Rules For New Authors (or maybe just for me)

Before the book came out, I started making a list of things I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget. As I’ve finally hit 10, I thought I’d share. And while they are specific to me and my situation…there’s a distant possibility one or two of them might be useful to someone else.

You never know.

  1. Do not compare yourself to other authors.

    This one is at the top of the list for a reason, and it’s this: it’s really hard. With Twitter and Facebook and bestseller lists and Amazon recommendations and what your in-laws have sitting on their coffee table—you’re surrounded by other authors. And they’re all more successful, more articulate, younger, more talented, more loved than you are. They’re all better communicators, and they all have a brilliant future, while you will crash and burn before anyone learns how to spell your last name.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    Here’s the reality: every author has their own journey, and no journey is easy. I don’t think I follow a single successful author who hasn’t at least alluded to a professional disaster or two along the way. Every author is going to have different opportunities than you will, because they are different people writing different books. Don’t wish you were them. Be you. Have your path. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’ll be nothing like anybody else’s.

    Writers are not interchangeable Lego bricks. Comparison isn’t only unhealthy, it’s meaningless.

  2. Have faith in your publicity people.

    If you, like me, are new to the publishing world, here’s a fact: You have no idea what you’re doing.

    If you’re fortunate enough to be working with a publicist or a publicity team, odds are they’ve done, you know, publicity before. Things that might seem odd or pointless from an author’s perspective are not actually odd or pointless. They are things that have actually worked in the for-real publishing world.

    And you may not have much visibility into how successful these things are. You’re a writer. You are producing the words, weeping over editorial notes, and fighting crippling insecurity. They are making sure the existence of your book is known to the general public, who may then choose to buy, or take out of the library, and read—and, if you’re lucky, like enough to recommend to their friends.

    Because nobody will read you if they don’t know your book exists, and that’s what your publicity people do so well. Trust them. There’s a reason they are doing this and you are not.

  3. Let the future be the future, and today be today.

    Does this need explanation?

    You’ve got a to-do list longer than your arm, even if you leave off the book you’re supposed to be writing. If you look at the big picture, you will panic.

    Everything can be prioritized. Do this.

    And worry about tomorrow’s to-do list when it arrives.

  4. Do not freak the hell out for no reason.

    HAHAHAHAHA Nah, go ahead and do this.

  5. Your publicist is always right.

    See #2.

  6. If you’re not feeling it, fake it. Nobody wants to hear your petty insecurities.

    So at some point, you’ll be talking to someone or writing a blog post or doing a Q&A at a bookstore, and you’ll think Why does anyone care what I think about any of this?

    And you know what? Maybe they don’t.

    But this is your job. And part of your job is to write the blog post and do the Q&A and talk to the interviewers with confidence. Even if you’re not feeling it.

    I’m not talking about telling them all I AM THE GREATEST AUTHOR EVER ARGLE BARGLE BLARG. I’m talking about smiling, and answering candidly, and thanking them for their interest, and leaving out all of the But I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t even know if anybody is going to like this book and why don’t I have a twelve-book contract like That Other Author and oh god I’m just a hack and you know it don’t you you know it even while you’re smiling and being polite argh bullshit.

    Because nobody cares.

    I mean, in the existential sense, they might, because we all deserve some peace and happiness, right? But they’re listening to that podcast or reading that blog post because they want to hear an author speak about their experience. Just because you’re new is not a good reason to undercut yourself with this I am so small crap. We are all so small.

    I’m not talking about hiding all of your insecurities. It can be helpful for people to hear that you’re nervous, or that it’s still a surprise when someone is interested in your opinions. But nobody needs to know how insecure you really are about being handed this opportunity that an awful lot of other people would love to be handed. That gets tedious fast.

  7. Do. Not. Respond. To. Anything. Publicly. Ever.

    Ever.

  8. Be fucking patient, you idiot.

    Okay. Patience is not my strong suit. (Those of you who know me IRL can stop laughing now.)

    But publishing is slow. Sloooooooow. Like Friday-afternoon-before-you-have-two-weeks-off slow.

    You’re not going to know anything right away. A good review, a bad review—that’s not data. The only data that’s really going to matter is sales numbers, and you’re not going to get that fast. And even that isn’t going to mean much until you look at it over time.

    You’re new. Relax. Because you can be as tense as you want, and it won’t make a single bit of difference.

  9. Nobody—NOBODY—cares about your work or your career like you do.

    I am working with some wonderful people. They’ve been incredible advocates for my work. They’ve helped me shape it, sell it, polish it. No writer is an island, and that’s the truth.

    But I am one author. They work with multiples. It’s their job to present you with the options, but it’s your job to choose.

    And nobody agrees all the time.

    I haven’t had a whole lot of situations where I disagreed with the people I’m working with. Most of the time, I try to sit back and listen, no matter what my first instinct is, because (as has been mentioned) they know what they’re doing, and I really don’t. But sometimes…it’s too much, and I can’t make it work. At those times, I try to explain my reasoning, but I do it my way. In the end, I have to do it my way, or I feel like a liar.

  10. Remember why you’re doing this.

    It’s hard, some days, to remember that I love writing.

    Being published is exposing. I’ve always, since I was a kid, had this vague dream of publication, which was pretty much limited to seeing my book on a bookstore shelf. And hey, I’m there! But there’s so much more to it, and it can get so distracting.

    And if I’m going to keep doing this, it has to not matter.

    I have a story that I want to tell. I know where I want everyone to be at the end of the third book. What people say about the first book—good or bad—doesn’t change that. Whether or not anybody likes the second book doesn’t change that either. I have a story, and I’m telling it because I want to tell it. And I want to tell it because it says some things I want to say. I like to think someone will read the story and think Yes, I see, I understand, you are speaking to me.

    I like to think there’s one person out there who feels that way already, even if I never hear from them.

    Ultimately, I’ve always written because I have to write. I get unpleasant and out of sorts if I don’t. Somewhere along the way—very, very early in my life—it became the way I process the world around me. I can’t not write. Good reviews, bad reviews—none of it matters. Writing will happen, and I need to remember why.

    I hope there are people who find familiarity in my work. But ultimately? I do this because it’s a thing I do. And as long as I hang on to that, all of my petty insecurities won’t defeat me.

    Shut up, petty insecurities.

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