My debut year has ended in December with publication of “The Heir,” a Regency romance involving—who would have thought?—a damsel, a swain, some struggles, some lovin’, some more struggles, some more lovin’, and a happily ever after. And I confess, though it’s lovely and a Wish Come True to see the book in print, there’s an element of post-partum depression about the whole experience.
You write for several years, hoping, hoping, hoping, and cadging whatever wisdom and guidance you can from wherever you can find it.
You sink money into conferences, craft books, workshops, paraphernalia, a decent computer, and another decent computer when the first one goes up in smoke at the exact worst moment.
You make writing connections, maybe even writing buddies (yo, Robin).
You scrape together all your courage (or in my case, a couple of White Russians) and tackle the much dreaded Pitch.
You send off queries, queries, more queries, and a few partials and lecture yourself sternly about all those Big Names who were roundly rejected by the Big Editors—and aren’t those Editors feeling pret-ty silly when the rejected writer becomes the next bestselling author?
And then!—this is the easy part, the fun part—The Call, some revisions you’re gleefully happy to make (and to talk about to all who will listen). A cover for Your Book, quotes for Your Book, reviews for Your Book—hopefully, glowing reviews because at this point, Your Book has become an aspect of Your Identity, or certainly a piece of Your Ego, and a Key To Your Happiness.
And then! The day comes when Your Book goes into Your Local Bookstore!
On that wonderful day, I strutted into my local bookstore; accosted some hapless, overworked fellow sporting the company polo; and announced, “You’re carrying a book I wrote and I’d like to sign my stock.”
How sweet it is. I should have spoken more slowly, more loudly, I should have found a way to gather a crowd before I made this Big Pronouncement.
“What kind of book is it?”
“A romance novel.”
“Romance is over there, help yourself.” And away I did strut, to sign the one, single, spine-out copy they had.
Huh? That should have clued me in, but it has taken a few weeks to comprehend a simple fact: Last month, some other debut author was lurking in bookstores, pen at the ready. Next month, yet another will have the same privilege, and the month after that, and the month after that. Commercial fiction depends on consumers who consume, enthusiastically and often, and one book cannot meet that need more than once.
So I pouted a little, stared at my lovely book a little, sighed and scowled and watched the sales ranking dip—a little, then a little more. Why doesn’t anybody tell you being a published author means being a post-published author?
Except… I’m kind of relieved the blog tour is behind me. I’m having a great time beavering away on my WIP. I really enjoyed giving book number three a final polish over the holidays, and I love, love, love hearing from readers, a comfort and joy that only befalls a writer after she’s given up her book into the hand of an editor and publisher.
So maybe, being a post-published author isn’t so bad after all. Maybe not making the NYT list from Jump Street is not the end of the world. I’m thinking it doesn’t matter, not at this point, not any more than a few mopey days after coming home from the hospital matters in the grand scheme of parenting.
In the grand scheme, if your priorities are right and some grace befalls you, those few days soon cease to matter at all.