For the Narcissist Lover in You…

The Tyranny of High Expectations

Suffice it to say, my previous post (The Rest of the JP Story) got an amazing number of responses.  Most were positive, a few were thoughtfully critical, and at least one was persistently mean and idiotic.  I’ll admit I was pretty surprised by the wave of controversy I unwittingly caused.  There was even a blog about it, which was pretty even-minded although the author did seem to basically conclude that I was a naive rube to have high expectations for my self published books.

I do tend to have high expectations.  I tend to think I can accomplish anything.  A lot of times I am right.  Sometimes I am wrong.  But still, I stubbornly believe that it’s better to keep trying than just to get bitter and fatalistic.

Although bitter and fatalistic looks pretty tempting sometimes.

Thing is, I don’t really regret making that post.  I did alter it a bit, taking out the specific ultimatums, but the essential idea is just basic economics.  I thought the readers deserved to know the situation.  I don’t want anyone to buy my works just to pay for more JP stories.  I want them to buy my works because they will enjoy them.  But it is an inevitable result that the sales of one will lead to more of the other.

There are no guarantees in that statement, but there are no threats either.

For their part, the haters may be right.  It may be that my latest book will never sell in the numbers I have hoped for.  As such, they have (with a strange, mean glee) proclaimed that I have thus departed from the JP story forever.  I took all my toys and went home.  Nyah.

But I didn’t.  Nothing has changed, dear reader.  I may still write more JP stories, even though the sales of my published works haven’t made me independently wealthy.  After all, I didn’t write the first three for anything other than the love of the story.  Soon enough, my kids are going to be demanding to know what happens next in the James Potter world.  Soon enough, I myself will may start missing that world enough to get back into it.

That’s not a guarantee, though.  I am caught on the fence, you see.  As the above blog post makes clear, any fanfic writer who is serious about getting fer-real published has to totally abandon his/her fanfic, to the extent of scouring it from the internet.  I don’t want to do that.  I love the JP stories, even if there never is another one.  And yet I do want to be a success with my original books.  As usual, I want it all.  And as usual, that’s probably impossible.

In short, maintaining the JP stories is important to me– I am proud of them.  I won’t abandon them.  And by doing so, I am apparently killing my chances of success as a writer, since JP readers mostly just want more JP stories, and the publishing industry will dismiss me as long as I am a writer of JP stories.  It’s the classic Catch 22.

My last post was an attempt to explain this predicament in a way that might help my readers understand the situation.

The bottom line, methinks, (as far as most of you are concerned) is this:  the news about the death of the James Potter Series has been greatly exaggerated.  I am disappointed that Ruins of Camelot was not an enormous success out of the gates, but all that this means is that I cannot start a new JP book immediately.  The Day Job calls, and I must dutifully comply.  Fortunately, the Day Job is not so bad.  But it is time consuming.  I may get to more JP, but it won’t be for awhile.  At least not until my kids’ pestering for what happens next becomes unbearable.

For now, onward and upward.  I am working on a new iPhone game and I am really excited about it.  It looks great so far (if I do say do myself, and why should I stop now?) and I have hopes that it will sell at least as well as Dream:scape did.  And who am I kidding?  I actually hope it blows D:S out of the water and becomes a major hit.

See?  I can’t help it.  High expectations are what drive me.  So sue me.  (:

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25 responses

  1. Geo,
    Good to see you are in positive spirits despite the controversy and some of the unpleasant posts.
    I have finished reading the RoC – awesome book. I don’t read much fiction at all; I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I didn’t go to work yesterday until I finished it. Would love to see it continue. And the JP series, of course.
    I am of the same school of “I can have it ALL” – so my natural inclination is to tell you that it will work for you. No matter what. It’s been working for me – not perfectly (never perfectly) – but I have made it a sport out of defying the rules. I have achieved everything I was ever told was impossible to do and then some (until every nay-sayer has stopped), and I am not done yet. Even if that blog said that it didn’t work for others, YOU can make it work. You can chart your own path and become an exception. Just like the heroes in your books. Just do the things that need to be done in order to succeed.
    At the very least – the editor in me is begging – could you, please, update on this blog “Ruins of Camelot” by G. Norman Lippert, coming maybe someday. Eventually. One can hope, can’t one?” and the text above, to the link to the book, announcing its release? There should be links throughout all of your websites to your work. On the JP website, etc. It all makes a difference – people have a short attention span, and if they cannot get to your work easily enough, they give up. I didn’t buy the Girl on the Dock when I finished reading the second JP because I couldn’t easily find it. I spent 10 minutes pocking around and only found a hard copy on Amazon, and then didn’t attempt to locate a Kindle version again. Just went on reading JP 3. Marketing is everything. You don’t want to be the well-hidden secret. Even the most basic of tweaks make a difference.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

  2. Done and done, Olessia. Thanks much! I needed those words of encouragement today. Someday we need to have coffee. Seriously! Lemme know when you are ever in St. Louis.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

  3. John Carpenter

    Geo,

    Good to see you be more positive about the entire situation. I hope you sell many more copies (i just got a friend to buy another kindle copy today). But I understand the realities of the situation. You need to take care of yourself and your responsibilities first.

