Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Open Letter to Debut Authors: Five Things to Consider



Dear Debut Author,

 A year ago, when I launched my debut novel , I told myself that I would throw myself into the next twelve months and do all I could with the resources I had to bring my babe into the world. It’s been a wild and crazy ride (as Steve Martin might say).  These past twelve months, I’ve felt emotions in concentrated, hyper-potent doses. I’ve been wistful, happy, and everything in between; seasoned by all the events and people I’ve met, mistakes and victories I’ve experienced. I’m both sober and inebriated. I have a long way to go, and much to learn, but I hope you’ll consider these five things as you step into your debut year.

Thing #1 – Delight, enjoy and celebrate your launch.  You’re a debut author once. That’s it. Embrace your accomplishment.  Give yourself time to breathe in your feelings of pride and happiness—yes—happiness!  If you have to disappear into your bedroom closet to shout, do it! Hug your old clothes. Spill your pent up tears. If you start blubbering with gratitude because a bird landed on your front walk, ride the sensation—sob away. Be a sentimentalist. Be melodramatic with joy. You’ve worked hard to achieve this, harder than most people will ever understand. 

Thing #2 – Pace yourself. You will reach stations of utter exhaustion, moments when you are overwhelmed, and confused. You will tell yourself not to complain. You will tell yourself: This is my dream, how can I stop pushing, doing, trying every day?  Well, here’s a silly joke:  

“Knock. Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Human.”

“Human who?”

“Human who needs sleep. Human who needs routines. Human who needs healthy foods to function at debut author speed.”

Seriously. You will push harder than you thought you could. But, you will hit that wall of fatigue. You won’t know you’ve bumped into it until your head hurts and your mind is whizzing around Venus—hot and fiery. That’s when I’d like to suggest you take a break, a few days off to parent yourself.  Don’t worry. You’ll be back at it. You’ll book another reading; you’ll write another blog post, you’ll answer more q&a’s, but you must pause or you will burn up.  Your psyche will disintegrate. Respect the demands of your particular lifestyle, family and financial constraints. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who want the best for you.  You are the boss of your life.

Thing #3 – Beware of Goodreads Reviews. (Okay. Laugh.)  Every author I talked to forewarned me: “Goodreads is particularly nasty,” they said. “Not everyone will love your book.”  You will listen and nod and be grateful for the cautionary advice, but privately you will want to be that one exception.  You won’t be.  No one is. Not Dickens. Not Jane Austen. Not YOU.  You will get that cranky, stupid review, the one where a reader can’t or won’t understand your character, will refuse to understand why your book has swears or sex. My cheap advice?  Don’t engage. Let those nasty reviewers fade away. Most will. (You can always vent with fellow authors. They will happily vent with you.)

Thing #4 – Let surprises…surprise you.  A reader you’ve never met will fall in love with your book, rave about it, pass it on to his or her friends, blog about it, cheer you on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s not a fluke.  It’s what you hoped for but it will still come out of the blue, unexpected and thrilling. It’s one of the most wondrous events, a gift from heaven designed especially for authors.  Soak it in. 


Thing #5 – Do everything in your power not to compare yourself with other writers and their books.  Comparing is an animal that seeks out sink holes, swamps and depression.  You’ll follow it anyway. But keep a tight leash on it. Life is fickle. Readers and reviewers are inconsistent. But you can remain constant about yourself.  Don’t compare. Just don’t.

Now, return to Thing #1 - Delight, enjoy and celebrate your debut year.  Congratulations! 

Warm wishes and good luck!

Jessica Keener   
Author of Night Swim

16 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Jessica, and some things I needed to hear! Is that cute little guy yours as a little one?

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    1. Hi, Julie. Thanks. Yes. That little guy is my son. How could I resist?

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  2. So true and so fabulous, and I couldn't agree more about Goodreads!

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    1. Barbara--Sadly, some people have no sense of diplomacy when they review books!

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  3. Thank you, Jessica. So much of this resonated with me even now, though my book doesn't come out until July. Every time I catch myself silently grumbling or feeling stressed about book two, I have to remind myself that this is my dream. I need...I want...to enjoy it. I'm keeping a copy of this great post. Thank you!

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    1. So glad to hear this, Lori. Congratulations on yours coming out in July. That's not too far away.

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  4. Oh Jessica, I so needed this...as a debut author (1st book out May, 3 out this year! GULP) I'm pinning this to my bulletin board to refer to a zillion times over the next 12 months.

    Thanks for leaving a trail of bread crumbs...

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    1. Dear Laura- So happy to hear I could help. I didn't sleep much for 6 months prior to my launch. Congratulations!

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  5. I think this is possibly the best knock knock joke I've ever heard! Nice post, Jessica, and congratulations.

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    1. Ha ha, Holly! I'm so bad at jokes. Thanks for your comment!

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  7. Thanks, Jessica. My debut novel is out in a few months. I am scared to death!!! and exhilarated, and frantic, and . . . LOL This is a wonderful article to help me keep the roller coaster ride from bouncing me off into the ether! (Sorry for the deleted comment; I rushed to publication and didn't do my editing!)

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    1. Dear Sharon, you sound more than normal. Perfectly normal. It's intense, isn't it? Congratulations on your upcoming. Drink lots of water, and best wishes.

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  8. Wonderful post! My book has been out for three months so I'm still in "very new author" mode and am getting used to all of this. Good to know this about Goodreads reviews -- they do seem to be picky on that site!

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    1. Hello, N.R.E. -glad to hear from you. Yes. Picky is a nice way of putting it. Have a fruitful rest of your debut year! And, you're right. It definitely takes getting used to. Enjoy this time as much as you can.

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