Monday, April 9, 2007
Recollections and Lessons Learned On My Maiden Voyage
Recently I was thinking about my first book, how naïve I was , and the lessons that I learned. With the exciting news of my first sale, (then writing prehistoric fiction under the name Lynn Armistead McKee) I didn’t really give a hill of beans about the advance or anything other than the fact that Berkley was publishing MY book! (That’s the first naïve part) It was originally a horror/occult novel, but the editor requested I take all of that out so it would appeal to a broader audience—in other words change the genre. My immediate answer was, “Sure, no problem.” I had no idea what I was in for. This was no simple revision, but what did I know? (That's the second naïve part.)
A month later and deep into the revisions, I received a horrifying phone call from my agent’s assistant (my agent was on vacation in Turkey) telling me that my editor had left Berkley and I was orphaned. I had to ask what was the worst-case scenario. He sadly related that there was the possibility that the new editor might not like my book, and it wouldn’t get published. My first thought was that I had already told all my friends that I was going to have a book published. Yikes! Luckily, the new editor liked the book, and it continued along in the editorial process—which was another eye-opener. Didn’t a writer get a call on Monday that a publisher was buying the book, and then it was published on Friday—or something like that? Why would it take an entire year? Wow, see how uninformed and virginal I was.
Finally, revisions complete, final edits done, ARCs out, and then the big day. I had befriended a Waldenbooks store manager, and she called me when the books arrived. I gathered up all my family and headed to the mall with a video camera. I was going to surreptitiously capture the first sale. (Like I didn’t stand out in the crowd with a video camera stuck to my eye.) That’s about the time my stomach turned over and I felt like I was going to throw up. All this time I had been anxiously looking forward to seeing my “baby” on the shelf. I was so sure that I would be ecstatic. Now, through the camera lens I witnessed someone pick up my book, read the back blurb, thumb through it, then put it back on the table. For the first time I realized that not everyone was going to like my book—after all we don’t all like to read the same thing. But the worst was that I became acutely aware that some of those people who wouldn’t like my book were going to be my friends. I had never really considered that.
Amongst all the rude awakenings during my maiden voyage into the publishing sea, that was the rudest.
I heard Stephen King speak once, and he said his publisher spent tons of money doing a survey on why some people don’t read Stephen King. He said he told them it was because some folks just don’t read that sh--. The publisher went ahead with the survey anyway and King said that what they found out after spending many thousands of dollars was that some people just don’t read that sh--.
Authors have to have tough skin. It’s part of the package. I have switched genres and publishers, changed my pen name to Lynn Sholes (my real name—I had what I call a regime change—divorced and remarried), and now co-write thrillers with Joe Moore for Midnight Ink. Even though we have had wonderful feedback and great reviews, as every writer knows, from out of the fog a rogue reviewer sometimes emerges, or you occasionally get a flat response from a friend. Changing genres, publishers, and names hasn’t changed the bottom line that not everyone will love what I write. I can’t be offended by that or I’d never write again. Blowing it off is a lesson worth learning. When I don't get the fabulous comments from a friend that I wanted or when the creep from hell posts a less than super review on Amazon, I have to keep in mind what I discovered in the mall behind the lens of my video camera and also when listening to Stephen King-- some people just don’t read that sh--.
Posted by Lynn Sholes at 7:00 AM