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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.