I suspect every author who’s ever been published will relate to today’s post. Publishing a book isn’t all champagne launches and book signings and glowing reviews. Those moments happen, and they’re incredible, but there are the thorny times, too—the times where you doubt your book and yourself and wonder why you even wrote it, let alone thought it might be publishable.
In today’s post, Cassie Hamer captures the chaos of that post-publication period, and gives us an insight into what’s really going on inside the mind of a first-time author.
Over to Cassie:
Cassie Hamer has a professional background in journalism and PR, but now much prefers the world of fiction over fact. In 2015, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing, and has since achieved success in numerous short story competitions.
Cassie lives in Sydney with her terrific husband and three, mostly-terrific daughters, who still believe piñatas are a fun and effective method of lolly-distribution.
Published by Harlequin Australia, After the Party is her first novel.
You can find Cassie on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
After the Launch:
Inside the Chaotic Mind of a First-Time Author
You! Hey you! Yes, you. Take your hand off that mouse. Don’t even try to pretend you weren’t looking at Goodreads for the fifth time today.
And it’s only 10:32am.
I saw you! I am your rational, sensible alter-ego and I am here to blast that annoying little needy-writer-alter-ego into oblivion. You know her. You know her well. She’s that narky cow that tells you you’re shit, your writing’s shit, and you’ll never lay down another good word in your life. Just for good measure, she wakes you every morning at 3:32am just to remind you.
It’s got to stop. Now.
I don’t really quite understand how you let her in. Your book launch was amazing. That party you had was so cool—the little cupcakes and champagne, and everyone you loved saying such nice things you thought you were dead.
Where did it all go wrong?
Okay, I’ve been watching. I’ve seen you go into bookshops and you’re thrilled to see lots of copies of your book on the shelves. But then you think—there’s so many, and no one is buying it. Everyone hates it!
You go to Better Reading to record a podcast. You love this podcast. You’ve dreamed of being on it. But when you arrive, there’s a Man Booker Prize Winner in the chair, finishing up his interview. Your imposter syndrome hits peak volume.
You visit bookshops, armed with a publicist and cupcakes. The book sellers couldn’t be more lovely, but you have a feeling they’re probably more excited about the cake than the book. And fair enough too.
And then there are those pesky reviews, ratings and rankings. You knew that not everyone was going to love your book. You even wrote about it, and you said you’d be okay with it. Liar. That was your ego talking.
Every author in the world told you not to check Goodreads. But, like a bozo (or, you know, a human being), you have checked it, along with Amazon and you’re devastated when the rating goes below four stars.
Your husband thinks you have a problem, allowing numbers on a screen to affect you in this way, and he’s right.
In your defence, I can kind of see why you’re doing it. This is your work, this is you, out there for judgement and examination.
You don’t necessarily want the book to be a global bestseller (though, you’d probably cope if that happened), but you just want the book to do well enough such that your publisher wants more. That’s all. You want to keep doing this writing caper for a good deal longer (though at times, I have to wonder why) and that’s why those bad ratings and reviews scare you.
The way you came to be published probably hasn’t helped. I can see that too. Picked up off the slush-pile—it’s kind of a cool story, because it almost never happens. You won a golden ticket. You were off-the-charts lucky.
But the degree of luck involved in getting this to publication is both a blessing and a curse. When people tell you it’s good—actually, great—you find it hard to believe because the path to getting it out there was so bumpy. How can it be good when it was such a struggle to get published?
I bet you JK Rowling doesn’t think this way. She had loads of rejections, but she probably just rolls in her billions and thinks, Bad luck, suckers!
You are not so evolved in your thinking. Not yet. All of your doubts and insecurities roll around your head like a cement mixer, spinning and churning and, look, this wouldn’t be such a problem if it was just contained to your brain, but it’s not, it’s also affecting your writing.
After the Party is ‘Book Club’ fiction, which is perfect. But, you think, What does that mean? And, How do I write the same book, but different? The marvellous Toni Jordan tells you she also went through this with her second book. In her case, she tried to eat the same breakfast, figuring that might help.
You listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talks because she wrote Eat, Pray, Loveand had big problems moving on from the success of that. Your book will never be that successful but the learnings seem relevant.
According to her, you need to rediscover why you got into this stupid business to begin with. You need to re-discover your love of writing. You need to find your ‘home’ again. All excellent advice except that the builders have moved in. Your home is undergoing major structural renovations and cannot accommodate a resident right now.
So, what are you left with?
I’ll tell you.
Yes, the launch phase is intense. It’s exhausting. You’re not sleeping. You’re not eating well. It’s so much like having a newborn baby it makes you want to cry.
But, just as the babies grew and got easier, so too will this one.
I don’t want to give it all away (everyone hates a spoiler, right?) but just know that better times lie ahead. People will buy your book. Your publisher will want more books. You’ll hit a bestseller chart or two, if only briefly.
But that’s not even important right now. Just know that time, and the passage of it, will be enough to smooth the edges of the sharpest of feelings. In a couple of weeks you’ll be in a different headspace entirely.
And you’ll be down to checking Amazon/Goodreads only once a day.
Thank you so much for sharing! Self-doubt seems to be an integral part of the writing and publishing process, but it makes it a little easier to know that almost everyone goes through it.
If you ever meet an author who says they didn’t experience any self-doubt about the publication of their book, I suspect they’re not being entirely truthful! 😉
Glad you enjoyed the post!
Just love this post! Thank you Cassie for the great advice. It’s such a shame that those times when writers feel “safe” or like they’ve arrived can be all too rare and fleeting. x
They are fleeting in that initial period, until things settle and life returns to normal. Although I doubt any author ever feels truly ‘safe’ or like they’ve arrived. I guess that might lead to complacency, which isn’t something you want either.
Thanks for commenting Marlish. 🙂
Love it, Cassie, and the baby analogy is a sound one. The world seems so much louder once you have a baby/book out in the world! And when things go silent, that’s even more worrying…
…you write beautifully about the journey, Cassie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with us, and thanks to Louise for rightfully letting you shine in the best blog club this side of the equator. xo
The baby analogy is so scarily true! And thank you for your kind words about the ‘blog club’. ❤️
Great post! This stood out so much “When people tell you it’s good—actually, great—you find it hard to believe because the path to getting it out there was so bumpy.” Thanks for sharing, Louise 😊.
We have such great difficulty hearing the compliments, but we’re attuned to every criticism. Which part of evolution thought this was a good idea? Thanks for reading!