Here it is – the last of my ‘behind the scenes’ posts. I meant to write and post this closer to my release day (Feb 1st), but it’s taken me a few weeks to gather my thoughts and emotions into this post.
First, in preparation for my release day and working with my publisher, we released the cover, organized a two-week blog tour around my release date, listed my book on NetGalley so book reviewers could request it, and I wrote A LOT of guest posts. My publisher also organized several giveaway contests to help spread the word. One of the best things was that my publisher provided me with a list of book bloggers who were interested in hosting me on their site and asked me to reach out to them directly. This was a great experience, and I met some fantastic and very supportive people in working out the details of these guest spots.
Because my book was a digital release with print on demand, and because I live on a Dutch island in the Caribbean, organizing a book signing party wasn’t feasible. Originally, I wasn’t planning any physical celebration, but this milestone was 13 years in the making, and my critique partner (who has already released two books) strongly recommended that I do something to celebrate. Great advice! So, I planned a book launch lunch and invited 35 of my friends to a local restaurant, where we had lunch, cake and champagne, and my daughter did a book reading. I’m so glad I decided to celebrate like this. It was a very special day, and I’ll always remember it.
So why was celebrating this day such a good idea? Because I’m learning that publishing a book is not all “awesome goodness”. I’m learning that it comes with lots of thoughts and emotions, both highs and lows. I’ve tried to sum these up here:
If you are like me and have dreamed of being a published author for many, many years, you’ve probably built it up in your head to something of monolithic proportions. I’m not sure what I expected, but my life didn’t really change. Life keeps ticking along, and the day-to-day tasks required of me as a writer stay the same.
Holding a physical copy of my book in my hands for the first time was a surreal experience. It’s hard to describe, but the words I’d written just looked so “real” when they were printed on the pages of a book! It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.
Hearing from readers/reviewers who had positively connected with my book was the biggest high imaginable. For so long, these characters belonged only to me, and it was amazing to realize that other people had formed their own relationships with my characters and story. It really is an incredible feeling.
On the flip side, hearing from readers/reviewers who wanted to see something different or changed in my story made me second-guess my decisions. Should I have added more romance, or changed a character or the ending?
The need to check for reviews/feedback on my book basically became an obsession. I’ve checked with other authors, and this seems to be a normal reaction…thankfully it wasn’t just me! At some point, I accepted that writing is an entirely subjective art form. What some readers will love, others will cringe at. I can only write the book I’m happy with and be appreciative of all the readers and reviewers who tried my book and took the time to provide their feedback, whether positive or negative. Eventually the need to compulsively scan social media for any mention of my book has faded, and I now understand authors who say that they never read book reviews. I don’t know if I could go to that extreme, but I’m learning to put reviews and feedback in context. One thing that really helped was to read reviews of books I love. For pretty much any book, you can find positive and negative reviews, so by reading negative reviews for books that I personally felt really positive about, it helped drive home the point that writing a book that every single reader will love is pretty much an impossible goal. Instead, I need to write a book that I’m proud of as a writer.
Before I published my book, I had a single goal – to get an agent and publish a book. Once I achieved this goal, I realized that my goal had shifted. Not only did I want to publish a book, I wanted readers to connect with it. But just when I started receiving amazing reviews that made me dance around my house, my goal shifted again. I want to become a serious, career author, which means focusing on my next book. This shifting goal line happened quickly over the space of a couple of weeks and gave me a little mental whiplash. Now that the goal line has settled into place, I’m feeling like I’m back on solid ground.
Book promotion does not come easy to me. There are some aspects that I enjoy, like just being social on Twitter and Facebook, but coming up with creative and imaginative ideas to spread the word about my book is not my strong suit. So focusing on this task for the weeks surrounding my book release was mentally draining for me. I prefer writing and revising. So I’ve learned that to be happy, I have to balance both of these aspects of being an author.
There you have it – my thoughts on debuting as an author. It has been an exciting, emotional milestone in my writing career. I’d love to hear thoughts from other writers/authors. What was your debut like? Did you experience any of the same things?