Sold Your Debut? Congrats! Now, Come Here.

photo by h.koppdelaney

When I hear that someone’s first novel has been picked up for publication, I have a knee-jerk desire to both congratulate and warn. I reign myself in and only congratulate but here’s my warning.

Everyone in the moment when the book has found a home — maybe it was even an exciting auction with a rising tide of bidding and foreign offers in the offing — is jacked — your agent, your new editor, those who’ve supported you at all levels of anxiety for the years leading up to this… and rightly so.

Maybe you’re excited too — though, if you’re like me, you’re also simply flooded with relief and mindful of the slow dawning that publishing a book might simply be an invitation to a more public form of failure than you’d grown accustomed to.

(If you’re a writer not accustomed to failure by the time you’ve published your first book, I would like to collect you as a rarity and pin you like a Nabokovian butterfly to a cork board.)

The warning is this: If at all possible, as soon as those final edits are in, divorce yourself from your book. You are not your book. Your friends and family — even if used as the basis for some of the characters — are not your characters. You have made art or perhaps entertainment — or a mix of the two — but it is now turning into a commodity. It will take up shelf-space. It will sell wildly or it will sell poorly or, likely, somewhere in between. Remember, there are poorly written books that sell wildly, and beautiful, important books that sell poorly. There are also beautiful, important books that sell wildly and poorly written books that sell poorly. The selling part is bat-shit crazy. It’s a crap shoot.

If at all possible, as soon as those final edits are in, divorce yourself from your book. You are not your book.

Listen, if you were selling this book twelve years ago, you’d be warned by an editor, most likely, that sales are very hard to predict. In fact, a hit book could just as easily be decided by a bunch of drunk frat boys playing darts.

But, today, you’re going to be told that sales are in your control. You might be given an author portal filled with info on what you can do to build an audience, connect with readers, blog, tweet, post. Because of the burgeoning ways in which writers and readers can now connect, you’ll be convinced that if you do them all, your book will sell.

No. The vast majority of authors sprint in all of these ways nowadays. The effect has plateaued — if there was ever much of an effect to be had.

And even if you have the might and power of a great marketing department, it’s still unknowable why some books take off and others don’t.

How your commodity — which used to be your art/your entertainment/a piece of your soul — does in the marketplace is still a crap shoot.

If your book doesn’t sell well, you could be blamed for it. Don’t accept the blame. It’s bullshit born from the anxiety of the publishing industry.

If your book does sell well, there’s a good chance that an editor might say, “We just don’t understand why we couldn’t sell 20% more.” 

Everyone wants about 20% more. (There’s data on this human desire for 20% more.)

Sometimes there’s a walkaway grand slam. If this happens to you, don’t take it personally either. Accept it. Be joyful about it. But don’t let it take up residence. You have more books to write. Write.

This is my warning’s bottom line, in fact.

Publishing, marketing, being a commodity salesman — all of these things that just became part of your job interfere and sometimes interfere deeply with the creative process. And if you equate your self worth with your sales figures, you are screwed — even if those sales are good.

[I]f you equate your self worth with your sales figures, you are screwed — even if those sales are good.

Protect your relationship with the page, at all costs, because no matter how the publishing industry defines your role, there’s one place you’re always a writer. The desk. Your long-term relationships is with words on a page. It’s where you first started out and it’s where you need to be. The publishing industry doesn’t need me as a writer. It’s got plenty. But the one thing that doesn’t change is this — I need to write.

Congratulations! And now you have been fairly warned.

Novelists, do you have any advice to share in comments? The floor is yours.

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About Julianna Baggott

Julianna Baggott is the author of over twenty books. Her most recent, Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders, was just published this month. Her other novels include Pure, a New York Times Notable Book of 2012, and its sequel, Fuse. She writes under her own name and under pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode -- most notably, National Bestseller Girl Talk, The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, and, for younger readers, The Anybodies Trilogy and The Prince of Fenway Park. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Best American Poetry, Best Creative Nonfiction, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Here & Now.

Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful advice. I think it would be ultra exciting for anyone landing a book contract, but the market is so crowded, discoverability is an issue. There are plenty of great books that don’t get discovered by a wide audience, and this idea that if authors just blog and connect enough, their book will be an instant success isn’t true. If it were, everyone would be selling gangbusters.

    This is a great article with some real world reminders. Divorcing your own self esteem from book sales is important.

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  2. says

    Wow! Did I need to hear this right now, Julianna! My debut releases at the end of this year and I find myself absolutely inundated with marketing/publicity crapola. It’s distracting and all-consuming and I find myself having trouble focusing on my work in progress. I’m grappling to find my footing in my new character’s world. It’s much more difficult tunneling into her soul the way I could with the other novel. I’m going to try very hard to follow your advice and honor my need to write and the importance of pushing all of the other b.s. out of my head!

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  3. says

    This is such valuable insight! I’m far past being a debut novelist, but I think this applies beautifully to any writer these days. Being a crazy busy marketer seems to be the norm now, so finding ways to hunker down and focus on the writing is crucial. So…back to my desk where “Ladies in Lavender” is playing and my cinnamon swirl candle is burning. :-)

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  4. says

    Ditto what Heather said. This blog was so timely, with my debut launching just last Tuesday. Thank you so much for your sage advice, Julianna. ‘I will protect my relationship with the page’ is going to be my new mantra!

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  5. says

    This is such a great article, thanks. Keeping perspective and balance is so important. I almost didn’t read it, the photo swallowed me whole and I spent a crazy amount of time on the photographer’s flickr page!
    Like good parents, who are supposed to raise their children to leave to be successful and independent; I can see from your post we should write our books like good parents.

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  6. says

    I wish I could hug this post. I was on a roller coaster for years after my debut sold (back in 2008), and I’m here to raise my hand and say, Yes, this whole experience can really mess with your creative process. Somehow I did work through it, and finished my second book, but I wish I’d read these words back in 2008.

    Debut authors, I join Julianna in wishing you the best — the very best — of luck. But take care not to give every bit of yourself (and your hope) over to this process, this industry, or your first book. If your book doesn’t perform as hoped, you’ll need those reserves to press on. And if it does do well, if it’s massively successful, be gracious and realize that much of the credit is due to good timing and good luck, and that there are many wonderful books out there in the wide world that never made it past meager sales. It’s like a game. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. But if you stay in it, things will likely always be–at the very least–interesting.

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    • says

      Thank you for your wise words, Therese! I’m trying to learn from all of you sage novelists who have gone before me. Working hard to manage my expectations over here! lol. To no avail. I suppose there’s something to be said for experience. And yes, you nailed it–at least it’s an interesting, wild ride!

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  7. says

    I just read this to my husband as he was rolling out his back. He said, “I don’t know why you felt compelled to read it in the voice of a chain-smoking New Jersey French teacher, but I liked it.” And then he went on his own monologue as Mrs. Linda Verbitski — a name he made up — class of 81 — for a long time. I don’t know why.

    Glad this is of some use.

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  8. says

    Juliana, you’ve touched on something in this post that has become a disease … EVERYWHERE. I also do graphic design and when I have a moment or two, I put my artwork up on these print-on-demand sites as greeting cards. One of the sites sent out an email that royalties were being cut, but if you aggressively marketed then you could make more. I closed my “storefront.”

    A few months back we had an up-and-coming YA author, Dawn Metcalf, come and speak to our Writers’ Group. The amount of work she has to do in terms of marketing her debut novel stunned us. And she had a publisher! The amount of publicity they did for her: none. A remarkable, energetic and generous young woman, she was able to “do it all,” and even though she was at the workshop talking to us about marketing, she was immersed in getting the second book ready for publication.

    As an unpublished author, I have made a half-hearted attempt to to set up a “platform.” In the meanwhile, I lost momentum with my WIP and what you call my “relationship with the page.”

