Friday, November 25, 2016

Debut Author Series: Book Launch--What's Changed?

Probably the biggest misconception I had before my novel was published was that my life would somehow drastically change once my book came out.  My life has changed but not at all in the ways I thought that it would. 

Pre-publication, I imagined I would achieve a great sense of Inner Peace.  I was an Author now, after all.  I had achieved The Goal.  I thought writing would be easier.  I'd sit down in front of the computer each day and my fingers would fly across the keyboard.  I'd know exactly what I wanted to say, and I'd never get stuck.  Never again would I have to throw out 40,000 words (roughly half of a novel).  Real Author's didn't have to do these things. 

Spoiler alert: none of these things happened. 

My life changed, but not in the ways I imagined.  (Just want to point out here that none of the ways I imagined my life changing involved a big pile of money.  Even before getting published, I'd been in the business long enough to know that most authors aren't rich.)  The changes were much more subtle than I imagined.  And if I'm truthful, better. 

No, I have not achieved Inner Peace.  Come on, with six kids that's just not even possible.  (As I write this, the dogs are fighting, and my youngest is in "time out" saying, "Mama, can I get out yet?  It's soooo boooring."  Inner Peace isn't even a consideration for me until the kids have all moved out.  Oh wait, my daughter Grace will always be with us.  Wipe achieving Inner Peace off the list.  I also still struggle when I write.  I've had to throw out huge swaths of texts. 

But...I have met so many great people.  (Spoiler alert #2--it always comes back to the people for me.)  At one of my books signings, I met a nine-year-old girl who had heard about Peculiar Miracles and asked her parents to bring her to the reading.  You all, it was like looking at

myself at nine.  My mom didn't police what I read.  If I liked it, I could read it whether it was for adults or children.  My book isn't targeted toward children and I was so happy/surprised to see that a nine-year-old wanted to read it.  We had a nice conversation and I gave her my email.  I hope she stays in touch.  I've also met so many people online who I now consider great friends.  Writing is a solitary activity.  I can't tell you how much it means to hear from people who like your work, and then to have those people turn into true all, it means the world to me. 

I think the moms out there will appreciate the other way my life changed.  Before Peculiar Miracles came out, I worried about my children's perception of me.  I worried that being unavailable to them while I was on book tour or writing or anything else I had to do would be a problem.  Instead, they have been a wonderful source of support and joy.  This is going to sound silly, but you all they're proud of me.  My oldest son sends me texts saying he's proud of me when I'm at book fairs.  That same son made my sign up sheets to capture people's email addresses.  They've told their bus drivers and their teachers about the book. 

If you're a stay-at-home parent, you know that it's often a thankless job.  You can feel invisible, and you often wonder if you matter to your family beyond your ability to find lost socks and make a mean PB&J sandwich.  It's been an unexpected surprise to find out just how much my kids support me.  It's something that I treasure beyond anything else that's happened. 

I know these aren't the changes people expected to hear, but they are the changes that mean the most to me because they involve other people.  Let's face it, everything's better when it's shared. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Debut Author Series--Book Launch: Reading to an Empty Room

Yesterday I talked about the day my book launched.  I was full of nerves and craziness!  It was an exciting day and it turned out better than I imagined. 

Today, I'm going to tell you what happened after I tumbled back down to earth from that high.  Before my book was published, one of my biggest fears was that I'd be scheduled to do a reading at a library or a book store and no one would show up. 

While it wasn't quite that bad, it was close.  The rest of my book tour, the "crowds" ranged from a low of 4 people to a high of 8. 

 Although I knew to expect this, I won't lie.  It hurt. After such a great out for the launch, I had hoped that I'd at least have double digit crowds at the rest of my signings.  Obviously, I didn't.  It was hard not to get disappointed after driving two hours each way to talk to four people. 

This has been the most difficult thing to deal with.  Even though you know it's likely (it's notoriously hard to draw a crowd as a debut author), there's still a part of you that hopes you'll be the exception to the rule. 

Most of the time you're not the exception, you're the rule.  And that's disappointing.  You spend years pouring your heart into a project and when the heavens don't open and shower you with rainbows, it hurts. 

I'll be honest with you, I went home and cried after a few readings.  I questioned whether I should be writing at all.  Then I woke up the next morning, washed my face, sat down in front of my computer, and kept writing. 
The only cure that I've found for disappointment is to get back to work.  The truth is, if you're a writer, you can't not write.  You'll write even if no one reads your work.  Even if you're afraid you're a hack.  If you're a writer it's what you are, not just what you do for a living.

We writers are a resilient breed.  We keep going in the midst of rejection and disappointment.  We put words on paper (or computer screens) without knowing whether the world at large will ever see them.  We do this because we believe in the power of words. 

Debut authors, veteran authors, authors-in-waiting I hope you hold onto the power of words when you face disappointments and setbacks in your writing life.  Know that you're not alone.  There's an entire community of us pecking away at our keyboards, hoping to touch lives one word at a time.

And if you hold a reading and no one shows up or only a few people show up, know that what you're doing is valuable.  Hold your head up.  Give the best reading you can.  Then go home and eat an entire chocolate cake. 

