After Publication: The Roller Coaster Doesn’t End

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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.

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21 thoughts on “After Publication: The Roller Coaster Doesn’t End

  1. Question: Did you give up the day job?

    I was wondering about this the other day, actually: how an author feels once they’ve actually reached their goal. It just suddenly occurred to me that I’ve put all my own hopes and dreams on that one thing – getting a book out there. So what on earth will I dream of after? o.O

    Further delusions of grandeur, I expect.

  2. This is such a brave post, and really insightful too. Writing is ALL about creating and sharing an emotional world; I think we do love the rollercoaster ride, but sometimes we have to get off. There are bound to be good times and bad times- and, as you say, with any dream, especially one you’ve worked so hard for, there’s always the sense of ‘ now what’?
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us- I really do ‘get’ what you’re talking about here.
    Best of luck with book 2 and beyond- am sure it’ll be brilliant.

    1. Thank you, Emma! I was worried people would think I was whinging, as I am aware I’m in a position many would love to be in. I wanted to share that being published doesn’t magically cure the neuroses–they morph!

  3. TBH it’s really only started to hit now that I’ve handed in the third book in my trilogy. Before that I was too focused on writing the next contracted book to schedule, going to conventions to promote the first book, etc, etc. (3 books out in 18 months!!)

    Now I have to look ahead to the next hurdle – writing and selling a whole new series, which obviously I’d like to be better (and more successful) than the first. The thought of having to go through the whole submission process again, of waiting to hear back from my agent and, eventually, find out what editors think…well, I’m trying not to think about it, to be honest! Instead I’m focusing on having fun with this new project, because if I don’t enjoy writing it, why should anyone enjoy reading it?

    1. I’ve only got the two book contract, so I think if I knew for sure book 3 was wanted, I’d have an easier time because I could throw myself into it! I’m replotting the broken book and knowing the earliest I’d finish it is probably October, then beta edits, then agent edits, then subbing…probably won’t know the fate of it until this time next year, optimistically!

  4. Hi Laura … really good post. You’re right, I think writers are in general a bit too shy about discussing this stuff. Having talked to a lot of people now, I don’t think the jitters ever go away entirely, even when you’re up to book ten or whatever. I’ve got a third and a fourth book out in close succession this year, and I’m no less anxious about what will become of them and how my next projects are going to fare. But what can you do but try and enjoy the process? I remind myself as well as I can that I got to this point first and foremost because I love writing, and whatever I come up with next, whatever response it gets, at least I’ll be doing something that means the world to me.

    1. It’s like we think it’s a weakness or something, but then that leaves us feel isolated.

      I figure I’ll always have the jitters, too, but at least I’ll know what to expect a little more next time.

  5. Two things:

    1. All of this makes perfect sense to me, and doesn’t sound like complaining at all. I feel like I can relate to it, on a small level, because I think knitting designers go through a really similar roller coaster, if on a different level (many of us are self-publishing, and only one pattern at a time much of the time). But it’s very easy to monitor how many patterns you’re selling, how many favorites it has on ravelry, how many people have knit it. You can see if your pattern makes the top of the “hot right now” chart. And when it does, it’s fantastic – but then what if the next one doesn’t? What you’re feeling is probably a lot like all of that but amplified – it’s on a much bigger level – but I would be shocked if other authors didn’t feel that. It’s a very relatable thing.

    2. One of my friends recently linked this TED talk with Liz Gilbert, and for anyone doing creative work, it is so, so so worth watching: http://t.co/RifQfoIPtE

  6. Good post. It helps to have a second book already on the go, but the post-publication blues is something that can catch you unawares.

    In the long run, the hardest part is realising every book starts from a blank page/screen. It’s why series fiction can be a joy, takes some of the strain off – so much world building and characterisation already in place.

    But no matter how experienced you are, every new book is a new beginning. You have knowledge and the experience of surviving the previous tomes, but there’s always the nagging voice at the back of your brain:

    “What if I’ve forgotten how to write? What if I can’t learn from my mistakes? What if all my previous success was a fluke?”

    Sadly, that never quite goes away. But when the doubts do circle, just repeat the following magical mantra to yourself: I am a published author.

    Because you are!

  7. I have a two book deal. The second book leaves a cliffhanger for a possible third – what goes through my mind is whether or not a third will actually happen because I don;t know whether the sales figures would merit a third. I have a day job – I did an unscientific poll a few weeks back on my website. About 70% of published authors still have a day job – a testament to how bloody hard it is to earn enough to write full time – you ask those same authors what their dream is and they say just to to earn enough to write full time.

    I have two completed projects in my literary agent’s hands right now. One of them is YA and the other is adult urban fantasy. We’re about ready to start submitting – she tells me there is strong interest in both projects from her pitching them at LBF13 and Bologna. I have two other projects I am writing at the present time though my output has been reduced because I’ve been revising the two projects my agent has since Christmas and the second book in the series has been cleaned up this spring. Would be easier if I didn’t have to go out to a day job but that’s the nature of the business when you haven’t yet made enough to pay your bills. And most of us won’t earn enough to pay those bills – that’s just how it goes.

    But I keep on plugging away at it. A vague looking dream of authorly success floats around in my head. I’m not doing this for any other reason than the cool factor… it’s cool to be published. If I hit paydirt, then I’ll get a gold tooth and new hair.

    1. Yep, I’m not aiming to make craploads of money. If I could make enough money to support myself, then that’d be grand.

      Good luck on the subbing, Sean!

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. As somebody who is thinking of maybe one day trying to sell one of the stories I’ve written, it’s useful to be warned of this!

  9. Extraordinary post, Laura. Pretty sure most new authors, and certainly this noob, have had similar thoughts taking up space in our frontal lobes. Thanks for putting your words around it.

  10. My first book is coming out in just over two weeks, but the second and third are finished and ready to go. I’m hoping that the editing and preparation of the next books stop me focusing entirely on reviews (or lack of them), and how the first one is received. The work involved in promotion could take your entire time. I’m prepared to do so much, but not to the extent that it stops me writing. Seems to me it’s more important to get the books out, making sure theyre good ones. Self-promotion is soul-destroying.

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