    I came across this line from one of the the late comedian Bill Hicks’ (1961-1994) stand-up gigs and, oddly, derived a great deal of comfort from it, “By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising…kill yourself. Thank you.”

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  9. says

    Have to laugh at the irony that almost all of the writers commenting here have included links to their latest blog posts. Marketing sucks. : – )

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  10. says

    “And if you equate your self worth with your sales figures, you are screwed — even if those sales are good.

    Protect your relationship with the page, at all costs.”

    Thank you.

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  11. says

    “Bat-shit crazy” is wonderful cause that’s what it is, drunken fratboys playing darts, editors throwing spaghetti at walls to see how much sticks. Has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and everthing to do with how good your work is. but at the end, it’s all luck, timing and other factors beyond your control. “The paradox of writing,” says Stephen Fischer, ” is that you’re trying to use words to express what words can’t express.” And that’s just the writing part, wait’ll you get into the bat-shit crazy arena which Juliana gets down so beautifully.

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  12. says

    Great advice. Guard the writing, in every way possible. My debut historical (Burning Sky from WaterBrook Press) releases August 6, so I’ve been shifting into marketing gear these past few months. I’ve been thankful, however, that the time from signing the contract until its release has been something like 18 months. It gave me time to write another book, prepare two series proposals, and now I’m working on yet another novel/series. I’ll begin content edits for my second contracted book later this month, so with that thrown into the mix I’ll have to learn how to juggle not only writing and marketing, but editing as well. It’s the life I signed up for, with my eyes wide open. It’s definitely stretching, but stretching is good. So far.

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  13. says

    Thanks so much for this post — two days ago I turned in final edits and I had a conversation just last night about feeling a little nauseous for the first time at the thought of my book going out into the world. Also at the thought of all the marketing there is to do…. Your words feel like a personal note to me. Thanks.

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  14. Sheila Gilluly says

    Thank you so much, Julianna, for expressing in a nutshell the caution that should be mailed out with every book contract. Maybe new authors are much better educated about the commodity aspect of letting your books leave your hands, but I was Alice in Wonderland, so when my agent and publisher both dropped me after two trilogies I took a soul-fracture that I’m still trying to get over. I desperately want to publish again, I have a terrific WIP…but I can’t finish it. I’ve been tinkering with it for 20 years. Debut authors, pop the champagne corks and feel the elation–you’ve done a terrific thing! Just know that whatever happens now isn’t really in your control, so do as Julianna says and keep your heart where it belongs, in the writing.

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  15. says

    Great post and advice. Yes, in today’s world we all need a fundamental degree in marketing. But honestly, I don’t look at it as “marketing”. I look at it as connecting with my readers :-)

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  16. Denise Willson says

    Great timing, Julianna.

    I have friends who think I’m crazy for delaying the publication offer on my first novel so I can focus on writing the second. Why? they scream.

    Because what I learned from the first will make my second even better. Because once I publish the first, I’ll have contract responsibilities to uphold. Because I have a second story in my head that needs my attention right now. Because I am a writer, not a marketing machine. And, truthfully, because I want to dammit, and this is MY game.

    We control our destiny at all times.

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

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  17. says

    While this isn’t exactly the same (sounds like there are many similarities), I recently self published a novel, and it’s a delicate balance between marketing and writing. I finally started going out of the house to write, spending the morning at a coffee shop. It worked wonders and my productivity skyrocketed. However, if I get a bad review or sales go down, my mood (and productivity) can turn on a dime. So I really need to heed your sage advice: “And if you equate your self worth with your sales figures, you are screwed — even if those sales are good.” I would modify that (for me) to “sales and reviews.” It’s tough because as a self-published author I can’t turn my back completely, but I’m so much happier when I can focus most of my attention on writing! Great post!

