If anyone were to ask me, “What’s it like being an author?” I can honestly say: stressful. Each word I put to paper makes me nervous. Is it the right word? Did I explain or show that scene effectively? Was it too cliché? Was it not cliché enough? Could I have written it better?
These questions and many, many more plague me on a daily basis. And that’s just my anxiety in writing. Next, we have the anxiety of trying to edit, revise, and rework. Obviously, things could have been said better. Better words could have been chosen. And my phrasing was a bit off. This phase of the writing process always makes me nervous that I could have done much better my first time around. I should have caught those flaws—I know better than to overuse “was” and “that.” How could I possibly have written something so terrible?
At the same time, I worry if the edits will change the base nature of the story. Will it take my baby, the product of my mental strain, hours of no sleep, and internal torment, and change it from a butterfly into a moth? Or will these edits put the right amount of polish on it, propelling it to that proverbial next level of writing?
After editing, comes the release. You want to talk about stress—have a release party. Who do you invite? Will it be an online event? Will it be a live event? Where will I host it? Will I make enough money to cover my expenses? It’s all a balance. We need to try and advertise, attract a group of people enthusiastic about the book, and affirm to them this is the greatest book since the invention of the written word.
Book reviews are a whole new level of anxiety. So you spent months and years writing, went through a months-long editing process, and released the book. Perhaps you sold some copies, but more than likely you have given out a slew of review copies. Now you wait for the reviews to come pouring in. Month one goes by, nothing. Month two, perhaps one review is finally posted online. Month three, you’re up to about three reviews. Some are good, some are not. There are always critics, but you want to see your baby with five-stars across the board. It hurts when someone posts a glib response of “like, um, I don’t get it,” with a two-star or one-star review. Sometimes that person just released their own book in the same genre and is trying to “kill any competition.” You try and tell yourself this person obviously didn’t read the book, or is just a hater trying to knock you down. You also try to remember that it is one out of what will hopefully be many reviews.
Now that you have a couple of fair to middling reviews under your belt, it is time to start marketing. The shakes and cold sweats settle in, your eye twitches, and your legs won’t stop shaking. You notice every time you go to the doctor that your blood pressure creeps a little higher each time. Yeah, that’s marketing.
You engage the readers, join book groups, try to talk to people, create social media accounts across the board. And—crickets.
For some reason, you have missed the boat on something. You have made a mistake. People should be flocking to you. Servers should be crashing because people are downloading so many copies of your book. But what the hell is wrong? It’s still not moving…
You have no followers on Twitter, Google, or Facebook, and your friends number in the single digits for Goodreads. The first year passes—and your following is still small. So what do you do now?
Your book just released in print—there is hope! You can have a book signing. But how? Would anyone care to explain the process? Is there anyone to—
Nope, you are kind of on your own here. Figure it out, it’s your book. Where do you reach out to? Who do you ask? You now find yourself in the strange position of having to cold-call and write bookstores in your area, begging and pleading with them to hold a book signing. Most of the time they don’t respond. Other times, they seem positive, but then never respond to your messages. The respectable few at least are open with you and tell you that they will only hold a signing if you are published with an advance-paying publisher.
So what do you do now?
I know this sketch seems negative, but for most of us starting out in this great big world of writing, it is more of a reality than not. We are all trying to get our names out there, make people see how wonderful we all are. And in all cases, we have accomplished something most people wish they could do—we have written a book!
So what do we do? We do what we always do. We look forward. We keep writing. We shake every hand that is offered to us, and greet everyone with warm and open conversation. We tell them: WE ARE WRITERS! We tell them about our upcoming projects, and we keep our forward momentum. Each little step we take is another toward our goal—success. How that success is measured is entirely up to us. As fledglings, every new contact we make, and every new face we turn on to our book is a potential sale, and a potential fan. We stay positive. We let people know that we have written the greatest piece of work they will ever read. When a bookstore ignores us, or tells us no, we reach out to cafes and restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, book clubs, and even senior centers to get our names out there. We buy a box full of books and keep them in our trunks so that with every person we meet, we can offer them a copy.
Why do we do this? Because we love it, and by sharing our own enthusiasm for our work, others will hopefully see our inner greatness.
We are writers. We are the creators of new and interesting worlds. We are the makers of dreams. We will hopefully turn our own dreams into a reality. Success is around the corner for all of us. But we need to keep moving ahead, closer to, and finally around that corner. In the end, hopefully we will be able to get rid of that pesky anxiety.
Scott Wieczorek is a professional archaeologist working in the American Middle-Atlantic region. He has written numerous short stories and several full-length novels ranging from science fiction, to paranormal mystery, to horror. In addition, he writes reviews of books by Independent authors. Samples of his work are available on his blog.
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