I was going to write the standard letter to my younger self (quit trying to lose ten pounds, learn to say no, don’t date the bad boyfriend, etc.), but then I thought what would be really useful for this blog would be a letter to my starry-eyed, fresh-faced, debut self about the truth of being published. So here it goes:
The week your novel comes out, everyone you ever knew will get in touch with you. This will be fun, but also exhausting, and after a short time of this, you will become paranoid that even the neighbors are looking at you funny when you run out to pick up your mail, especially when they tell you they have your book.
You will embarrass yourself by wildly flipping through magazines in the supermarket aisle to read reviews of your own book, but you will at least have the grace to restrain from holding the page out so everyone in line can see and loudly proclaiming, “LOOK! I WROTE THIS!”
Quit trying to lose ten pounds before your first reading.
Just because a review insinuates that your book should rush up the bestseller lists does not mean it will. In fact, you will have to learn to quantify your success differently. Being on a list, while totally gratifying and good for your career, should not be your end goal in putting out a novel. If you start to believe this, you are hosed.
It will be difficult to sell a first, literary novel in hardback in the worst recession in fifty years, especially when said novel is about a giantess who murders people with herbal concoctions.
Your second book will be a challenge to write, so get started now. Somehow, you will have totally forgotten how to write a novel, in spite of the fact that you just edited, copy-edited, released, and promoted one.
By the time you’re almost finished writing the second book, your house will still be as messy as it was when you finished Book One, and, oddly, no one in the family will seem to care.
Eventually, you will come to a kind of grace about the whole process. You will receive many, wonderful emails from readers, and you will realize that, yes, you HAVE built an audience, and you will feel proud. You’ll figure out that success isn’t an overnight endeavor, and that getting to write stories and have them published is a blessing and a dream come true. Everything else is icing.
So, Debut Self, I hope you remember all of this as you get ready to start the whole, crazy carnival ride over again with your second novel. Good luck, work hard, and, remember, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game!