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  18. says

    Thanks so much for this great post, Juliana. As someone who’s deep in the trenches of this middle ground, I related to it very closely. My book was picked up for publication last fall, and (with the exception of several targeted blog posts), I haven’t written a creative word since. I take heart from the knowledge that all things creative tend to run in cycles, that we need our creative downtime, and that even now things are happening on a subterranean level. But that does nothing for the feeling of having lost one’s center. I wrote my own post on this very topic a few months back for BTM…posting it here — http://beyondthemargins.com/2013/05/living-on-both-sides-of-the-brain/ — for anyone who’s interested. Many thanks for a great piece.

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  19. says

    Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I will bookmark this for future moments when I feel like I’m under the pressure of a few tons of ACME anvils.

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  20. says

    This is so good, Julianna! My book was published almost a year ago, and even though I told myself I wouldn’t –> I threw WAY too much of myself into the process of publishing and selling the book. Not that I was always out there doing things for the book, but emotionally I got too invested in its success (or FAILURE!). It took many many months to untangle my head from that world. ANYWAY, your message IS STILL valuable for me… even though I wish you were there to punch me in the face 11 months ago :)

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  21. says

    Late getting to the page today b/c I stopped to read this. Glad I did, though — my first mystery launches Aug 6 and the swirl of “do this, do that” is a bit crazy. More than a bit. So, thank you. Really, thank you.

    Back to the page….

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  22. says

    Love this post!

    Can I also say that why your book does well is a mystery…and whatever you do/don’t do, whatever your editor did/didn’t do, whatever your marketing people do/don’t do, whatever publicity you have/don’t have….all have little to do with it, yet if it does well, your editor, your publicist, and your marketing team will all want to take the credit. “It’s because I/we….” If it does well, congratulations! Enjoy! But don’t read too much into it. Just write your next one.

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  23. Ann says

    Great column. Perhaps poets have an advantage, after all: we know better than to think our books will sell.

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  24. says

    Great post — inspiring even if it’s not all posies. It is a bit confusing with all the marketing writer’s feel compelled to do. The stop-start nature of it seems counterproductive to finding quiet to create more good work.

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  25. says

    Julianna-

    I am going to grant myself 20% more space for my comment today. I may not use it but, hey, why not?

    Space, in a way, is what it’s all about. Mental space, psychic space, creative space–freedom, really, from fear and the lost focus that results from the naive belief that “marketing” will make all the difference to your debut, and that strong debut sales will smooth the path for your following novels.

    Here’s the truth: Marketing has little effect on debut sales. All publishers know this. That’s why they rarely pour big bucks into debut novels and instead, frustratingly, throw money at established best sellers.

    What does build sales? Trust. Confidence in an author. That usually achieved over time and a number of titles. Stories that grow stronger, that deepen the heart-to-heart bond of reader and storyteller. What you’re after are not unit sales but fans. Fans keep showing up–because you do too.

    About those following novels…how many times have you read a wonderful debut only to be disappointed by a sophomore effort? Time travel back in your mind. Not too hard to think of authors who quickly violated your trust, is it?

    Maybe their second deadline was too tight for their level of experience. Maybe they haven’t yet learned the techniques of building powerful fiction from an idea scrawled on a cocktail napkin. Maybe they spent too much time marketing that first book.

    Whatever the case, promotion is not bad but it’s important to remember that its effect is cumulative. Promoting one book does not build you a fan base. It can’t. Writing five superb novels will.

    I disagree with you only in one sense, Julianna: It’s not entirely a crap shoot. It’s true that good novels may not sell well, and that bad novels may. But consider: “good” in the sense of skillful or artful is indeed a good thing, but what makes fiction popular (a different thing) is the way in which it connects to readers hearts.

    That’s the only thing, ask me, that explains why “bad” fiction can still leave us fifty shades of confounded.

    But back to your main point, so beautifully made today, and so obviously resonating with the debut novelists here. What matters is not your debut novel but your ongoing storytelling.

