On Thursday, Unicorn Tracks will be one month old. It seems surreal. After more than a year of waiting, editing, blurbing, talking to my editors, bloggers … the fact that it’s actually out doesn’t quite register with me. My mind can’t quite process that my book is in the wild, has been in the wild, for thirty days. At the same time, I’m cherishing the reader photographs and comments, documenting my baby’s first month in pictures like a proud mother.
Last week, I attended BEA/Bookcon and had my first signing. The publisher brought fifty copies of Unicorn Tracks, and we ran out within twenty-five minutes. That was incredible. But perhaps the most incredible and enduring part, for me as an author, was having every single one of those eager readers sign my copy of the book. Each of those signatures represents a copy. A real, physical copy, that has found an eager pair of hands. That signed book is an anchor to reality. My book has debuted. I have debuted. We are out there.
Amazing Things About Being a Debut
1) Everyone will listen to you talk about your book. People you barely know will ask about your book. From what I’ve heard from other writers, this newness, this interest from everyone you meet, definitely wears out the longer you’re a writer. Of course, by that point, you hopefully have real fans who ask because they like your work rather than asking because they like the idea of knowing an author. But at the same time, there is something really nice about being asked. Maybe I’m especially sensitive to this. I come from an academic background where no one understood or cared what obscure topic I was working on for my dissertation.
2) You get to meet lots and lots of authors. Debut authors are excited, terrified and like to stick to each other like Velcro. This is because the experience of being a new author with a book on the horizon, is like no other time in a writer’s career. No one really knows what to expect or how things will go. As a result, debuts bond together and talk to each other. It’s an extended support network and I made so many new friends this year. My #protip on this is to be equally nice to everyone you meet. Don’t be mercantile in your friending. A lot of people will see through it in a heartbeat.
3) Debut Events! So many blogs and websites host events for Debut Authors. It makes you feel a little bit like a celebrity even though you have no book out yet and nobody knows who you are. There will also be physical firsts. Your first signing, for example. Your first fan encounter. Those firsts are magical!
4) You learn so much about how the publishing process works with your first book. You learn how editing rounds will go, what it’s like to work through an edit letter and a whole manuscript full of in-text comments from a professional who is not your CP. You learn to negotiate with design teams and how to read royalty statements.
Things I'll Do Differently Next Time
1) Have some rhyme and reason in the timing of things like cover reveals, teasers, blog tours etc. I think with this book I did my cover reveal waaaaaay too early because I was too excited to share UT’s cover with the world. But I think a lot of the people who got buzzy about the cover in October had forgotten the buzz by April at release. I’ll be doing this tighter for my next book.
2) Spend way less time on GoodReads on the days after release. While I confess to being one of those authors who reads their reviews (and this probably isn’t going to change. I’m realistic about myself and my obsessive nature), reading reviews or following status updates in the days when you’re supposed to be riding the release party high is not a good idea.
3) Make sure that reviewers have their ARCs much further in advance. Some beautiful bloggers managed to complete pre-reviews at a very pushy timescale.
4) Be more clear with my publisher / publicist about the timing of publicity efforts. I think that I didn’t communicate very effectively about what I was doing, which led to a lot of concentration in some areas of the marketing plan, and possibly not enough in others. Like most debuts, I was really really nervous about being perceived as a diva, but going forward, I’ll be more businesslike in working out this timetable/plan.
5) Spend more time really enjoying the editorial process: pouring over my edit letter, dissecting my comments and laughing/crying with them. This time around, I was really panicky about the deadlines. I’ve never missed a deadline on any project. I need to learn to relax and enjoy the ride.
Crash and Imposter Syndrome
A writer friend of mine and amazing author of The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig, has talked a lot about the crash after the buzz. Publishing is a business of waiting, hope, anticipation and rejection. You query and you wait. You sign a contract and you wait. You get edits, send them back, and wait some more. All the while, the sense of immediacy builds inside you until you’re ready to explode when release day comes. That, and I’m sorry to say, but rejection doesn’t end with the book deal. As a newbie author, you’ll probably worry constantly about rejection – possibly even more constantly than you did while querying or on submission. When you’ve debuted and the anticipation fades, it can leave a vacuum. Knowing where to direct that energy is hard. It’s hard to focus immediately on the next book. It’s hard to focus on going to the gym or hanging out with friends. Really, it’s hard to focus on anything but the void of nervous excitement. There’s something missing inside me where that was and it’s hard not to feel a little bit sad.
I struggle with my mental health. This is something I’m open and honest about. In the weeks after my debut and especially now that BEA is over, managing that void is something I’m still coming to terms with. But knowing that it’s something lots of other debut authors have experienced and overcome
I wrote an extensive blog post about the realities of Imposter Syndrome for Ava Jae’s blog. As a new author – especially an author published by a smaller house without an agent – I definitely felt like I didn’t belong a lot of the time. Sometimes, this had nothing to do with what others said or even how they reacted. It was mostly in my head. I was self-rejecting out of fear of being “not good enough” or being an “imposter author” in the writing community. Yes, there are people who are negative, who look down on other writers, but frankly, the good people so vastly outnumber these bad eggs. It can be too easy to focus on the people who don’t accept you or your books and get depressed about it. It took me a while to find a core group of authors to talk to and interact with. As I said in the article I wrote for Ava, even NYT bestselling author sometimes experience Imposter Syndrome.