What I've Learned Since Publishing
Or what I'd do differently if I were to do it all over again.
|This is me holding the first copy of my first book.|
Yes, I do look a little shell shocked...
but not shell shocked enough.
Dear Me of six months ago,
You're about to change your life, and the entire way you think about writing.
You know that invisible shiny editor who's approval you so desperately wanted? She's busy, and she isn't the person whose opinion matters. I know that's difficult to swallow, but it's true. An editor finally accepting your work isn't what will make your dream have meaning. I heard the other writers too. I've heard the words you've thought. I know you're just trying to be the kind of writer that an editor wants.
Editors are only looking for one thing, a book that readers will like. Your readers are the most important people to impress. Your job is to learn what your readers want, and figure out how to make it for them. And that's the amazing thing. That's really, really, simple.
See, not everyone who reads your book will be one of your readers, but you'll know them when you see them. Your readers will be people you know, and people you haven't met yet, who get the way you think. They are beautiful, supportive, amazing people, and your life will be better for having found them. Trust them. Trust yourself and the way you tell stories, because YOUR readers will love YOUR stories. You know this, because you have writers who write the way you think.
You need to say goodbye to that editor in your head who is standing in your way, and just go find your readers. When you do that, you'll remember how much you love writing. Words will be magic again. Characters will be real, and you won't be writing to impress anyone, but your work will get better. You will, in fact, impress yourself. And once you've done that say no to yourself, and rewrite it until it's better than you would have been satisfied with before. Be your own invisible shiny editor, and keep improving. Never be satisfied until it feels right, until you can walk away and not think about it anymore.
You need to stop half-dreaming and get to work. If I could talk to you earlier, I'd have you have finish all those half-finished stories in your laptop. Get six finished books done so that I can release one every two months. Choose who you want to be as an author, and don't waste time on stories that are off brand. Tell people on facebook earlier, and build up a following before you launch a book. Join twitter. Use goodreads. Kiss my children's faces and tuck them in, living in that magic moment with them, and not be half a fictional world away. Make work time just for work, and leave the half writing for half writers.
Look around and smile. Take days off and watch Pretty Little Liars, and binge on Netflix just cause you can. Learn that whole tense shifting issue of ours cold, so I don't have to worry about it now when every word counts.
There's something magical about not being published yet, about being able to write anything you'd like, about only having one story in your head at a time. But you will love being published. Even though it means your heart is out there, and people won't always love it, and that every once in a while you'll be kicked around or ignored, it's all worth it. You don't know this yet, but there is an eight year-old girl out there who will look at you in pride and pull you aside and tell you she wants to write books just like you did. You don't know this yet, but there will be teenage girls who will think you are cool.
Yes, you. You in the minivan.
There's a day that is coming that will make you shake your head in awe. You will read good reviews that make you stay up late as you memorize every word. There will be bad reviews that you will shake your fists at, and that will keep you up late as you try to un-memorize them. You will stalk people on goodreads just because there's a 'currently reading' status next to their name. You won't hide that you are a writer anymore, in fact there will be times when you walk up to someone reading a completely different book just to tell them you're an author too. Your ego will grow, and shrink, and be kicked in the gonads. You will cry of joy, and cry of grief, anger, and frustration... in fact, just invest in Kleenex now. It's hard. You won't know what to do, which is the most difficult part of being self-published; sometimes it feels like you're in this on your own.
But you're not. The main thing I'd tell you is that most self-published authors are kinder than they need to be. They know what to do, and how lost it feels to be on your own, so don't hesitate to ask questions, and join forums and groups, and be kind to others. Give your time away. Give your book away. I mean, for reals, learn what rafflecopter is, and soon.
Writing is such a lonely business. Publishing, however, isn't lonely. Publishing is inviting every person in the world to live inside your head, and then ask their opinions of the setting.
So enjoy the alone time now. Sooner than you know, you'll be me.
Meet you then.
Sheena Boekweg is the author of Funny Tragic Crazy Magic, and the coauthor of Alchemy (launches October 11). You can find her on facebook, goodreads, and twitter.