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The 3 C’s of Managing Expectations

January 16, 2012

By Casey Ryan

Congratulations! You’ve done the unthinkable and written the greatest story ever told. You’ve networked and taken out some ads. You may have even considered giving some of those nasty reporters an interview. There is only one problem – nobody wants to read your book.

Instinctively, you’ll start double checking everything and either validating or second guessing your decisions. Finally someone volunteers a piece of feedback that feels like a kick to the stomach. “It’s OK, I guess but, it really isn’t what I expected.”

If you’re unable to effectively manage expectations – both your own and those of your readers, there isn’t a single solitary resource out there that will be able to help you. It’s a very subtle but, critical part of the marketing process.

How do you do it?

A great deal of research has been done on this topic but the process generally boils down to 3 “Cs”: create, check, change.

Rachel Thompson – co-founder of the Indie Book Collective – famously uses pop-culture references to illustrate her points and as a tribute to her, I’ve elected to salt and pepper in a few of my own.

Pygmalion Effect vs. Galatea Effect 

In simplest terms, they’re both forms of self fulfilling prophecies. Examples are found in the business world all the time.

Pygmalion was a sculptor in Greek mythology who carved a statue of a woman (Galatea) that was so beautiful, he fell hopelessly in love with it. In response to his prayers, Aphrodite turned the statue into a real woman and united the couple in marriage.

The Pygmalion Effect thus holds that if others believe in you, you’ll succeed whereas the Galatea Effect is that if you believe in yourself (and your work), you’ll succeed.

As a writer knowing that you have at least a few loyal readers or backers who believe in your work is an extremely empowering thing. It gives you the motivation to produce more and hopefully operate more efficiently because you want to keep these people happy. Combine this with your own belief in your work and resources and your book sales will go up.

Let’s go back and look at those 3 “Cs”.


Create: Buffer, but don’t sandbag.

In one old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Relics”, Scotty (from the original series) chastises Geordi for telling the captain honestly that an analysis he needed would only take an hour.

“Oh, laddie! You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.” Scotty admonishes.

The notion of “under promise and over deliver” isn’t a bad thing provided you’re careful.

As a writer, don’t claim that your first book will sell millions of copies. By the same token, don’t sell yourself short. You’ve worked hard and have earned the right to be proud. Let people know about it! Nobody ever bought anything from a sales rep that looked like he was totally miserable.

Strike a delicate balance. Ask yourself honest questions about who your audience really is and seek out the resources that you think can best help you – like the Indie Book Collective. Remember that your own goals need to be challenging but, attainable. If they’re too high, you’ll get discouraged and give up. Set the bar too low and your victories won’t mean very much to you.

Believe in the product you produce and the resources you engage to help you market it. Let other people do the jobs you asked them to do and support them in doing it. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re working as a team.

Check: Know your value but, test it regularly.

Monitor what people are saying about your book but, try not to take any negative feedback personally. Instead, view it as a chance to refine your marketing strategy.

Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and try new things either. As a podcaster, one of my favorite things to do is to issue invitations to big name celebrities to come on my show for an interview. I still haven’t received a single “yes” yet but, having conducted interviews for three years, I’m now getting the odd offer to contact a publicist.

They now know the kinds of questions I typically ask and what to expect were they to grant me a conversation. See how that works?

Change: Where do we go from here?

In testing your value, you’ll slowly but surely be able to take stock of what works and what doesn’t. The key to this is to try to figure out the motivation behind the feedback you’re getting – good and bad. You’ll then be able to think about ways to build on your successes and learn a few things to avoid.

One of the most effective “changes” that I made was simply to let my sense of humor come through a little more. While my listeners liked the fact that I was almost universally positive in promoting indie projects, they also loved the rare instances where I got angry and ranted about something.

In a recent appearance on the Indie Book Collective podcast, I vehemently volunteered the term “kindergarten nonsense” as a catchphrase for insufferable adults that complained like they were petulant kids. The feedback that I got was so strong that I’m debating incorporating it as a regular feature in my show.

The single most popular tweet I ever issued had nothing to do with pop-culture at all. It read: “Never trust anyone that is nice to you, but rude to the waiter.”

Stepping back and allowing people to get a broader glimpse of who I was “off hours” was obviously a wildly fun piece to the puzzle that had been missing.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that expectations are a constantly moving target. Having access to the most recent information possible is critical. Stay alert and stay hungry.


Casey Ryan is the creator and host of the Cutting Room Floor talk-radio podcast. For the past three years, the show has sought to highlight the works of independent entertainers of all types. The half hour segments air live on Sundays at 12 PM EST with recorded copies posted shortly afterward. A self proclaimed pop-culture addict, Casey is always trying to read up on the latest entertainment news stories. His film education consists of a lifetime of watching and studying movies. He holds a BA in Industrial Relations and Economics as well as a diploma in Sciences. For the past 10 years he has enjoyed a prolific career in corporate sales – often using his skills to help his guests market their work on air. Proud of his Irish heritage, Casey sits on the Board of Directors of the Montreal Chapter of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce – a volunteer group seeking to create greater business ties between the 2 countries. He is also a member of the Montreal Press Club. Casey was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, where he currently lives with his wife of seven years. 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2012 1:09 pm

    Great post, Casey. You offer good advice when it comes to negative feedback. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. January 16, 2012 8:21 pm

    Casey, I’m so proud of you! You’re a great writer. “Kindergarten nonsense” is a “fresh” new term to use when looking at all the negativity people give us up and coming writers. Thanks for that. And use it more often. Keep writing and so will I…

  3. January 16, 2012 10:53 pm

    Fantastic post Casey,

    Loved learning about the Pygmalion Effect vs. Galatea Effect, and your last line reminds me of the Ernest Hemingway look-alike from the Dos Equis commercials! I think he says “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

    Great information, appreciate your sharing it.


  4. January 16, 2012 11:10 pm

    I’m so glad we were able to have Casey guest post. I too loved his “kindergarten nonsense” phrase when he first brought it up on the radio and am so glad he mentioned it again here. It explains so much in two little words. Brilliant.

  5. January 17, 2012 12:57 pm

    Hi Kelli, Damita, Eden, and Rachel;

    Thank you all for the generous feedback. I had a great deal of fun putting the post together and am grateful to the IBC (especially Rachel) for the opportunity.

    “Managing Expectations” is one of those concepts that ironically is so obvious that it’s often overlooked. I look forward to discussing it more on the show tonight.


  6. January 21, 2012 4:30 pm

    I enjoyed this guest post and look forward to hearing more about “kindergarten nonsense” on your talk show, Casey.

    As soon as I joined the IBC my whole life changed, not just my expectations 😉 Now that I know what’s possible with my writing career (by seeing it happen real time with myself and others) I’m in a constant state of hyperactive excitement.

    There are so many resources, experts and downright friendly folks here there’s no reason to go it alone.

    I may be the captain of my destiny, but I still need a crew!

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