Getting published is always the goal, the end goal, what you aim for during all those nights and mornings of typing away at the keyboard. You spend so much energy thinking about finishing the book, writing the query letter, getting the agent, getting the publishing deal. You’ve done edit after edit, you’ve imagined and then seen the cover, you’ve held the ARC, and then, finally, the final copy of the book.
But then what?
It’s like preparing for something mystical and magical. It’s your book birthday. Your book wedding day, almost. This is the moment you’ve been daydreaming about, working towards, wishing for more than anything else. This is your dream coming true.
It’s wonderful. You have a launch party, perhaps. You drink champagne. You sign books and you feel like a Proper Author. You’ve made it. You sneak into a bookstore and just stare at the book on the shelf, trying not to cry. You see your Amazon rankings shoot up the lists the first couple of days. And even though you know—you know—not to get your hopes up too much, you do anyway. You get fan mail. You’re on top of the world.
And then, the buzz dies down. The rankings slip. Fewer reviews trickle in. The world has gone on to other new and shiny books. People are still reading you—but most are not reviewers. They’re not as likely to tweet to you that they enjoyed your book or post a review. They read it. They liked it. Or they didn’t. They go on to another book and you’ll never know. You didn’t realise how much you’d grown to rely on those little messages of encouragement. Now, you doubt yourself.
All that fear you’ve been able to defer before the book coming out comes crashing down. You’d distracted yourself with working on that book blog tour which took your every spare moment. You focused on the logistics of the launch parties, and keeping on top of your email.
You might be doing well, you think maybe you are, but you don’t really know. You’re a newbie. Should you be doing more marketing? What kind is best? You send some emails to magazines; you arrange some school visits. Is that enough? What’s considered success? Are your publishers disappointed, or are you in line with their expectations? What the hell are your numbers, anyway? You’re afraid to ask. Is it considered rude?
And then, if you have a two-book deal, that second book is now due pretty soon. You try to focus on that, but you’re still whirring from being an author with a book coming out to an author with a book out there now. It hits you at the oddest moments—when you’re brushing your teeth, and you pause, mint-flavoured foam in your mouth, absolutely terrified. Anybody can now get into your brain, read a piece of yourself. Negative reviews come in, and you’re weak and look at them sometimes, and they chip at your confidence and that second book.
But it’s not all doom and gloom by a long shot. You still get wonderful things through that make you giddy. Someone sends you a photo of the book somewhere far away—Hawaii, New Zealand, in airports, which, even though it’s in the same country, somehow feels just as magical. Airports! You hold onto these moments, keep them close, to comfort you when you’re scared again.
You finish the second book. You send it off. You wait.
And now what?
That is where I am, right now. Trying still coming to terms with being out there. I didn’t expect to find it quite so scary. I think it takes a lot of people by surprise. It’s the post-book blues. It’s all the uncertainty. It’s realising it’s not like your daydream because this isn’t a daydream—this is real life.
I thought I was alone in being so very freaked out after Pantomime came out. And then after the fear subsided a bit, the strange feeling of being deflated. Then I started talking to other authors, and realised pretty much all of them felt the same way. But people seem pretty quiet about it online. Maybe it’d be construed as complaining—you got your dream, why are you moaning?
Don’t get me wrong—I’m still over the moon that I’m published and I’m out there. But I wish I’d anticipated this. The nerves, the occasional blind panic, the comedown of achieving that dream. When you’re doing all those first steps, you never think much about what happens after. I’ve mentioned this before on this blog—it’s like you’re afraid to imagine that far ahead.
And now I’m here. And it’s weird.
I now worry I’m not writing quickly enough, to keep up the career momentum. Are my next book ideas good enough? Will anyone like them? I just threw out half of a broken book to start from scratch. I feel in some ways back at square one, like I’m learning to write all over again, and that has thrown me, too.
So I’m airing all my anxieties here. If you’re a hopeful author and you stumble across this, it might happen to you once you achieve that dream. It might not. I have diagnosed anxiety—probably should have seen this coming, especially considering I was working full-time and studying part-time while this all went down (hindsight: not my brightest idea). Other authors out there—did you feel this? How did you cope?
Me? I’m throwing myself into other projects. I can’t do much to control sales, or reviews, or any of that. But I can write more words, and so I’ll do it all over again. Back to square one.