Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Before and After Being a Published Author

It's been six months since LOSING FAITH, my first published novel hit the shelves! SIX MONTHS! Already!!! I'm excited by this milestone and have been celebrating, but it has also made me a little introspective about the whole process.

So today I thought I'd share with you an honest post about how my thoughts and attitudes and practices have changed through the process.

I doubt if I'm a reflection of all other writers or even a majority, but one thing I've noticed is that for me, there seems to be something magical about the six-month-post-publication mark. Things have changed for me once again, so I'll share a bit about those changes too.

Note - these are in no particular order, just the order I thought of them. And also I know it's probably full of typos, but I'm busy with March Madness, so please try to ignore those sorts of things.

In each of the following areas, I'll let you know what I thought, how I felt, or what I did:
1. Before my first book came out
2. After my book came out
3. 6 months after my book came out

Reviews
Before - I thought I had thick skin. The thickest skin. I'd been a dancer and taken plenty of criticism for over thirty years. I figured I could accept any amount of harsh criticism of my book, because really, hadn't I done that already through several years of editing and revisions? At this point I knew some people would love my book, some people would not, and that was totally okay with me.

After -  Omigosh, my book is in print and there's NOTHING I can do to fix the problems people are pointing out! Besides that, this has been my dream to see my book baby out there, but there's this one reviewer who's going out and telling people not only how much she hated it, but also instructing people NOT to buy my book! I want so badly to write to her and engage in Bad Author Behavior, and it's almost impossible not to. Instead I'll cry myself to sleep.

6 months after - I can honestly say that things have changed. I can get through entire days, sometimes entire weeks without checking GoodReads to see what people are saying about LOSING FAITH. When I do check out reviews, even if they're negative ones, they no longer send me into a defensive tailspin. But I have come to realize that reviews are really a whole different beast from critiques, and there's not much you can do to prepare yourself for that difference. During my early post-pub days, I honestly thought this time would never come where I could relax, take a step back, and have some perspective. I thought I was just more neurotic than every other author out there and I would never stop caring what people thought. But I can honestly say, I'm back to caring about my writing and my characters more than anything and enjoying writing what's in me. The anxiety of what others think has mostly died down. But I'll tell you, in some ways, the last six months were the longest of my life.


Sales
Before - I would have been happy if I sold a few books to people who would love it.

After - I started to think of it more as a business. My books need to sell if I'm going to continue to write and publish. Not only that, but I've seen how much my agent and editor and publishing team have put into my little debut book, and they all need to make a living. It's now important to sell a zillion copies - for them more than for me.

6 month after - Sales is pretty much my biggest concern when it comes to LOSING FAITH. Will I sell enough to make my agent and editor and publisher and favorite bookstores happy?


Bestseller lists
Before - If enough people really liked my book, maybe it would hit a bestseller list. Wouldn't that be awesome and exciting and wonderful!?

After - It seems like people know when a book is going to hit the bestseller list, and since no one knew with mine, I guess it probably won't, but I still don't really understand how it all works.

6 months after - I'm understanding more and more about lists, and they usually involve a big publisher push and large initial print runs. It's easier to see this as something with less gray area now, less wondering and getting hopes up or down. I'm truly happy for friends that make "the list" and no longer feel even a twinge of jealousy. Again, I'm feeling much more distanced and seeing it all much more in terms of business decisions.

The Writing
 Before - I wrote or revised or otherwise worked on one of my books every day. Or at least six days per week.

After - During my book launch, life got crazy and I took a few weeks off from writing, but came back to my writing schedule quickly.

6 months after - I continue to write daily, plugging along, hoping for the best. In general, my writing schedule hasn't changed that much since I first got serious about it.

Time, and how much of it I feel like I have
Before - it seemed like I had about 23 hours in a day. Being a writer, at least for me, has the effect of making me feel like I have just a little bit less time than everyone else in the world.

After - I could swear I only have six or seven hours a day, whereas everyone else has 24. But I'll make it work. I'm a machine.  People don't really NEED six hours of sleep a night, do they? I'll eat while I homeschool my son, or wait, maybe we don't really have time for school today...

6 months after - life has gone back to normal. Normal for a writer, anyway. I still feel like I have a little less hours in a day than others, perhaps 22 hours per day now, since I need to find some time for promo and marketing and interviews, but this is definitely a pace I can keep up.

Next  and future books
Before - publishing future books sounded like a nice idea, but one that I wasn't terribly concerned with. Getting my foot in the door, seeing a book with my name on it on bookstore shelves - those were the things that mattered.

