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Random Thoughts: Expectations

Expectations. Everyone has them. We expect the alarm to go off when we set it. We expect our computers to boot up when we turn them on. We expect our posts to go live when we schedule them. And we expect our hard work to result in reward.

But that’s not always the case. Alarms don’t always wake us, computers don’t always turn on, posts sometimes miss their schedules and the result of hard work is sometimes just exhaustion.

What we expect is not always steeped in reality. What we deem reasonable may in fact be very unrealistic, far-fetched, improbable.

A brilliant author won’t always hit one out of the park. A buzzed about book won’t always top our list of favorites. And a much idolized blogger won’t always be the perfect role-model. No matter that we expect all of these things to happen.

And just because we decide to become book bloggers, decide to share our reviews and thoughts with the world, and we work hard to do so, does not mean we’ll reach star status. It does not mean we’ll have readers clamoring to leave comments on our posts. It does not mean that we’ll have traffic in the thousands. And it does not mean publishers will be knocking down our doors to put their books in our hands.

Yet for some reason we expect all this to happen. We expect that if we work hard enough, play the game long enough, be social enough, make our blogs pretty enough, our blogs – and by extension we – will get the attention we feel we deserve. We’ll open up our mailbox and a pile of books will be waiting for us. If we just put in enough time. If we just market ourselves hard enough. If we just connect with the right people.

But what has led us to expect all of these things? When we started out we hoped just to get noticed. We wanted just one follower. We wanted to be praised for just one of our reviews. We never expected these things to happen, but we sure hoped they would.

We knew there were thousands of blogs out there. We knew that we were the newcomers. We knew that success wasn’t a guarantee. So when did that change? When did “wish for” become “expect”?

Was it because of all the book haul vlogs that we assumed we’d receive just as many books? Was it because of all the comments, posts and tweets by veteran bloggers that made us believe that when we reached that point in our blog’s longevity we would be just as successful? Or was it because we felt that we did everything right, everything that those other bloggers did that we were entitled to receive just what they did, that we were entitled to the same success?

While the question about how we arrived at this point where wishes became expectations is important – after all, if we were given a false sense of entitlement it’d be helpful to trace that back to its origin – the question really is whether our expectations are reasonable. And if they’re not, how are we supposed to manage our expectations?

Increased traffic

The longer we blog, the more content we have on our blogs, the more social we become, the number of visits to our sites will increase. Expecting an increase in traffic is reasonable.

Expecting traffic in the thousands each day – unique visitors or pageviews – is not. Not that it couldn’t happen. It does happen to some book bloggers. We could become those bloggers that get heavy traffic if we market ourselves just right, if the messages we are delivering in our posts are interesting enough, if our visibility is far-reaching enough that those thousands upon thousands of book lovers that surf the web find us and continue to come back. But expecting this to happen just because it has happened to someone else is not a reasonable expectation.

Understanding how our sites are viewed outside of our small community of friends is key. Understanding how to market our posts so that people will want to read them is crucial. And understanding how to make our posts stand out from someone else’s also plays an important role in just how much traffic we have each day. (See Parajunkee’s BB101 posts for great tips.)

But there are no guarantees. Even if our posts are tagged to maximize their search engine visibility, even if our titles are clever enough to drive traffic to our sites, even if we’re on top of the social 24×7 does not mean we will get those visitors. Just because we do everything right does not mean that we will achieve the success we want.

Expecting increases is reasonable. Expecting to achieve the success someone else has is not.

ARCs

One of the perks to being a book blogger is getting the opportunity to read books early. When we first start blogging we know that it may take time to get our first ARC, if we ever get approved for one. But between NetGalley and Edelweiss, authors and publishers the likelihood that we will get an ARC – electronic or print – is good. Expecting to receive at least one ARC at some point in our blog’s lifespan is reasonable.

Expecting to be on “the list” of bloggers who receive unrequested ARCs by the box just because we’ve reached a certain milestone – six months, a year, 1,000 followers – is not. Simply putting in our time, gaining a following and having substantive reviews does not guarantee we’ll be on “the list.”

Having any sense of entitlement to these advance copies is unrealistic. So, developing an expectation that at some point our mailboxes will be filled to the brim just because someone else’s is, is not a reasonable expectation.

ARCs are a perk and a privilege, they are not a guarantee. They are not required to become a book blogger. They should not be a commodity that is used to determine worth and popularity. They should not be an expectation that bloggers have simply because we’ve decided to blog.

Expecting that at one point during our blogging career we’ll receive an ARC is reasonable. Expecting specific ARCs or piles of ARCs just because we’ve requested them or without having to request them is unreasonable.

Popularity

Most book bloggers don’t start blogging just to be popular. Most of us simply want to share our thoughts about books. When we start our blogs we hope  that someone will find us, like what we have to say and come back again. We think in terms of the tens, not in terms of the thousands.

