Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Was it everything you dreamed of?

By Joe Moore
When your first book was published, was the experience everything you dreamed it would be? For me, it was quite different than what I expected. The first time I walked into a national chain bookstore and saw my shinny new novel on the new release table, it was a rush. I was proud. I felt like I was on top of the world. I couldn't wait to see customers gathering it up in their arms and rushing home to read it. Then I stood back and watched as people picked up my book, glanced at the back cover copy, and put it down with no more interest than in choosing one tomato over another at the supermarket.

That book cost me 3 years of my life and they passed judgment on it within 5 seconds.

Reality quickly set in. Not everyone will want to read my book. Not everyone will like it if they do read it. And I found out rather fast that once a book is published, the real work begins.

Today, I'm writing (with co-author, Lynn Sholes) my fourth novel due for release next fall. My books have won awards and I've been published in over 21 countries. And yet, every day I face the reality that the true test of my success is what the customer does when they stand over that literary produce bin and pick the ripest tomato. It's about as scary as it can get.

As a full-time writer, I have the best job in the world. I would not trade it for anything. But a word to anyone dreaming of publishing their first book: be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

So, when your first book came out, was it everything you dreamed of? And if you're still working at getting published, what are you dreaming it will be like?


Mark Terry said...

Here's a really interesting dichotomy.

Fiction: no. It wasn't everything I thought it would be. It was much, much less and with the recent publication of my fourth book, continues to be less than I expected. As an avid reader, I never realized just how difficult it is to interest the reading public (let alone the non-reading public) in a book by people they've never heard of before. One of the comments the people my wife works with made that sticks in my craw is, "I only read books by people I've heard of before."

Nonfiction: I had a pretty good idea of what the life of a fulltime freelance writer would be like and I was correct... except the money's better than I thought.

Go figure.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Nice metaphor with the tomatoes, Joe. And so true!

Yesterday, we had misconceptions about authors. Today, we have misconceptions about being published.

My misconception: I thought book stores would be rolling out the red carpet for me, a published author.

Nina Wright said...

My biggest misconception by far about being published was that my books would actually be on bookstore shelves! Such a frustration. No matter how actively I promote my books, if they're not on bookstore shelves, folks won't find them. I can't begin to recall how many times people have contacted me after hearing my presentations and said, "I wanted to buy your books but when I went to [fill in the name of the store], they said they'd have to order them for me."

Forget about the casual browser loving the cover and impulsively making a purchase....

Rick Bylina said...

Unpublished author with 430 rejections for three novels just knows that the rocket's red glare will burst in the air and sky rockets will delight, everything will be all right, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I'll be home for Christmas with the town rolling out the red carpet with a parade for the hometown boy who dun good, that is, except for those who noticed themselves as murders, criminals, pedafiles (sp), idiots, adulters, shameless hussies, bigots, or just plain meanies.

Hmm. On second thought, I think I'll just be glad to have broken the glass ceiling and quietly write a better second novel about cute puppy dogs and adorable kittens.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...


It's everything I dreamed of and more. One day my husband and I were in LAX picking up our luggage. A woman hurried over and asked, "Are you Joanna Campbell Slan?" I said I was, fearing that I'd lost my wallet or some such thing. "Well, I just have to tell you how much I've loved Scrapbook Storytelling," she said. She went on and on. It was a banner moment. Those situations keep me working hard and writing.

Candy Calvert said...

A mixed bag for me, too, I'd say:

The DREAMY STUFF: seeing that first book in a bookstore; how excited folks get about "meeting a real author!"; the instant "credibility" you have with other published authors, even really BIG folks--it's like suddenly knowing the secret handshake; being invited to speak before various groups who very enthusiastic; having my books in SO many libraries around the world; hearing from readers who love my work!

The NOT SO GOOD STUFF: I echo Nina's disappointment that my books are VERY hit-and-miss (mostly miss) on bookshelves; the HUGE amount of time and money that go into promo and marketing, without out much real proof of return on that investment.

Hmm . . . my Goods far outweigh my Bads. Guess I'll keep at it! :-)

Nina Wright said...

I'll keep at it, too, Candy! I suspect most of us will. Being a writer broadens and deepens every life experience. Nothing is wasted when you have a license to morph it into fiction. ;<)

Candy Calvert said...

Amen, Nina, and--hey--it gives us license to be flagrantly QUIRKY, which I dearly love.
And plenty of excuses. Here's one of my personal favorites:

"Excuse the mess, my housekeeper is writing novels." ;-)

<<(Nina Wright)Being a writer broadens and deepens every life experience. Nothing is wasted when you have a license to morph it into fiction. ;<)

Joe Moore said...

Thanks for all the comments. So much is revealed in everyone's posts. Like many of you, we're getting feedback that fans can't find our books in stores. So we direct them to Amazon, BN.com and other online stores.

Mark Terry said...

About continuing to write:

I was intrigued--and it's definitely stayed with me--when I recently did a library promotion at the Romeo Public Library here in Michigan with 5 or 6 other novelists. One of them commented that writing fiction was how he processed the world and he didn't know how he could go through life without doing it.

I'm inclined to agree.

Candy Calvert said...

omigod--that's perfect, Mark.
He completely nailed it.
Thank you for sharing that.

And thanks, Joe, for introducing this topic.

(Mark wrote: . .writing fiction was how he processed the world and he didn't know how he could go through life without doing it.

Julia Buckley said...

I didn't expect what I learned from being published; far from being an ego boost, it was a real humbler. Yes, you have a published book. But then you realize that you are a guppy in an ocean.

But I tend to be rather existential anyway . . .

And Joanna, I am still waiting for the day that someone says, "Are you Julia Buckley?" I can't see it happening; my book photo doesn't look enough like me. :)

Bill Cameron said...

Someone asked me if I was Bill Cameron recently, but it turned out I had, in fact, left my credit card on the table when I left the restaurant.

Felicia Donovan said...

Loved all these comments and I'll throw my own tomatoes in the bin to say it's been an incredible experience that I'm only now beginning to assimilate and appreciate. For whatever reason, the first few weeks made me feel a bit numb, but now things are happening so quickly that I'm trying to keep my tomatoes firmly planted in the ground.

Getting recognized by fans would be fun. Getting sent boxes of good chocolate would be even funner (hint, hint).

Mark Terry said...

Felicia has given us all permission to start stalking her. What's your phone number?

Felicia Donovan said...

Mark, that would be 1-800-SEND-CHOC.

spyscribbler said...

I never dreamt of it. It happened by accident. At first it was a rush, but as I got better, it was terrifying. I felt naked. Now, I largely ignore it. (But I'm not in a bookstore, so I don't know if I count, LOL.)

The one non-fiction essay in the bookstore, I mostly want to hide from the staff. Crazy, huh? But I write there every day. I like being that girl in the corner, typing.

When I get a novel published in a real bookstore, I suspect I'll feel naked and terrified and have to fight the urge to hide the book, rather than ask people to buy it, LOL.