After - Oh gosh, am I going to be a One Hit Wonder? Or worse, what if my one and only book isn't even a hit? What if this thing I've worked hard for and dreamed about is over in pretty much the blink of an eye? What if only five copies of my book sell, and publishers never want to hear from me again? Every struggling-to-get-published writer would give almost anything to be in my shoes, and what if I mess it all up and can't find a single other thing my editor, or any editor, likes?

6 months after - Well, I sold another book, so I'm not a One Hit Wonder. And the review anxiety has subsided, so I'm not terribly stressed about how my next book will be received. Of course this could certainly just be the calm before the storm...

Awards
Before - The literary awards were one of my main goals. Once I got a book out there, if some committee from some organization recognized it as noteworthy, I would have achieved remarkable success, at least in my own mind.

After - Wow, there are a lot of awards, and many, many that I've never even heard of! But also, there are a lot of books. A LOT more books than there are awards! And there are a lot of books winning awards that I didn't even really care for. This awards process really is very subjective.

6 months after - I'm okay with the fact that my book hasn't won any big awards to this point. (It has been recognized and nominated, which I'm very grateful for, but no actual awards to list after the name of the book or anything). I'm starting to think in these terms: If I won a big award with my first book, in some ways it would seem too easy, and I think I'd value awards a lot less in my mind. Also, I wonder if future books would feel like failures if they didn't achieve the same award status as the first.

Promo & Marketing
Before - I had heard various stories from other authors about what works and what doesn't. I wanted to try a bit of everything, since it was my first time out of the gate.

After - Trying a bit of everything is harder than it sounds! Where has all my time gone? Does my family know who I am anymore? When can I stop this insane blogging schedule without anyone noticing?

6 months after - I think I did a bit too much, but I honestly can't pin point anything I would change! Going to BEA last year probably didn't help my book any, but I had the time of my life hanging with writing buddies, getting my hands on exciting new ARC's, attending publishing cocktail parties, and presenting my book in a few co-author events. My blog tour was a lot of work, but also a ton of fun. I can barely pull myself away from blogging and tweeting now, though it definitely takes up far less time than it used to. I don't know if I'd mail postcards out to bookstores again. I had a few positive responses, but that took a lot of time and effort.

Cover art
Before - My cover has to be amazing to sell my book. I don't know exactly what that should be - I'm not a visual artist or anything, but I could envision some kind of girl on a cliff. Whatever it is, it has to be perfect and I was so nervous to see it for the first time.

After - There are so many different tastes in cover art. My publisher has some very talented people on staff and I'll trust them that the cover of LOSING FAITH is exactly what my book needs.

6 months after -  I've had so many compliments on the cover art of LOSING FAITH! Simon Pulse definitely knew what they were doing, and I'm no longer nervous about what they'll come up with for APPETITE FOR BEAUTY. I'm truly excited to see what visual they think will go with the book and I don't have any pre-conceived ideas with this one. I admit, I will be excited the first time I get a cover that has a real-life photo shoot and live model to go with it, but I'm in no rush for that.

Blurbs
Before - As a fairly new reader, I'd picked up several books because of blurbs from well-known authors, because I often didn't know where to look for my next book. When it came to my own book, I thought it was important to get at least one well-known author behind it. My editor and publisher didn't think blurbs were as important and so I personally went after only one blurb, but the author was too busy to read my book at the time.

After - I was pretty jealous of other author-friends who had great blurbs on their books.

6 months after - From what I've heard, it's pretty clear to me that blurbs really don't sell books. But I think they're still nice to have. I'd really like to get at least one blurb for APPETITE FOR BEAUTY, but I've also heard that going after blurbs can be a very uncomfortable process. Still, I'm a bit sad that LOSING FAITH didn't have one, though not jealous anymore. I definitely hope to get at least one in the future.

Fame
Before - When I was just out of high school, I pursued acting and I wanted to be famous. As I got closer to getting my first book published, though, my attitude changed a little. It was a bit odd having people know who I was and recognize me, even just online. I started to feel like I had to watch everything I said everywhere I went.

After - During and just after launch, I felt like a ping-pong ball, being bounced between realms where people knew me and loved my writing, and people having no idea who I was or why they should care at all about me (even bookstore managers!). It was a strange place to be. I started to feel uncomfortable leaving my house looking grubby, just in case I ran into people who had heard of me.

6 months after - I'm happy once again to go to the grocery store or gym in my sweat pants and glasses when I need to. As far as fame goes, I've decided that I don't really want to be a Stephanie Meyer, and honestly, I'd love to sell a zillion books for my publisher's sake, but this little tiny taste of fame is quite enough for me.

Presentations and Speaking Engagements
Before - I don't have anything worthy to say.

