I’ve been a published author for just a little over seven months. In that short time I’ve had four books release and sold two more. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Considering so many people are working so hard and so long to get a book finished, let alone acquired, I should feel pretty successful, right?
Turns out that, if you’re a Type-A overachiever like I’ve always been, getting The Call (or The E-mail in my case) is less the long-fought victory than the first shot across the bow in a whole new battle. Rather than devoting 99% of my energy to writing and 1% to vaguely wondering whether that manuscript I’d submitted a few weeks ago would garner a response, I suddenly had a vast catalog of fresh anxieties.
How was my pipeline? Would readers forget about me before I got the next book out? I had to write faster, had to get the next manuscript submitted. And then what if my publisher rejected it? What if that first (or second or third) sale was a fluke? What about promotion? Was I doing too much? Too little? The wrong kind? What if I was sacrificing writing time for the wrong kind of promo? Why aren’t I getting more reviews? Why aren’t I getting more sales? Are the critical and commercial responses to this book good or bad? How do I quantify these things? And I haven’t written more than 700 words in three days and what if and what if and what if…
Rather than enjoying the ride, I spent the first six months as a published author haunted by the f-word: failure. Then the what-ifs started to become realities.
Earlier this year my editor was one of a large group that was laid off from one of my publishers, spiking my anxiety about both the timeline for a submission I had pending and its potential to attract a new editorial advocate. Then I got a one-star rating from a reviewer I really respected. And then, after a ten-week wait, a manuscript I was so proud of and believed was my best writing to date was rejected by my publisher. Rejected. No revisions, no second chances. The premise was too far over the line, it would alienate readers, and the book wasn’t commercially viable.
I picked up that e-mail in the morning as I got ready for work, and I burst into tears. I cried the whole way through my twenty-minute drive to the office. I sobbed at stoplights. At my desk I wrote an e-mail to my husband to tell him the news, and I broke down again halfway through typing the word “devastated.”
The f-word had swung out of my anxious fantasies to slap me hard in the face. I failed.
I thought a lot about writing, what I want out of it, and what I’m willing to put into it. The hard truth is, as much as every writer dreams about being able to write full-time, I would have to sell literally hundreds of thousands of copies to justify giving up my current salary. Full disclosure y’all: I am not selling that many books. But I do love writing romance, and if I’d never gotten The E-mail I’d keep writing anyway, pumping out manuscripts and filing rejections.
It was time to come to Jesus with the h-word. Writing is not my career. It’s my hobby.
And you know what? That little acceptance made all the difference. I have a hobby I love that makes me a little money on the side – awesome! If my sales flag or my reviews are terrible or I have a year in between releases, who cares? It’s just a hobby.
Hobbies are supposed to be that other f-word: fun. I haven’t been having much of it lately, but I’m determined to turn that around. From now on, I can slack off if I want to. If promo makes me uncomfortable, I don’t have to do it. And if the story nagging me to be written is wholly unsellable, eff it, I’m going to write it anyway. Because it’s fun.
I guess I’ve taken this month’s topic literally and decided to be pretty damn open. Sometimes this journey sucks. Sometimes authors get bad reviews, sluggish sales, and flat-out rejections and it hurts. Sometimes I feel powerless, misunderstood, inferior. But that’s my own doing, and it’s a doing I’m undoing. Henceforth I’m trading f-words, ditching failure and embracing fun. And if you don’t like it, you can eff right off. 😉