I’ve always been a big reader, and that means there have been a lot of books that made a difference in my life. On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the first chapter book I ever read. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, changed the way I thought about food and eating. On Writing, by Stephen King, propelled me into finishing my book.
But there was one book, more than any other, that changed the propulsion of my life as a writer: The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published.
As books about publishing go, it’s a fair one. It’s a fun read, laid out in a friendly manner, with lots of little clip-arty snippets along the side of the page and lots of “insidery” toned anecdotes. These days, you can find any of that stuff on the internet (probably back then, too, but that was before the heyday of Miss Snark and the other blogging agents).
So, no, it wasn’t the book itself or its content that changed my life.
It’s the fact that it was given to me as a gift by my husband.
(And giving someone a book with the term “For Dummies” or “Idiot’s Guide” in the title can be risky. When done without the utmost delicacy, it can result in some narrowed eyes and raised eyebrows… trust me, I know.)
He’d seen me working on a few book projects. He knew that I was at a crossroads in my career and in my own personal sense of direction. And so, for a birthday or anniversary or Christmas or something, he gave me The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. Because he, unlike me at that point, believed I had it in me to write a book and sell it. He believed that I had what it takes to get an actual book on the shelf.
Prior to this, it had never seriously occurred to me that I could even finish a book, much less one that was good, and much much MUCH less actually sell it.
But sometimes when someone else believes in us, we come to believe in ourselves. Amazing how that works.
So if you’re the loved one of an aspiring author, please know that every bit of encouragement is appreciated. (Especially as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) winds down and bazillions of writers everywhere are passed out on the floor next to their desks with spacebar-shaped indents on their thumbs… maybe brew up a pot of coffee and a tub of chicken soup or something.)
When Bad Girls Don’t Die was out on submission, and one or two publishing houses had politely passed, I was starting to feel the crushing doubt that all writers experience in waves throughout their careers.
“But what if nobody wants it?” I wailed. “What if nobody likes it at all? What if it never goes anywhere? What do I do then?”
My darling unflappable husband, in the breezy manner of a man who buys his wife a book written for idiots, just shrugged and looked slightly puzzled by my lack of comprehension. “Then… you write another book,” he said.
PS – My bad, I looked up the actual title of the book and it’s “The COMPLETE Idiot’s Guide,” not just “The Idiot’s Guide.” LOL.