My past two articles for Pipeline focused on when I crossed over from screenwriting to book writing, and then the road to publication—from when my manuscript was acquired until publication. It’s hard to believe, but it has now been a little over a year since I officially became a published author. And what a rollercoaster ride it has been! I don’t use that metaphor lightly because the year was definitely filled with peaks and valleys, twists and turns. I might have even covered my eyes and screamed during part of it. Hopefully the following account will give you some idea of what to expect on your own creative journey, or lessons of what to do, or not do, in the year following the publication of your book, release of your movie, etc.
Do: Clear Your Week
When your book publishes/your movie releases/your art show opens, clear your week. Since my launch event was happening on a Tuesday evening, I naively expected to get some work done during the week. I did not. I hadn’t expected the outpouring of support and celebration from friends and fellow writers … and it was glorious! I had watched other authors as they published their debuts, and I don’t know why I hadn’t realized that I would receive a similar reception.
While holding the physical copy of my book for the very first time was exciting, I’ll always cherish this unexpected (virtual) embrace from so many writers and readers for me and my work. Even though the excitement and hubbub from launch week made it virtually impossible to focus on anything else.
Don’t: Expect It to Last
Almost every writer I know has mentioned a dip in excitement, and a bit (or a lot!) of the blues shortly after publication. The initial excitement subsides, people stop sending you photos of them holding your book, and then … the buzz moves on to the other new books being published. As it should!
For myself, the dip came when the town I’m living in experienced the worst ice storm most of us had ever experienced. When we (and many others) lost power for multiple days and our house became colder, and colder … and then when two oaks toppled over in our backyard, the joy of launching a book became a distant memory.
Do: Find Yourself an Author Group
To get through the ups and down of the first year of publication, I was fortunate to be part of the #21ders group of authors who debuted in 2021. I’m not quite sure how it came about, but the Slack group offered information about audiobooks, launch events, marketing, the second book, school visits, and more. It was a safe space to commiserate about reviews, ask questions, share advice. Undoubtedly, many of you are part of a writing community already.
As all of us know, the writing process can be a very lonely existence. It doesn’t have to be! Even though many of us are introverts and reaching out can feel contrary to our nature, I still urge you to do so. I found that being part of the #21ders made the tough parts of the debut year so much easier.
My only regret is that I didn’t interact with the group even more than I did.
Don’t: Read Your Goodreads Reviews
Speaking of the tough parts of one’s debut year … let’s talk about reviews. Or rather, let’s not. I’m not saying to ignore criticism or to disregard feedback. When you’re in the writing stage, I think the more feedback, the better! But once your book is out in the world, those reviews out there are for the readers, not the writer.
Did I follow my own advice? No, I did not!
I think I’ve checked my Goodreads page more times than I am willing to admit and yes, there were some really nice ones. But there are also those 2- and 1-star ones that would make any writer feel icky and bad about themselves. No matter how thick-skinned you might think you are, that gut-punch of the first 1-star review leaves a mark.
However, there’s nothing you can do about these reviews so why waste your energy stressing over them? It’s important to remember that no work is going to appeal to everyone, and there’s rarely any actionable item expressed within these reviews, good or bad. So, my advice is to leave the reviews for whom they were meant—the readers.
On a related note, if you feel compelled to write a negative review of an author’s work, that’s your right. Just don’t tag them—that’s just tacky.
Don’t: Compare Yourself to Others
A wise fellow writer once reminded me of President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Applicable in many situations, it is especially so with book publishing.
Say your book sells a few thousand copies. Thousands! And you’re excited because that’s more eyes on your work than you’d ever have before. But then, someone you know makes The New York Times Best Sellers list and the joy you felt earlier dims. At the end of the year, “Best of …” lists abound.
It’s easy to get swept up in the hoopla when someone or some organization does recognize your book in this manner, with an award, or a nomination … but does the honor of a nomination mean less when you see your friend actually win?
No. It shouldn’t, because ultimately, do we create for the purpose of ending up on a list? I don’t think so.
Do: Take Stock at the End of the Year
When you write something and present it to the world, it’s exciting. It might feel like a dream come true. But what they don’t tell you is that it’s also terrifying. Your creations represent a part of you and showing that to the world for everyone to see, judge, like, or dislike is—in my mind—a supreme act of courage.
Sure, you might receive some (or a lot) of negative feedback. Or, you might receive very little acknowledgment at all. Or you might receive a message or two like the following, which makes it all worthwhile:
Do: Start Something New
So, last year I became a published author. In Tick, Tick … Boom!, when writer Jonathan Larson asked his agent Rosa Stevens what he should do next, she responds, “You start writing the next one. And after you finish writing that one, you start on the next … and on and on and that’s what it is to be a writer, honey.”
Currently, I’m in the post-excitement phase of publishing my second book, Dream, Annie, Dream, and waiting for edits for my third book, which is scheduled to be out in Summer 2023. As I feel the blues start to creep in, I remember the words of Rosa Stevens … and I think about Book #4. I must admit I’m intimidated.
When I’ve told critique partners what I’m thinking of, they agree that it’s ambitious. I worry that I’m not going to be able to pull it off. But I won’t know unless I try, so … here I go.
I’m writing the next one, because that’s what it is to be a writer.
*Feature Image: "Free in the Sky" by Cristina Bernazzani (Adobe)