We start to get the word out there, develop a persona, develop our voice, make connections. We interact with other bloggers, authors and sometimes publishers. We make friends. Our name becomes familiar. We become known.

We expect to meet people, make a friend or two, write a review that someone actually reads and likes. These are all reasonable expectations. After all, if we never made a single connection and no one read any of our reviews, we’d likely stop blogging.

But to expect to be the name on everyone’s lips, the blogger most talked about, the blogger respected and revered above all others? Those expectations are unrealistic. While it may be fairly easy to become notorious – go on a Twitter rant, post a scathing review, write a post damning everyone and their mother – not every blogger is going to be idolized. Not every blogger will be recognized by everyone. Not every blogger will win awards for their content, reviews, personality.

While it is reasonable for us to assume that if we were to blog consistently for a long enough time our name will be known in some circles, there should be no expectation of popularity. Just because we’re nice, just because we say nice things about books, just because we blog doesn’t mean we should be vaunted, our praises sung, our names memorialized for all of eternity.

Expecting that with time we will make friends and our name will be known by some is reasonable. Expecting to be the “it” blogger just because we want it to be so, is not.

Other expectations

We, as bloggers, have all sorts of expectations. Some of them have a basis in reason and others do not.

We may expect a level of respect for our hard work, for being honest with our reviews, for being original with our content. We may expect to receive the same perks that another blogger has if we are doing the exact same thing they are. We may expect to receive the same perks as another blogger even if we aren’t working as hard as they are, even if our content is unoriginal, even if we don’t review books as frequently as they do.

We may expect someone to click our affiliate sales links just because we include them in our posts. We may expect our friends to read and comment on our blogs daily. We may expect someone to comment on our blogs just because we commented on theirs. We may expect that no one we know would take our thoughts and ideas and call them their own. We may expect that everyone behave as professionally as we do. And we may expect that every private conversation we have will remain private.

Some of these expectations are reasonable. Some aren’t. But whether they are or aren’t, expectations aren’t guarantees. And just because we expect certain things to be, perhaps because they should be, doesn’t mean they will be. So we have to learn how to manage the expectations we do have.

Managing expectations

The easiest way to manage expectations are to have none.

Don’t expect anything. Hope for, wish for, want, but don’t expect. Expecting will lead to even greater disappointment and frustration if it doesn’t come to pass. Constantly asking “why not me?” helps not in the least.

When you expect nothing, everything good that you do get will be seen as a plus. But when expectations are set too high, even positives can become negatives. For example, thinking, “Oh, I’m so lucky I just got this amazing book!” is much better than thinking, “Oh, I got this book but I expected there to be more. Why didn’t I get that other book too?” Or, “Hey I just got two new followers on my blog today!” versus “I only got two new followers when that other blog got thirty for posting the exact same thing I did. What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?”

But it’s hard not to expect something. After all, we likely set goals when we started blogging and based upon those goals we developed certain expectations. Those expectations don’t just disappear because we want them to. Though we can try to manage the ones we do have and work hard not to create any new ones.

So what we have to do is figure out how those expectations came to be. And we have to revisit them to see whether or not they are reasonable. Once we figure out the how’s and the why’s it will be much easier to manage them.

Blogging is not a mathematical equation, there is no “all things being equal.” Just because someone has something doesn’t mean we can expect to have that something. Therefore any expectations we have based on what someone else has needs to be adjusted. We have to make a determination of whether that expectation is reasonable for us given what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what our potential is and not how it stacks up against someone else.

If our expectations are based upon what an author or publisher has done in the past we have to look at the current climate to determine whether our expectations are realistic or unfounded. Just because an author or publisher used to do something doesn’t mean they’re still doing it.

But if we really don’t want to let go of the expectations we do have and choose to manage them instead, we should simply cut out all the ones that make us feel bad and keep the ones that don’t.

Don’t’s and Do’s

Don’t expect piles of ARCs. Don’t expect to be invited on every tour. Don’t expect to be praised for a job well done. Don’t expect to be loved unequivocally. Don’t expect to have what someone else has. Don’t expect to get something for nothing. And don’t expect to love everything you read.

Do expect to work hard and that sometimes it will pay off. Do expect to meet some really great bloggers and authors. Do expect to have good days and bad days. Do expect that not everyone will love your reviews. Do expect that not everything in your blogging life is fair.

Do expect to discover an amazing new author. Do expect to fall in love with at least one book you’ve read. Do expect to have someone leave a comment that will make you grin. Do expect to have someone leave a comment that won’t.

Do expect that you will have typos in your posts no matter how often you proofread. Do expect that your computer will crash and eat at least one of your posts. Do expect at least one major reading or blogging slump.

And, most importantly, do expect that not everything you expect to happen will happen.

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