After - I don't have anything worthy to say, but if I have any opportunities, it would probably be helpful for book sales if I pretended I did.

6 months after - Maybe I have a few worthy things to say, but I don't think I'm organized enough or have enough time to put them into an enjoyable presentation. Maybe one day.


That's what I've come up with so far. I feel like just in the last couple of weeks I've been given a huge dose of Perspective - something you're not allowed to get a prescription for until you've been published for at least five months. And I'm sure there are different and higher quality dosages of Perspective to come, but this is just what I've found so far and where I'm at. I hope it helps for people who are pursuing/waiting for publication. And for those who have been through it, I look forward to hearing if you've found any similarities in yourself!

28 comments:

  1. Denise this was amazing. I'm still on the before section and I'm glad you took the time to share with us your feelings, frustrations and anxiety with the each step. It's good to know that we're never alone, just a different steps.

    I wish you the best of luck in the future and I personally adored Losing Faith, it was beautifully written. And those are the things that make the bad reviews disappear.

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  2. Great post, Denise! :D You really captured all the perspective landmarks. I know mine has definitely changed a lot throughout the process!

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  3. This is such an honest post, Denise.
    It was wonderful to read!

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  4. That was such an amazing post. It is refreshing to see that some of my same feelings were felt by a fellow writer at some point. Thanks.

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  5. This was so comprehensive, Denise. I see bits and pieces of conversations we've had here. I'm going in knowing it would be wise for me to avoid Good Reads like the plague.

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  6. um... this was so moving... how do I save it for future reference?
    No I'm serious. What you wrote here is so inspiring and yet humbling at the same time. I truly value your honesty here, and I have to confess I found you on verlakay. Decided to jump in March Madness and had no clue you were a debut author 6 months ago.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with your readers.

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  7. Terrific post Denise, and very honest. I loved it. I'm not a published author myself, yet I hope to be. I think it's just wonderful that you took the time to share this with your fellow writers :)

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  8. Have you been reading my mind?

    I'm three weeks out from the launch or my debut book and everything you've said is dead-on.

    It's a relief to know I'm not the only one.

    --JM

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  9. Really interesting to see how things evolved for you. Thanks so much for your honesty here. :)

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  10. Very enlightening post! I've been in the "before" category for a long time and can relate to what you said. It's interesting to get a peek into the "after" categories.

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  11. Really great post, Denise! So great to see how you've evolved as a writer and a person. Thanks for sharing!!

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  12. Awesome post! I admit, I still have all the same thoughts you did at the "before" stage. Interesting to see how your thoughts have changed (though mine still haven't!)

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  13. Denise, thanks for the honest post. For those of us on the "before" side, it's hard to know how it'll all play out.

    By the way, I loved LOSING FAITH, and I wish you lots of luck on the next book.

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  14. This was great! Thank you so much for your honesty, it was refreshing and thorough. ☺
    I am still in the begining-begining stages but these are all thoughts and concerns I have.
    Awesome post.

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  15. Thank you so much, everybody, for all of your encouragement! I'm so glad to hear that so many of you got something out of this!!

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  16. Thanks for the post - so interesting (esp to someone who is still in the 'before') :)

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  17. What an awesome post! You don't often hear about these things. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. * Thanks for sharing your experiences, Denise. I'm amazed by your tenacity and I hope I can see things in the same way when my time comes.

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  19. Fantastic post. Gave me a lot to consider, look forward to...and dread. ;)

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  20. I'm new here *waves*. This is such an amazing post. You're so honest about the process that it seems like despite all of the hard work and heartaches, it's all worth it.

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  21. This is a very fascinating post. A nice look behind the scene and into the mind of a new author. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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  22. What a fabulous overview of the process! Wow. Lots to think about.

    Congratulations on the six-month-versary and selling your second book!

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  23. What a fabulous post, Denise. To the point and heartfelt, all at once.

    And kudos on the 2nd book - what did I miss???

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  24. Great, great post!

    I found you through Adventure in Children's Publishing Best Articles of the Week post this week (http://childrenspublishing.blogspot.com/2011/03/best-articles-this-week-for-writers_18.html) -- you were at the top of the list!

    As a writer who is working with an agent (pre-signing) the Next Big Steps seem very daunting and unpredictable. You've offered me some much needed perspective on what to expect and how to retain my sense of balance. Many thanks!


    -- Tom

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  25. This is an awesome post, Denise. I know it couldn't have been easy to write, but as someone out on submission, this is incredibly helpful to read. Thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts on all of it.

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  26. Such an awesome post, Denise. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  27. That was a great post!
    So enjoyed reading about your journey.
    thank you

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  28. What a great post. I'm at the 2 month after release mark and this really resonated with me.

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