After spending days/weeks/months counting down to Taken‘s release, my debut year is finally coming to a close. It unfolded with a lot of highs, lows, surprises, and everything in between.
I’m incredibly grateful for all the experiences I’ve had, but gosh, I wish I’d been prepared for the emotional roller coaster of putting a book into the world for the very first time. Problem is, I don’t think anyone can really prepare you for it. Not truly. They can warn you, give a few words of advice, but really, it’s something that has to be experienced to be understood. Debuting truly is a rite of passage.
Regardless, I’m still going to try to pass along a few lessons I learned this year. I find it cathartic to type them out, and maybe these insights will help an author debuting in 2014 feel a little less alone in the madness…
1 — The last month before launch will be hell.
Every other moment you will feel like puking. Your friends and family will keep asking why you’re not ecstatic. You’ve proofed your book so many times you’ve reached the point where if you never have to read it again, it will be too soon. Plus, all of its flaws now seem blindingly obvious. You want to rewrite the thing. You’re not sure why anyone decided to publish it. You’re drowning in a sea of nerves, anxiety, fears, doubts, insecurities, and insomnia, and simply put, it sucks. But you’re not alone. Most debuts experience this lovely trauma, and the only way out is through.
2 — Ignorance is bliss.
At least for me, reader reactions to my book didn’t help me in any way. The positive ones made me nervous I’d disappoint them with my sequel. And the negative ones were paralyzing. I could read ten glowing reviews and one harsh one, and the negative voice would stick in my head. I’d start thinking I somehow tricked everyone else into liking my book. That they must be wrong for enjoying it. Banish those negative voices from your head and stop looking at the feedback. The book’s out now and you can’t change it. All you can do is write the next one. So cancel your google alerts, stop reading reviews, spend less time online, and get back to work!
3 — Don’t play the comparison game.
It’s easy to look at the people debuting around you and weigh your book’s reception against theirs. Don’t do it. It’s a sure way to poison yourself. Your self-worth as a writer is not the same as your book’s success, and expectations vary from book to book. Plus, the novel you’re pleased to see you’re outselling might have had way less marketing push than yours. And then the one outselling you on amazon by a long-shot? Maybe that author went on tour, or had promotional pricing for a month while you didn’t. So just stop comparing. That game never ends well.
4 — You will find your zen again.
For me, it came about three or four months after launch. I was able to go online without checking amazon ranks or goodreads ratings. I was able to write again, and enjoy it. I could sleep. Debuting is a roller-coaster and it takes its toll. Don’t think you’re a failure if you have trouble adjusting from soon-to-be-published-author to published-author-with-book-in-the-wild. It’s a process, and I’ve yet to meet a writer who made the transition gracefully.
5 — The only thing you can control is the writing.
Let go of everything else. The sales, tours, store placement, list-hitting, blurbs, reviews, ratings, fandoms, etc, etc. None of it is in your control. Stressing over something you cannot physically change is not only a waste of time, but emotionally crippling. Write the next book. Make it the best that you can. Your craft is the only thing completely in your power, so keep it precious. Carve out your writing time and guard it fiercely. Do not let outside forces turn it into something you no longer love.