Tuesday marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life—the publication of my first novel. While, in many ways, this has been just another week—each day full of the typical weekly activities and responsibilities (times a thousand, thanks to all the last-minute tasks and preparations of getting my book info out wherever I can)—it’s also been full of the realization of a dream come true and the hopes of so many more to come.
As I type this (at midnight on my blog post day), I’m reflecting on five lessons from publishing my debut novel.
Fear lies around the corner at every step.
The monsters of Fear and Doubt don’t stop when you pick up the pen and write until you reach The End. They emerge frequently during revisions and editing. They grow larger than life when it comes time to approve proofs and hit publish. And, once your words are out in the world to be judged, critiqued and criticized, they box you into a corner and loom over you until you shrink down and withdraw deep within yourself.
But, just as with each step you’ve already achieved, once more you can find a hidden reserve of courage, of confidence and of determination—each of which combines to strengthen the resolve to stand. Stand in the face of these monsters, grow larger and confront them face to face and say, “Not today. Today, I am a published author. Today, my words blow on the winds of readers’ excitement. Today, I launch my literary legacy; and, today, I choose to push past you to enjoy the moment and look ahead to my next task, my next story, my next contribution to the great ongoing conversation that spans millennia and includes great thinkers, common folks and people who sparked revolutions.
My biggest fear lies not in the words of the critics.
When you think of Fear and Doubt as a writer, it primarily lands on our abilities and others’ perceptions of those abilities. My biggest fear now that my work is out finds its roots elsewhere.
Today I feel like I hold the hopes and faith of every person who has supported me through this process. When I think through that long list, I’m humbled, thankful, awed; but I’m also fearful. What if my words disappoint? What if I fail? What if …
I know. That question only works well when brainstorming a novel.
This past Sunday, my book’s launch was mentioned along with the other announcements because I have the most supportive church family on the planet. Seriously, we’re having a Chicken ‘n’ Dumplin‘ CookOff next Sunday just so I can find a recipe to use with a giveaway for book events. I can’t tell you how many times members of our congregation have come up to me and asked when they can buy my book. It’s just incredible and beyond my wildest imagination!
It’s not just my church community, though. From my loving family and friends to all my local libraries to my local bookstore and several other fantastic independent bookstores in the South to YOU … I am being carried on strong shoulders!
The thought of disappointing you all terrifies me.
I love this book, but I’ve got the capacity to love the next too.
Once you’ve had a child and consider having another, you feel a nagging prickle of fear that you couldn’t possibly love another human as much as you love that first little bundle. However great that fear grows as the little person develops and prepares to face this world, one look at him or her and you know—your capacity to love runs deep, and that first moment of eye contact seals the deal.
I will always love Jack’s story, but—in some ways—it’s no longer mine. It now belongs to the readers. My responsibility lies with my next story now; in giving it shape and being and purpose. Any Good Thing got all it needed from me to be a fully grown literary citizen, ready for the world. It’s time for me to pour that into a new work.
Instead of wanting to cling to it or not wanting to move on from it, I find myself proud of it from a distance and eager to continue with the next projects already in the works, with the ever-growing vision of the next new project already bubbling in my imagination and longing to be birthed.
This is only the beginning.
I want to soak in every moment of this beautiful first, but I’m highly mindful of the fact that this is only the first of … what I hope will be … many stories. My focus fluctuates between worrying I’m going to mess up this first one to thinking ahead to the next.
Patience continues to be a lesson cast upon me.
Have you ever heard the saying about how every overnight sensation took decades to become one? Nowhere is that more true than with authors—though, we may never be considered a “sensation.” In fact, very few will ever make a living from their books alone.
As I check my sales reports, I have to remind myself of these facts and logically contemplate how it will take time to find my readers. It will take steps—some small, some better titled “leaps”—and many of them to get me to a place of seeing tangible results.
But, every opportunity—like teaching the college class tonight, that I was asked to do two days ago—and interaction—like finding the nerve last year to ask the bookstore owner at the Mississippi Book Fest if she ever considered self-published authors—bring me closer to the goals I’ve set for myself in this career and to the results I desire from this endeavor.
My desire is that these lessons from publishing my debut novel will inspire and encourage you and that they will remind me of where I’ve been and push me harder toward pursuing the many goals I’ve set for myself and my future.
If you’re a writer who is published, what were some of the lessons you learned from that first one? How did those lessons steer and motivate you toward your next publication and all the ones that followed?
If you’re working toward publication, what questions do you have? Do you have some concerns or fears about it?
As a reader, what do you think about this crazy process of publishing? Do you have questions about how I’ve gotten to this point or where I intend to go?
CHALLENGE: Did you know you can have Any Good Thing in your local independent bookstore or library? That’s right! All you have to do is let them know and put in an order (store) or a request (library). Your local bookstore can order any book with an ISBN (the special number assigned to a book). Most libraries welcome requests from their patrons. If you would like to do this, please email me because I have a sheet all ready for you with all of the information (including ISBNs) they will need from you. I’m also willing to do in-person book signings and can do in-person or virtual book readings or talks about the facts behind my fiction. These options could also extend to book clubs who choose to read my book together. For more information on booking me, please contact Logos & Mythos Press!