(Cue the scary Vincent Price movie music)
I have what I consider pretty standard fears–terrorism, house fires or house explosions, being pushed onto the subway tracks, rats. But there is a section of my brain devoted to a special sub-group of scary thoughts: publishing fears.
Publishing fears change as you move along in the process. In the early days there was fear of the workshop, followed by fear of revision. I worried that I would never find an agent. Once I did, I worried that I would never sell the book, or worse–that I would sign a contract with a publishing house, only to have the editor add aliens and publish it as a futuristic inter-species romance/thriller. Thankfully none of these things happened. But that hasn’t stopped the next wave of fears from gathering. Here is my current top ten.
1. That someone else has written a novel about a banjo-playing pastry chef who lights her workplace on fire with a flaming baked Alaska and flees to Vermont, and that their book will come out before mine, to great critical acclaim, and that THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING will be seen as a copycat and universally shunned.
2. What if I am in denial, and that it is actually impossible to write another book while finishing and promoting my first book, working my beloved, pesky day job, writing this blog and keeping my relationship, my house and my friendships all intact?
3. That I won’t be able to stop stress-eating, and that when my pub date arrives I will obsess about what I look like, and will miss the whole MY DREAM JUST CAME TRUE thing.
4. Having the same pub date as J. K. Rowling, Jonathan Franzen AND the lost manuscript that Harper Lee and J. D. Salinger wrote together during the height of their torrid affair.
5. Not being reviewed in major newspapers and publications.
6. Being reviewed in major newspapers and publications.
7. My first Goodreads or Amazon review that starts out “I really wanted to love this book, but…”
8. Rows and rows of empty grey folding chairs.
9. That I will start hyperventilating during my first reading, pass out, knock my head against the podium and will spend the evening in the ER getting my face stitched back together instead of at my own book launch party.
10. Seeing my book in the remainder bin.
If you look closely, there is a common thread that runs through all of these fears. What’s that? The common thread is that I am an anxious person? Yes!
The common thread is that with the (possible) exception of the stress eating, all of the fears are about things that are totally out of my control. Here is what the Dalai Lama has to say about this–
“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”
I think this is the best advice. Do what is in your control–write the best book you can. Brainstorm ways you can promote your novel. When problems arise (Ms. Editor, could we talk about the aliens?), do what you can to address them. And try to let go of the rest.