    However, here’s my two cents: In the future hope for the best, but expect the worst.

    This way you can still dream big, as big as you want to but you will probably not get as crushed in the rare event those dreams don’t turn out as expected.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

  4. Tom Grey

    Although I did understand your last post here in the same way as this, I’m happy that you put things clear.
    My experience tells me that high expectations lead to high performance, low expectations often lead to mediocre or poor performance, too high expectations can lead to frustration or ignorance. So, basically it’s a good thing to start a project with high expectations. Why would one start with it otherwise?

    But I do agree with Olessia. Maybe, your marketing was not yet good enough to start with. You relied mainly on your readers who frequent your FB page, and even though there are 5000+ people who “liked” the page in the past years, there are only about 200+ actively discussing topics there or leaving comments. Even here on your very own blog, the link to RoC leads to nothing instead of the place where one could buy the book. Use all the channels that are at your disposition, and don’t get tired to find new ones.

    And about the high waves your last entry to the blog created: They were unnecessarily high. When I first read your post, I also thought that it was a bit too direct and could be misunderstood, which apparently happened. But also the comments by “John” were probably a bit too direct or strong worded, although in it’s basics, it was just a point of view that had to be possible after your statement. Alas, the opportunity to agree that you have basically the same point of view (i.e. that RoC should be bought by long-time and new readers of your work for what it is: A promising great story) was missed. (luckily, I missed the rest of the “heckmeck” before you got rid of it, so I can’t comment no that).

    Whether or not you decide to write any more fan fiction of whatever genre, or if you want to concentrate completely on original stories (written or via games), I’m really looking forward to what you are up to present us next. And I have high expectations 🙂

    December 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

  5. Never been to St. Louis but have been traveling a lot more for work lately as my company has grown, and the kids are not so little anymore. Will definitely let you know if I ever make your way. Of if you are ever in DC, let me know as well. 🙂

    December 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm

  6. RICK

    Duder,

    Hater’s are everywhere…. That fact that you are a “Doer” will always rub the heals of those who can’t, won’t or don’t do anything but criticize. If you get one fan letter or sell one book, it is all worth it, cause you need please only yourself.

    Keep at it my friend….

    December 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

  7. Faiz the Second

    There was nothing mean-spirited or idiotic about my previous posts, as you conceded above by agreeing with the validity of my analysis. You have already delayed JP by a year; will this continue for the next five? For how much more time will you milk books and games out of the readers?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  8. Faiz the Second

    Since you have unjustly accused me of trolling, I will proceed to troll.

    Your function in life is to write fanfiction for us. Get cracking.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    • I approved these comments from Faiz purely for amusement value. Especially that last one.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm

  9. Shelby Converse

    I am very much the same way when it comes to “I can do anything I put my heart/mind/soul/life to and it will succeed, gosh darn it!” Just wrote a blog entry on the same subject….

    But while money is important and nice, remind yourself what is your personal definition of success? Was it to simply publish the book? Make money publishing? Write a novel that said everything you set out to initially write? Success is not just percentages and numbers!

    And on that note, I intend to order through my library RoC (poor college student…)

    December 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    • Thanks, Shelby. You are totally right. I am happy, really, just to have the book out there, looking good and reading just the way I wanted it to read. The fact that anyone chooses to spend their hard earned coin and precious time on it is very high praise indeed. It’s good to be reminded of that.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm

  10. Nate T

    Hey, Geo. Nice set of posts. I’ve been looking forward to picking up RoC, and this particular post kicked me into gear. Thanks for sharing your work; I look forward to relaxing over the holiday and spending quality time reading (esp your book).

