So, my first novel is out (did you hear? No? Well go out and buy it!). This, being a new experience for me, has also brought with it a bunch of unusual lessons I wasn’t really expecting. In the interest of forewarning others, I will now take you on a tour of my neuroses.
Lesson #1: Having a Book For Sale Is More Stressful Than Selling a Book
Like, 2000% more stressful. Rejection from publishers, while moderately painful, is way less worrisome than if the entire world decides it hates your book. With publishers, there’s always others, right? If they don’t like it, you can always self-publish! Who cares what those New York fat-cats think!
The thing I forgot (and that maybe a lot of writers seem to forget) is that the audience to which the book deal will grant you access is not guaranteed to like your book. So, there I was, on release day, sitting there with a case of the shakes because I was pretty sure the only people who would read and like my book were my friends and family, and at least some percentage of those people would lie about it because they love me and don’t want to hurt my feelings.
Lesson #2: There Is No Upper Limit To How Much You Can Stalk Yourself
Like, hours and hours, easily. I have been swinging by Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes and Noble so damned often that it was reaching a kind of mania. It was: “Do I have any reviews? No?” (five minutes pass) “Do I have any reviews? No?” (five minutes pass). Never have I wished I didn’t have a smart phone more.
As an addendum to this rule, I’m not really sure how you can’t look at your reviews. Like, I have honestly no idea. Sure, I can deal with them (I’ve only received one bad review so far, and that person somehow read the book before it was for sale but wasn’t given it for review, so…shady, is what I mean. Of course they’re entitled to their opinion, but…you know what? I’ll shut up now.). But not looking at them at all is pretty much beyond my willpower’s capacity. Like Pandora, I’ve gotta open the box.
Lesson #3: Analyzing Amazon Ranking is Bad For Your Health
As of this precise moment, THE IRON RING is ranked 76,698th on Amazon. On the one hand, considering that there are probably millions of books on Amazon, this isn’t all that bad. On the other hand, I am forced to reconcile the fact that 76,997 books are selling better than mine. In other words, more people than could fit inside the Superdome have books out that are better appreciated than my own. For somebody who has a pretty intense competitive streak, that is frankly driving me bonkers.
Look, I know it’s irrational – those numbers are more representational than they are actual and they fluctuated by the tens of thousands every hour, so what do they really mean, anyway? Besides, the book just came out 13 days ago, so I should cut myself some slack. Of course, much like reviews, I can’t not look, so there I am again, wondering what magical publicity button I can push to make it down at least into the four-digit realm. Then, of course, this sets off a spate of Impostor Syndrome and all kinds of other stupid senses of inadequacy that are really bad for me. I have to cut it out.
The fact is that I don’t know how well the book is selling, nor will I know until I receive my first royalty check. I’m doing everything I can to help sales (and still keep up with my other job), so I shouldn’t be down on myself. I’ve accomplished something pretty amazing here – I have to admit that. Of course, being me, I want to do better than just that. As with all things I do, I’m not in it just to play, I’m in it to win. Of course, once you “win” in anything, there is just another, bigger contest beyond the rise. That’s the nature of writing – first you try to write a book, then you try to write a good book, then you try to get a book deal, then you try to actually make money, then you try to make enough money to just write for a living. It never stops.
It is important to remember that, if you’re a writer, you can’t get into this race and expect to just win and then stop. You should be in this race because you like running.