Well hello there Debutante Ball readers! It has been a long time since I danced on this stage as a Debutante back in 2009. Not that long since I danced mind you. In fact I did that just recently, after imbibing far too many drinks in celebration of mine & St. John’s 21st wedding anniversary. (I figure if your marriage is THAT OLD, you are allowed to take it out and get it drunk!)
Ah but anyway, I didn’t pop back in after all this time to tell you, shamefacedly and a bit hung over, about my anniversary debauchery. Although that was a rollicking good time. After downing my fifth drink, I am told I was heard shouting, “Let me get out there and show the white people how to dance!” No, what I came to talk about was life after THE BOOK and more importantly for you dear readers and book lovers – the proper care and feeding of your favorite authors.
The three years since FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA was published have been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs – enough to make even me, of pregnant-with-malaria-and-dysentery-but-still-not-vomiting fame want to throw up. And while there is nothing that feels quite as good as having your first book published (with the possible exception of when the police finally let you out of the handcuffs), there are some pretty sobering realities to it as well. The worst part may be that everyone thinks you’ve got it made when in reality… your future may be as unmade as your teenager’s bed. People just assume that your fate as a rich and famous author is sealed, the books will keep rolling out, and the royalties and advances will keep rolling in. All casual conversation in social settings is now replaced by the single question, “So when is your next book coming out?” (I kid you not. I am regularly asked this question at parties, funerals, while hiking in the woods, and in one supremely awkward moment, on my gynecologist’s examining table.)
Mind you, all the interest in my book and its sequel is very flattering. Just not so much when my next book is not forthcoming, nor even a glimmer in my editor’s eye. It’s not that I haven’t written another book. But the sad truth is that my publisher – as well as several others that bid for the rights to my first book – all passed on the opportunity to publish the sequel. “The Lights Are Listening: My life as a “spy” in the former Soviet Union,” is every bit as funny as my foray into the developing world, but wackier because everyone in Uzbekistan after the fall of communism was certifiably crazy!
But unfortunately for my career, my first book came out – in hardcover (read: EXPENSIVE) just as the economy was falling off a cliff. The publishing industry tanked soon after, taking my publicist and marketing team with them. My publishing house took a loss on my book, my imprint got swallowed up by another, and I haven’t heard from my editor in years. (She may be off on her own adventure by now, housebreaking hyenas in Ethiopia for all I know. This might be a smart career move, what with the downturn in the publishing industry and all.)
None of this is to imply boo hoo, poor me. My book was published, it’s out there, and it’s well loved. And THAT alone is all that any writer can hope for. So even when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I remember how lucky I really am. But what I’d like the rest of the world to remember – especially the book-loving public – is that the book business is a business just like any other. That means, at the end of the day, authors fail if you don’t BUY their books. (I know … BUY it’s a dirty little three-letter word, isn’t it?) People who love books share them, lend them, and pass them around. But believe it or not, that hurts authors.
If you love a restaurant, a store, or a farmer’s market, and you want to see them stay in business, you support them by buying their products. It’s no different with authors. We don’t stay in business if we don’t sell enough of our books. Authors need to sell books – LOTS OF THEM – in order to secure a contract to publish more. People who love authors, buy the authors’ books, then buy another to give to their sister as a birthday gift, and one for their mother on Mothers’ Day, too. They give them as Christmas gifts to everyone on their lists and in the case of my BFF – order them by the case and hand them out like candy. (Alright, she’s IN the book. But I bet she’d do that even if she weren’t.)
Sharing books gets them out there and gets people reading, so I don’t mean to belittle people who do that. But please understand why I force a smile when someone tells me, gushingly, how she loved my book so much that she lent it to six friends. Or why I seem less than thrilled when I come to a book club where everyone borrowed my book from the library. Don’t get me wrong: I am truly flattered that readers enjoy my book so much they want to share it. But now you might understand why I sputter and then cry when a declaration of love for my book (which was borrowed from a neighbor who lent it to her sister who shared it with her daughter who heard about it from her best friend who took it out of the library) is followed by the question, “So when is your next book coming out?”
Deb Eve Brown-Waite is the author of FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA. In 2009, she danced at the Debutante Ball each Friday. She now works as the Executive Director of ACT NOW! Inc. a non-profit organization that builds self-esteem and confidence in adolescent girls. She is also completing her Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She is not presently writing another book and she doesn’t dance (or get drunk) nearly enough anymore!