    P.S. Being a former St. Louis native, I can appreciate Kaldi’s coffee … though I usually consume it in the form of Schlafly Coffee Stout. 😉

    December 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm

  11. Hester

    ~When in doubt, show up early. Think less. Feel more. Ask once. Give thanks often. Expect the best. Appreciate everything. Never give up. Make it fun. Lead. Invent. Regroup. Wink. Chill. Smile. And live as if your success was inevitable, and so it shall be.~ Unknown

    My son once told me NEVER put bad vibes out into the Universe. Never say “I will not fail”… Always say “I will succeed!” It’s that niggly little word “not” that should be avoided at all costs. (Of course, I have have just broken that rule by saying “never”… should have said, “always put positive vibes out into the Universe…)

    You’re smart…you get my meaning. When you believe you will succeed, you are halfway there.

    Tom is so right…always set the bar high.

    December 8, 2011 at 12:29 am

    • Or, in the case of limbo, always set the bar lower. (:

      December 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  12. Jake

    Can you explain, or maybe just let us know some more details, why publishers don’t want authors to have any fan fiction? I would view it as publicly criticized practice.

    December 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    • Jake, that’s an excellent question, and I wish I knew the answer. I view it the same as you. Writing *good* fan fiction, in fact, might be even harder than creating an entirely new story, since the fan fiction writer is immediately begging comparison to the creator of their fictional world (who is, most likely, an accomplished writer and a best-seller). Over and over, people said of my work “good, but not as good as J. K. Rowling”. It makes sense that that’s the first question a reader asks– is it as good as the person who wrote the originals? That is a pretty high standard for any amateur writer to measure up to (and that’s why I was always pleased when a reader said the above).

      In short, writing HP fan fiction is like putting on a costume made famous by an A-list actor. You have to be VERY good to not immediately be dismissed by the fans.

      Not that I am calling myself VERY good. But I am proud not to have been immediately dismissed.

      To hazard a guess regarding your question, however, I suspect that the publishing world simply assumes that anyone who writes fan fiction does so because they simply cannot create their own stories and characters. And in all honesty, most of the time, that assumption is probably correct. But ignoring the few whose works have garnered large numbers of readers– who have survived the gauntlet of the “Not-as-good-as-the-original” comparison, is a disappointing error.

      December 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      • Hello Mr. Lippert. I am the Inverarity whose blog post you linked to. I’m glad you didn’t take it as being mean-spirited, because I didn’t intend it to be. I don’t think I would classify you as a “rube,” just not very realistic about how many people actually make money self-publishing. Right now self-published ebooks are a huge trend and everyone enthusiastically repeats the names of a handful of self-published authors who’ve broken out and sell hundreds or even thousands of copies per month, but what they don’t repeat is that those authors are a very small fraction of the total. It’s like expecting that if you get a book contract with a regular publishing company that you will soon be making money like J.K. Rowling.

        As for why published authors need to distance themselves from their fan fiction: it’s not because publishers assume that fan fiction authors can’t write “real” fiction. Many professional authors are former fan fic authors and publishers know this. The reason is because fan fiction is still in a legal gray area in terms of copyright infringement. As you know, J.K. Rowling has been very generous in indulging writers who make use of her work, but not all authors are as tolerant of fan fiction; some (such as Anne Rice and Nora Roberts) have outright forbidden it and threatened to sue anyone who posts fan fiction of their works. No publisher wants to be dragged into that kind of a legal battle, nor do they want anyone suggesting that a book they published might be “repackaged fan fiction,” however untrue.

        So yes, if you ever get a publishing contract, your publisher may have a problem with all this fan fiction on the net under your name. Options will be either to scrub it as best you can (it’s the Internet, so of course it will never completely disappear, but you’ll have to take it off of any sites you are affiliated with) or else publish under another name. This may seem unfair, but that’s how it is.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm

  13. Zixi

    You are very good. While reading your first JP book, I quite often forgot it was not Rowling’s work I was reading. More of your own personal style started coming out in the next two books as you developed more as an author; and that is a good thing, not a criticism. You are a very good writer; and as I have said previously, I believe you will become a great writer. Publishers are sometimes the last to realize what they are missing. Pearl Buck’s great classic “The Good Earth” was rejected seven times, and it remains one of the great novels of the twentieth century. In reference to your earlier post, my friend, you will NOT be relegated to limbo. (I’m sorry, Hester, I’m too tired right now to think of a better way to word that. I hope I haven’t created any bad vibes.) 😉

    December 9, 2011 at 12:23 am

    • Thanks a lot for that, Zixi. I have appreciated all of your comments. The people (like you) who have encouraged me through this process have been a real balancing force against the less inspiring comments. I cannot thank you (and the many others who have encouraged me) enough.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:10 am

  14. Faiz the Second

    Where is the weekly report for your sales?