Because chocolate fixes everything. :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Debut Author Series--Book Launch Part One

First sighting of my book baby!
Today's post is going to be about the actual day my book launched.  The day was absolutely crazy (in a good way!) I woke up early and as soon as breakfast was over, my husband and I drove to our local bookstore to see the book "in the wild".  (Yes, I made my husband take the day off work.  I was a basket of crazy.  There's no way I could deal with the stress of the day and the kids by myself.  Luckily, he's a very tolerant man!) 

After visiting my book and snapping a few pictures, we went to Kroger's for a very special reason.  I needed a pen.  You know how governor's use special pens when they sign bills into law?  I was going to be signing my book that night so I decided I needed a special pen. So off to Kroger's we went.  (Yes, I'm a writer.  I have plenty of pens at home, but this one needed to be special.)  I stood in the school supplies aisle and agonized over pens for twenty minutes.  Not. Even. Kidding.  The pen tip couldn't be too sharp--it might rip the pages.  It couldn't smear.  And the ink couldn't fade.  After much debate I settled on a Sharpie retractable pen.  I bought two.  Just in case the entire city of Cincinnati turned out and my first pen ran out of ink before I had signed all of the books. 

So armed with my pens and snapshots of my book "in the wild", I returned home to wait.  The signing was at 7pm and the day as agonizingly slow.  I spent the time checking my Amazon sales numbers.  (Just kidding.  Maybe.) 
There's my book.  Right on the front table!!

Finally it was time to go to the bookstore for the signing.  My husband and I loaded all of the kids in the van--that's right, we were crazy enough to bring them all--and drove to the store.  As soon as we walked in, we saw a giant banner with a picture of my book.  I started to feel important, but then I realized I didn't know what to do so I walked up to a cashier, pointed at the sign, and said, "Um, that's me?  Do you have something or someplace you want me to be?" 

Yes, everything I said came out like a question.  My moment of coolness was gone. 

With Grace, the inspiration behind Antionette
The cashier was lovely, and showed me where to go.  Because I hate being late, we were thirty minutes early.  That's okay.  It gave me time to corral all of the kids into the bathroom and give them my "Mom Lecture" about behaving. 

I want to stop here for a second.  I had spent a lot of years dreaming about the day I finally had a book published.  In all of them, I was incredibly calm about the entire process and never once did I have to wrestle a pack of kids in the bathroom. 

The Sunday before the launch I had been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer (of course I bought ten copies of the paper), and that article combined with the fact that most of my friends and family were around Cincinnati, meant there was a great turn.  I spoke about the inspiration behind the book and then read a small excerpt.  After that I took questions and then signed several books.  Aside from my youngest daughter, Gabrielle, raising her hand every time I asked if anyone had questions and yelling out things like, "Banana costume!" or "Can I sign the books, Mom?" things went smoothly. 

In fact, I had a great time.  And the thing that I want to tell you all is that the reason I had such a great time despite my nerves and despite my obvious non-coolness, had nothing to do with achieving a long-standing dream of mine and everything to do with the people who turned out to celebrate with me. 

You see until then, whenever I pictured the my book launch day I always imagined that I'd feel such a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  In my mind, I had made it.  But that's not how I felt.  Instead, I felt very much like the new kid at school who doesn't know anyone. 

That is until all of these people I love showed up to support me. You all, it wasn't the feeling of accomplishment that I took home that night, it was the feeling of love and of family.  And that is so much better than anything I could have imagined. 

Debut authors and future debut authors, I want to share something with you.  It's not about the book.  (Ok, it's a little about the book.)  It's about the people who share the journey with you.  Who cheer you on and celebrate your success.  I write because I'm fascinated by people, and I deeply love the people in my life.  Books have shaped me.  Given me rest when I was weary.  Given me hope that this world can be a better place.  They've challenged the way that I think and opened new worlds to me. 

But compared to the people I'm blessed to have in my life, everything else falls away.  So authors, when your book hits the shelves (because I believe in you and I know you'll get there) I hope sharing my story helps you leap over the crazy and go straight to embracing the experience and sharing it with people you love.  Because trust me, it's not always this rosy!  (More about that in the next post!)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Series: What It's Like to be a Debut Author

I've spent the past several months busy launching The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin, and as a result this poor blog has been neglected.  Now that things are slowing down, I can start writing here again. 

The past few months have been a whirlwind.  They've been full of ups and downs, and now that I'm not right in the middle of everything, I thought it might be fun to pull back the curtain and share what it's like to be a debut author. 

In a word: TERRIFYING! 

I know, you all were hoping for unicorns and lollipops, and while it is wonderful, it's also scary, disappointing, and surreal.  Sorry to burst the bubble, but I've always found reality much more helpful than the prettied up lives we all show on Facebook.  I feel normal when I see everyone else's mess, so I thought I'd share my own crazy in the hope that other writers going through the same thing will know that they're normal! 

So I decided that this week I'll do a series of posts (and maybe a video or two) about what it's like to be a debut author.  I'll cover book signings, newspaper interviews, TV interviews, Book Fairs, and anything else I can think of.  The posts will start on Tuesday and there will be one each day--including Thanksgiving (because becoming a published author is something I'm very thankful for.) 

If there's anything specific you'd like me to cover, please leave a comment below and I'll try to work it into one of the posts.  The more questions the better!