Five Tips for a Happy Debut Year*

  1. Keep the business stuff private. Selling your novel feels a lot like winning Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, Powerball, and the Irish Lottery all at once. You will want to jump up and down on camera holding a giant check, screaming. You will want to receive a passionate, congratulatory kiss and have it broadcast on a Jumbotron. You will want to climb up on stage, rip the mic out of Adele’s hand and say “YOU GUYS I JUST SOLD MY NOVEL!” to the cheering crowd of thousands. Instead, you will tell the person closest to you, then wait patiently (HA!) for the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement, which will not come out until months after the sale. While you are waiting, you will be tempted to tell everyone you know, especially your writing friends, all about your sale, including about your advance. It will be particularly tempting to tell the people who ask—and yes, people will ask. Please don’t do this. It only creates weirdness with your friends—both with your friends who have published books and with those who haven’t. Think of your book deal like any other aspect of your private business life—you don’t go telling all of your friends about how much money you made flipping over your house or how big your tax refund was, do you? Trust me, you will be happy you kept all of the details of your sale private in the long run, even if it meant you had to bite your tongue until it was bloody.
  1. Be a whole person. Selling your first novel can be all consuming. It can be difficult to remember what you used to think about, talk about and do once you have entered into your debut year. I was definitely not the greatest partner, friend or co-worker those first few months after my book sale. The best antidote to the adrenaline-fueled excitement of selling your novel? Getting outside of yourself. Be mindful of your conversations. When someone asks about your book, keep it short, especially if you are within earshot of anyone who has heard the story 80 million times. Reach out to your friends and only talk about them. Volunteer. Offer to help a writer who is at the stage before you. That 80/20 rule of social media? Make it 90/10, and practice it in real life as well as online. The more you focus on others, the faster you will feel connected to the world outside of your book deal, which is a very good thing.
  1. Find your squee-buddies. Seek out a couple of friends who are genuinely over-the-moon excited for you—you know who they are—and share your day-to-day excitement over the publishing process only with them. From the moment you sign with an agent until the day your book is a physical thing in a bookstore is a long process, filled with about one million thrilling (to you) moments. The truth is, not all of your friends or social media followers want to hear the blow-by-blow. I try to only share the really big news widely, and to turn to my closest pals when I feel the burning need to text in all caps MY FIRST BLURB or OMG, I SOLD THE TRANSLATION RIGHTS TO AN OBSCURE COUNTRY. Even then, I try to rotate among my friends so no one grows tired of me.
  1. Find your mentors. Author mentors are so important—I can’t emphasize this enough. Everything in your debut year is a new experience. You will have endless amounts of questions. At times you will be overwhelmed and confused. You will feel terrified and not know who to talk to. You will have dark moments where you are filled with doubt and insecurity. This is when you need your mentors. I honestly do not know what I would do without my published author-mentor-friends who have talked me down, have given me the straight truth and have offered me so much wonderful advice. Don’t be afraid to reach out to authors you have met and ask for help.
  1. Keep grounded. Take long walks. Eat lots of vegetables. Spend as much time as you can outdoors. Meditate. After spending the first few (ahem, eleven) months obsessively immersed in all things debut novel, I have finally realized that spending hours online Googling my book title and reading book marketing tips isn’t the path to happiness. And it doesn’t make your book get published any faster. Especially in those months leading up to your pub date, self-care is super important. Take good care of yourself—you want to be as strong, healthy and grounded as you can be when your dream comes true.

*From an author who knows what it’s like first hand not to follow them.

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Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at louisemillerauthor.tumblr.com.

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This article has 11 Comments

  1. A wonderful post, Louise. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Like so many things, the path to where you think you want to go is full of pitfalls and risk. Mentors, self-regulation, tolerant friends who will let you know their limits–all good.

  2. What a great post! I just got my agent and am working with her on getting my MS in shape for submission, so it’s great timing if I’m lucky enough to get a deal. Also I’m a Vermonter – look forward to reading your book, especially after I read that you aspired to create a Stars Hollow-like world!

    1. Thanks so much, Kaela! And congratulations! You are about to enter into a very exciting time. All good things to you on submission. And let me know when you have happy news to share!

  3. Great advice! I hope I am in your shoes one day to follow it! In the meantime, my friends who are non-writers seem to think that once I finish my rough draft I’ll get a publishing contract, someone will want to buy the movie rights and I’ll be able to quit my day job. Thank goodness I know better.

    1. Thanks so much, Doreen. It is funny how many non-writers have this myth about how wealthy authors get! Where does that myth come from??!!

      Best of luck with your WIP!

      1. I have no idea how that myth started but I’d like to find out!!

        Thank you for the good wishes!
        Looking forward to City Baker’s Guide to Country Living!

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