When I started writing for children, I was surprised when the first magazine article I sold ended up not being the first article published. I still haven’t quite figured out how to handle it. Which one do I call my first? Getting someone to pay you for your writing is a huge threshold, a grand new beginning where the road unfurls before you. But seeing your name–and your words–in print for the first time is every bit as much of a thrill! Splitting the two experiences somehow seems to take something away from both of them, diminishing them somehow. After all, we expect all of our big first in life to come with earth-shaking fireworks, not a lingering sense of “So was this it? Or was it that other time?”
The first (now second) book sold in June 2012, with a scheduled release date of spring 2015. It was a finished picture-book manuscript, but I’m not an illustrator, so having great art is well worth the wait!Well, it looks like I’m going to be in the same predicament with my books: the second one to sell will be released before the first!
Then, the second (now first) book sold earlier this month, with a scheduled release date of fall 2014. It’s a young-adult nonfiction, which sold on proposal… and isn’t even written yet (eek)! I had considered putting this one away for a while (or for good), since I’d sold the picture book. I figured I should probably be focusing on those. Like Carol mentioned last week, I had my “brand” to consider, right? Well, I guess the universe spoke, because suddenly the perfect publisher wanted to take this proposal in its perfect direction, and I was overjoyed to be accepting this offer, even with the tight deadlines.
So, which one is my debut book? In some ways, neither of them is. In other ways, they both are. Please forgive me if I get confused!
In any case, both are milestones to be celebrated, and I like to be a glass-is-half-full kind of person, so I’m going to go with the theory that it’s just double the fun. How many of us get to say our first time is as exciting as the second, and vice versa?
I think this is really the only attitude you can have if you hope to survive in the traditional publishing world. You can (and should) plan your career, of course. But accept and expect that you will most likely never keep it on course. It won’t work out the way you planned, in the order you conceived, or (almost certainly) at the pace you envisioned. Be ready to roll with the punches and get back up your feet, seize the next opportunity that presents itself, and keep pushing forward in the general direction you wish to go, even though there are bound to be a multitude of detours–and fireworks–along the way.