    December 10, 2011 at 5:20 am

  15. Geo,
    Hope your week went well.
    I was wondering – do you have a mailing list? For all the millions of readers that you have had for JP series who have downloaded it for free, have you considered asking them for their name and email address in exchange for the download? It can be accomplished with a simple shopping card/autoresponder service. As in they don’t get to outright download something – they have to fill out a form with their name and email address, and get to double-opt-in for the book and automatic subscription to your very occasional newsletter – and ability to unsubscribe at any time automatically. I am concerned that all of your readers have downloaded the free books, read them, and now may have forgotten about them in their daily hustle and bustle – so you may have no way of reaching them and telling them about RoC – or any of your future works. Only your super-fans may be hovering around. If you had emails of those who read JP, you would have an instant global audience that you can reach out to at any time. For example, we had over $30K in book sales from our newsletter audience this year – and ours is only a few thousand people who signed up by downloading our free products. I have written non-fiction, higher-priced books, but I think you could see quite a revenue if you tweaked the way you distribute JP. I am talking to a publisher right now – and to my question as to how they’d market my book if I were to write it, his first response was to tout their extensive mailing list. Mailing lists are a staple in any marketing campaign. I don’t remember having to give up my email address to download JP – do you actually have a list or plan to create one?

    December 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

  16. Chiel

    Hello George,

    First my complements about your work (as far as I have read it).

    I am reader from the Netherlands and currently reading the third JP book.
    A few weeks ago I came across the JP series again and thought to give it a try, just got an ereader and super they are in ePub now.
    Became hooked after the first chapter and could not stop reading the first two books.

    After reading the ‘the story thus far’ of the third book I started looking for ‘the girl on the dock’ and found it via lulu.com.
    Really enjoyed reading that dark fairy tale! (Is it on your to-do list to convert it to ePub? Correct ePub conversion is a pain the *ss ;))
    While currently enjoying the trip to the States I hate to see the journey come to an end.
    But there is more in live.

    That’s why I purchased Ruins of Camelot, also via lulu.com. Not for supporting the JP series but because I like fantasy and your imagination and (especially) the way you are able to put that imagination into words!
    For the reasons just mentioned and the short description of the tale, ‘the riverhouse’ is next on my list.

    As numerous other readers I would not like the JP series come to an end (hope your kids start pestering :)), but I also and truly hope that you will keep writing other stories and dark fairy tales.

    December 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm

  17. Mike

    Mr. Lippert,

    I found your previous post about the reality of your situation regarding the James Potter saga to be completely logical. I find your honesty and bluntness to be admirable. When I first discovered your books I was cynical going in, with it being fan-fiction and all, but I soon fell in love with your story. I read through all three within a very short period of time. Knowing that you could not profit from the venture, I immediately looked for other ways to “pay you back” so-to-speak for the wonderful stories. This culminated in me purchasing Girl on the Dock and The Riverhouse.

    Like many others, I was nearly heartbroken by the news that you would not be continuing the James Potter story. I could obviously understand your reasoning behind the decision and I was appreciative that you threw us all a bone with your rough draft of the beginning of the fourth installment. Reality can be a bit of a bummer.

    I still Google your name every once in awhile to see what you’re up to (which is how I found these posts) always with the hope that you may have changed your mind. I have to say, I was delighted when I discovered that you have not entirely given up on the story. That you may yet write the rest of it thrills me to no end. Needless to say, after reading that post I went ahead and purchased Ruins. Purchasing these books seems like a completely fair exchange considering I cannot give you money for the JP stories. I didn’t find your previous post to appear as “blackmail” at all, but rather a pretty realistic approach to the situation. Of course, I did read and enjoy both Girl on the Dock and The Riverhouse so it was kind of a win-win in that aspect anyway. I’ll get around to Ruins eventually I’m sure.

    I truly hope that there are enough people out there who can understand the logistics of your predicament and decide to support you through purchasing your other work. I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say we would all love to see the series continued, but I (and hopefully others) realize that hard work should be rewarded in kind.

    That said, I eagerly await your next installment. Luckily I’m patient (George RR Martin taught me this virtue), but there have been questions quietly eating at me ever since I finished book three. I simply must know what happens in the graveyard, and the events that lead up to that point! For now I’ll take solace in the fact that if enough people don’t step up at least there’s a chance your kids might guilt you into it. 😉

    Just wanted to throw that out there. I’ll continue my periodic Googling and keep my fingers crossed.

    Best of luck in whatever you decide to do,
    Mike

    January 9, 2012 at 2:32 am

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