Well, here we are, on the last day of 2012, and I, the first of the original eight EMUs, am the last of the original eight to say goodbye. Alas, my debut year is coming to an end. Tomorrow will be the two-year anniversary of this blog. In that time, we have revised, edited, proof-read, copy-edited, and released ten books. They have transformed from piles of pages to hardbound editions on library shelves.
In the aggregate, those ten books have garnered FIFTEEN starred reviews. Individually, they have appeared on numerous BEST OF THE YEAR lists, been shortlisted for major awards, reviewed in the NEW YORK TIMES, won PARENT CHOICE AWARDS, been discussed on Mock Newbery and Printz lists. What can I say, I keep good company.
But all good things must come to an end. In parting, therefore, I want to share the wisdom I have gained in this endeavor. Because what’s the point of passing the flame without imparting wisdom on the younger generation? And besides, this is my last chance to slip in another chicken joke.
SO here it is, my wisdom. My
Top Ten Things I Have Learned as a Debut Author
You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because the manuscript sold. Oh, no. You’ve just upped the stakes, my friend. Because now you have an editor to disappoint. Now, on top of worrying about that manuscript, you can obsess about the editor sitting in his/her New York office, regretting having acquired your horrid little book.
You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because the editing is done. Oh, no. Because now there are critics–and what if it gets a bad review? Or what if, all of a sudden at the last minute, your publishing house goes belly up? Or what if that stupid prophesy comes true and the world ends right before your book comes out? And here you went to all this trouble, and, true, billions and billions of living organisms will be snuffed out in the blink of an eye, but WORSE YET your book ISN’T GOING TO MAKE IT INTO PRINT!!!!
You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because it’s been released. Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Because now, you have to worry about sales, and readers, and more reviews, and end of the year “Best of” lists. And guess what? There’s a whole plethora of internet resources to help you obsess–Amazon ratings, and WorldCat listings, and Goodreads opinions. Why, if you Google your book title, you will find 3,527,842 results (hypothetically speaking), and how can you leave a SINGLE ONE OF THEM unexplored???? Congratulations, my friend. You have now transformed from “Debut Author” to “Creepy Internet Stalker,” in the click of a mouse. On the bright side, you might just discover dozens of wonderful restaurants, bars, and bungalows for rent on Greek Islands with the word “Katerina’s” in their name. Still hypothetically speaking, of course.
By this point in your writing career, your neurotic need to worry has become so deeply engrained in your genetic code that you are going to worry about your book and career no matter what happens. So don’t worry about how much you’re worrying. As a certain brilliant agent (whose initials are Erin Murphy) once said, “Enjoy the process! Don’t question it and analyze it into oblivion–find ways to enjoy this time. You’ll never have another debut book!” Erin spoke these words of wisdom on this very blog, but it wasn’t until a critique partner pointed them out and told me “I just wish you could take that to heart,” that I made the conscious effort to do so. And guess what? The whole process is A LOT more fun when you stop worrying!
Finding a community of writers who have been through/are going through the same process is essential to your enjoyment and mental health. These are the people who can listen to you whine with sympathy and tell you that what you are experiencing is normal. Find them and cherish their wisdom and support. Because, let’s face it; your not-yet-published friends aren’t going to want to hear about how hard your life is now that you have a contract.
Photoshop is a wonderful tool for whiling away the hours of waiting and worrying. It can be used to create promotion materials, to get a laugh or two on facebook, and to advertise yourself online. It can also be used as a weapon against fellow writers with whom you blog, lest they get too uppity.
Selling your second novel may be easier than selling your first, or it may be harder. Either way, rejection still stings. Buck up. Every day is a new day in the writing world. No rejection has to be the last nail in the coffin unless you let it be. And no matter what happens from this point forward, you are a published author. And how many people ever get to say that?
If you start a group blog to minimize your online duties and in the selfish hope of promoting your book, you’re likely to end up with a tight group of friends and supporters that you can’t live without. Writers are wonderful people, and once you get eight of them together and share the most tumultuous, brilliant, stressful, exciting, depressing, celebratory two years of your life with them, there’s no turning back. Be prepared to discover you’ve created a bond that overshadows even the release of your debut novel.
And so, in gratitude, and with nails that have been chewed down to the quick, I sign off of EMU’s Debuts. Happy New Year to you all, may 2013 bless you, and thank you for these amazing two years. I leave this blog in the competent hands of a new generation of EMU’s. And with one last chicken.