(Yes, I made up a word for my title. You’ll see another version of it, also made it, later in the post. Moving on…)
I stumbled across an article today, entitled “Who Will Buy Your Book?” by Tom McAllister. The title intrigued me, so I thought I’d check it out, give it a quick read right before my lunch break. I found it…surprisingly sad how much I nodded along with it, even though I’m not a published author, instead a writer who is working her way there.
For those who aren’t in the business or don’t know a lot about publishing, there are quite a few misconceptions commonly believed that, quite frankly, drive someone who wants to break into this business, up the wall. Like the idea that writing a book is easy (oh, how it grinds my gears when someone makes such a claim). Or how, if you get one book published, you’ll be rich. This also drives me nuts, because that is not at all how it works, especially with a debut novel. It’s so rare, yet there is this assumption that one book deal equates to sitting pretty and never worrying about anything financial ever again (I wish). Or how people will be like, “You’ll totally get published one day,” without ever having read my writing. That one is tricky, because I love the support and the belief in me (seriously, it does mean the world), but also, how can you make that claim when you’ve never read anything I’ve written?
McAllister touches on some of these topics, but he also speaks on some things that I haven’t been privy to, yet, but that I totally believe could be my reality, one day, if I’m ever lucky enough to join the ranks of the published.
He discusses how he’s had book events–signings, readings and the like–where hardly anyone showed up or how he had to deal with cancellations at the very last minute from friends who promised to come. He talks about how there is this belief that all of your friends and family will buy your book, once it comes out, yet that isn’t actually the case–even less so that those who do buy it will actually read it. The most poignant section, for me, was when he discussed how, in the months leading up to a book’s publication, you become “a swirling vortex of neediness,” trying to market your book, advertise it, asking for blurbs and reviews, doing promotions, trying to spread awareness, making demands, every day, “for people’s time and money.” He talks about how likes and retweets don’t always transition to sales and how sometimes, you’ll feel desperate enough to sell your book anywhere just to get one (like your mother’s wedding, as his example).
He makes the claim that publishing a book is actually the anticlimax in your career.
Perhaps ignorantly, I think I agree with him, as much as one can without experiencing said experience firsthand.
Because we all have this vision, right? Writers, I mean. Of what publication looks like. We see others do it on social media, talking about The Call, posting contract signing pictures, book tour schedules and Con appearances, gushing over reviews, hinting at movie deals and foreign rights and sequels. It’s appealing and it’s part of the dream I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Of course there is a flip side to it: the late nights dealing with impostor syndrome, having a book fall flat or not get picked up during submission, trunked projects, self-doubt, not making enough to quit your day job, tax season.
I’m not surprised by that at all. That’s how life is; that’s how it works.
I guess this article just reminded me that I do have a certain vision in my head and I do romanticize it a lot, about what my publication journey will look like. It probably won’t live up to that romanticization.
But it other ways, it will.
And that’s the important part.
Sure, I’ll probably have a book signing one day where no one but my Mom shows up. Or I’ll have everyone be really excited about my announcement of my first book deal, only for them to be super annoyed with me by the end, because they are tired of hearing about this book, after I’ve been marketing it for the past year. Sure, I’ll still have bad writing days and self-doubt and fears even after I’ve published a book (or even ten).
But I’ll also have those emails that pop in randomly from a fan who adored X character because of what they did; or they’re livid with me with that ending and JUST NEED BOOK TWO NOW. I’ll have that moment where I get to unbox my ARCs of my own book, see my name on the cover and get to hold it, physically, in my hands, while I’m crying, because I did it. My dream came true. I’ll have old friends I haven’t heard from in years text me a picture of my book in a bookstore and perhaps we’ll get coffee afterwards. I’ll go to my first book Con as an invited guest and my face will be crimson the entire time on the panel, but I might make some people laugh, too, so it’ll be worth the embarrassment and awkwardness that is naturally me.
This article reminded me that not every experience, expectation or hope will come to pass during my publication journey as I’ve always dreamed them to be. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a dream worth chasing or that my stories aren’t worth telling, because friends, there is only one way to find out exactly how that journey is going to go down.
And that is to live it.