Thursday, December 13, 2012

When IRL Friends Find Out You Sold A Book


What is it when people find out you’ve sold a book?
I’m not talking about the aspiring writers I know who are studying the art of the query, researching agents, working with crit partners and writing groups. (Y'all get it. Completely)

I’m talking about childhood friends and acquaintances IRL (in real life).

Camp 1: Oh wow, you’re awesome, that’s great. I can say I knew you before you’re famous and all J.K. Rowling and shit. (ermmm, yeah, right, may I remind you she has a theme park?)

Camp 2: Oh. *blinks twice, takes a breath, looks at a passing car* So did you hear about the new fitness center they’re opening in town? (Hello, friend, this is like my life dream here, can I have a hell yeah?)

Camp 3: You wrote a book? I always figured I’d write a book.

Camp 3 is the one that has been fascinating. Here are two examples. 

One is a great friend since 6th grade. She fell firmly into a combination of Camp 1 and Camp 3 - acknowledging her awareness of how cool this is for me but also declaring she’d always hoped to write a book, but was waiting for her kids to graduate from high school. It was easy to say - don’t delay, write the book, you’re a genius. (and she is, and funny, and savvy, and amazing.)

The other is a doctor in my community who is also a smart, savvy, wonderful woman. But her response fell into a different sort of Camp 3. First it was questions, well how did you do this. How did you get published? And it was strange because for some reason it seemed like my success was a reflection to her of her own failure. (excuse me, you have a MEDICAL degree!) How could a lowly public school teacher accomplish something that was monumental on her own personal scale. I think it would be safe to say she was visibly jealous.

Here’s what she didn’t know or ask.
  1. For the past four years, I’ve risen between 4:30 and 5:15 am almost every week day to write before my day job.
  2. I’ve written three manuscripts prior to the one that sold during this time. Six prior total. Every one of those manuscripts I thought was the one. When you’re writing, you’re only as good as where you are. And you might not be there yet. But what really sucks, is you don't know it. But then I guess that's good, because you have HOPE.
  3. I’ve read books on craft, blog posts on craft, websites on craft. I’ve interacted with other writer’s in my genre. I’ve critiqued and been critiqued. I’ve taken classes and gone to conferences.
  4. I’ve given stuff up, like a favorite volunteer gig at the Humane Society. I never go to my non-author Facebook page anymore, which is where a lot of my IRL local friends hang out, my house...forget about it, and my manic horseback riding days seem to be waning the more I write. I rarely travel, I don’t go out at night, I’m in essence, a bit of a hermit and a slave to my words.
  5. If you look at my advance, totally generous for a contemporary novel, it’s not enough to quit my day job and feel secure. And if I were to divide out the amount by the time spent plugging away at this dream, hah, maybe a penny an hour. Or less?


Anyway, the point of this post is that selling a book didn’t just happen. I’m not an overnight success. It doesn’t make me special.

All it means is that I didn’t quit. And I wrote. I put my butt in the chair and let words flow. That’s how you get a novel published. That, a modicum of talent and a whole lot of luck.

21 comments:

  1. Talent and tenacity. That's what gets you published.

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  2. Come on, admit it Jaye, you've found the secret of becoming JK Rowling and you're keeping it from us real mortals, just like every other successful author out there is keeping the secret. We know it's a conspiracy, no use to deny it. *ogles you suspiciously*

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    1. However, the way non-writers and non-published people react to literary success is an eternal source of *WTF?!* Best thing would be to take it with a smile. :)

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    2. It really threw me for a loop. This woman is so great (the dr.) and we've always really enjoyed each other's company at parties and around town. But it didn't really get under my skin, it was more kind of a wow insight into her own world. Her own dream that she's not chasing. But also how she thought I'd snapped my fingers into the ether and made this materialize without hard work.

      Ah yes, the secret to becoming the next JK Rowling is hidden in a holler in the Appalachian mountains. LOL!

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  3. And it's what makes the IRL friends reactions sting most, I think.

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  4. We are so stepped in the writing world that we (at least, I) forget that others aren't, so the IRL reactions are always a surprise.

    Camp 1 all the way, baby!! You are a rock star.

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    1. Have you had any weird reactions from your IRL friends to your book?

      And Camp 1 all the way for you, too, baby!

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  5. Interesting on the different camps!

    I had no idea how publishing worked five years ago, even though I read a lot and had gone to author talks and signings. Even now, I only know glimpses of the process from what I've learned online and from attending conferences. You're absolutely right that it doesn't just happen, especially to sell a book. Lots of people write, and nowadays, upload to CreateSpace or whatever Amazon's deal is. Which is great if that's what you want--to finish a book. But to complete a publishable-by-the-industry book is a real accomplishment. OR self-pubbed authors who work with editors and really know their craft and the business. That doesn't just happen without hard work.

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    1. I'm curious to see if other post-sale, pre-pub authors have the same experience.

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  6. I get kind of annoyed with the camp 3 people, I must admit. It doesn't help that I live with one :) With all the work I've put in, honestly, I just wish they'd be happy for me. But, I imagine this is too much to ask sometimes, lol!

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    1. Flabbergasted is how it left me. Because, really, this lady is insanely awesome and if she set down to do it, I've no doubt she could write a book. But her reaction to me having done it was head-scratching.

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  7. This! I grew up saying I'd be the next JK Rowling crossed with KA Applegate and I remember being so hurt at what my mom said "Marry a doctor or a lawyer writers don't make a lot of money." (Okay true but come on mom JK Rowling had not even gotten big yet it was 1997 and I was telling you she was going to be HUGE. Clearly we should've banked on my psychic powers, LOL!!)

    On a serious note though- I have never not wanted to be a writer so when I tell everyone I'm writing/revising for an agent they're like "Ok and then they buy it and it goes on bookshelves?" LOL!!!!!!! I'm lucky to have so much support in my life (I went to college fro Creative Writing and am unfortunately unemployed / not married :( the fortunate part is I make writing my job even if its not paid)



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    1. That's cool. For me, writing has been kind of a secret thing. Not that I felt the need to hide it, I just didn't define myself as a writer. So a bunch of my friends had no idea I was writing novels in the mornings. And a Rowling/Applegate cross...wow!

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  8. I can only imagine the weird reactions I'd get if I actually sold a book. I've gotten a few strange ones just mentioning that I'm writing one. Like the elderly relative who said, "Too bad you couldn't write one of those Harlequins I like. But they have a lot of sex in them."

    Apparently my two children arrived via some other method...

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    1. Oh my gosh, Christine. I'm laughing so hard at this. That's priceless.

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  9. Inspiring post. Thanks for sharing. You're so right, no one sees all the work that got you there.

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    1. I don't think you can know until you really start pursuing the dream. It's hard. I saw Barbara Kingsolver speak the other night and she called it 99% hard work and 1% magic. I'd say that's pretty realistic.

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  10. Oh, all those camps are so familiar.

    #3 is a variation on, "I'd do that too, if I had time." They just have no clue about the 4:30am.

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  11. I know selling your book and blogging are completely different things but I get the thing about IRL'ers not really getting it and how much work and time goes into it, usually brushing it off or not being interested which is why I don't tell many and only my family and a few select others. Phew, thank goodness for the online comunity who get us!

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Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'