce them in price to move them out. Richard

  3. Facing reality is also accepting that not everyone likes your characters, your style or, whisper it gently, your book.

  4. Avatar Shakespeare says:

    At the same time, one person detesting one's novel doesn't mean it stinks. I know people who hate Harry Potter novels. Hate them.

    Everyone's boat does not float the same way. However, finding out WHY a book does appeal may help one capitalize on the magic of it eventually, even if the book itself is never published (or is not successful).

  5. Avatar wry wryter says:

    With head bent over keyboard it is very hard, when coming up for air, to not have the perceptions of my work, skewed by my immersion in the characters and their lives. It is when I allow readers in I begin the process of understanding – oh is that what I said?
    Perceiving career is something else again. Sifting through what I want via dreams and what I get from really is often quite different. I have learned, and it has been a tough process, reality is always better simply because it’s real.

  6. Avatar Rosemary says:

    Here's hoping my WIP is a bright, shiny yellow necklace. . .

  7. Avatar ryan field says:

    The same could be said about e-mails in the other direction, the bad e-mails. In other words, four or five readers write scathing e-mails about something they hated in a book. It happens, even when sales are good. You have to consider the reality of that, too, and never get caught up in it.

  8. That's why I belong to two good writing groups. They keep me glued into reality about my WIP.

  9. Avatar Karen Duvall says:

    Well, I'd much rather bask in the praise my agent and editor give me and believe everyone else thinks like they do. Ha! 🙂

    But seriously, holding on to a positive perception of your work is motivating. It's true you can't delude yourself into thinking your book is all that and a bag of chips just because one reviewer said so, but you CAN hold that glowing review in your heart and continue to savor the warm fuzzy feeling it gives you. That's real, too.

  10. Avatar laurathewise says:

    "I reject your reality and substitue my own." -Mythbusters

    Great post and great point. 😉

  11. I perceive my jean size to be an eight; reality begs to differ. Elizabeth has a great point; find a writer’s group to review your work. A critical observation or two wrapped in a supportive environment not only strengthens a WIP, but keeps your goal firmly planted in reality.

  12. Avatar Cyn Bagley says:

    So true – but, since I have a Vasculitis disease, I would go for the red. Ummm… and even in my reading I go against popular demand. So it is good to have something for everyone. 😉

  13. Avatar tamarapaulin says:

    Oh, but those *FIRST* 5 people. Those are absolute heaven. Those 5 can get you through months of revisions on the next one.

  14. I've never really thought how perception v. reality could affect a writing career. This was a very enlightening post.

  15. Avatar Stacy says:

    Interesting post. I think that's why it's a good idea to get more than one critique and to always be open to concrit. There has to be a balance, but you don't want to live in your own world of supposed perfection.