    I’d happily trade any author two hundred Facebook updates and five hundred Tweets for one afternoon (I have a supply of ’em) of ripping open one blah middle scene and and exposing its beating heart. Step right up. And bear in mind that this is an agent offering you this swap.

    Have I used my bonus 20%? Maybe not. Don’t need to. You said it wonderfully, Julianna. Thanks for giving debut novelists the perspective from down the road. Invaluable.

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    • says

      *Exhales* I feel like I can breathe a little better reading this, Don. I’m working SO HARD to disentangle myself from the pressure of a debut release. I’m not sure if the stress comes from my own expectations or those from an ever-challenged industry. You (and Julianna and Therese) just gave me permission to get back to what I love. To get back to growing as a writer and making this next book unique, deeper, better. Thank you!

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      • says

        Thank Julianna. She’s got the wisdom of one who’s been down the road. If you’re ever in Tallahassee try to meet her. A few minutes with her is like a few minutes with the Dali Lama…if the Dali Lama were a novelist and mom. Better still, read her books. Or those of Bridget Asher or N.E. Bode, her pseudonyms. (There may be others!)

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  26. says

    Great Info.! Thanks for sharing! I’m posting your quote about marketing everywhere around my computer — “The selling part is bat-shit crazy. It’s a crap shoot.” It’s so easy to tie our self-worth to our writing’s success but we must just keep writing. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  27. says

    Thank you for this post. I’m a new author, having garnered my first Work-For-Hire contract. I have a couple WIPs, and I find myself already distracted by the end product. My inbox is inundated daily with “how to find an agent” emails, how write this way and that, conferences that I must attend…on and on. I’m thinking I’m going to unsubscribe from a lot of these lists, as they are distracting me from my creative process. I appreciate hearing that even after achieving the success of having a book published, which I truly hope for someday, in the end, it all comes back to writing. Just keep writing.

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  28. says

    Thanks Julianna for this timely post. My debut novel will be released at the end of September. Right now, I’m on pins and needles and like many of the others who commented, overwhelmed by all the marketing advice.

    I will bookmark this post and refer to it often.

    Thanks again :)

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  29. says

    I think a lot of aspiring authors forget about this part—I know I did. When I first started looking for an agent, all I could think was ‘Gee, I hope someone will take me’, but then I started to think about the nitty gritty: ‘What if the agent that offers me representation isn’t someone suited to my work? What if they don’t represent me well?’ I think this situation is similar: You get too engrossed in pushing pushing pushing to get your opus out there, and then momentum propels you to keep pouring yourself into it when you really should be stepping back at that point.

    This is such great, real advice. Aspiring authors need to hear these things, and I am so glad that you have taken the time to put this warning out there. ‘Divorce yourself from your book…it is now turning into a commodity’ is exactly what I would need to hear from someone else when/if I do get published, because I would never be able to convince myself it’s okay to do this; indeed, I would never even think to tell myself to do this! Also, as weird as it is, it’s reassuring to hear someone say that success is often a crap shoot. Very sage advice to keep us linked to that tether which allowed us to travel into this sphere in the first place: the page, the word, writing, in and of itself.

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  30. says

    Oh, how I wish I’d seen this prior to my debut. Never were truer words said. I also would like to say, try your best not to take critics too seriously. There is a lot of luck with the biggies (as in some people who should not be critics work for PW and Kirkus) and on Goodreads, many people are out for literary blood. It’s best to put someone in charge of giving you the good ones and try to stop surfing yourself. Concentrate on the love. You did your best with your book, and it is your debut so there will be mistakes you’ll learn from, so don’t expect everyone to drool over your baby. You are published and that is a victory!

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  31. says

    I agree with Therese – this is a huggable post!
    Thank you, Julianna, all of your blog posts manage to be both inspiring and grounding at the same time. As I creep closer to the pub date of my debut novel – out next spring via St. Martin’s – this is such valuable advice. I just may print it out and tack it above my computer as I start the “sprinting” in all directions.

    Warmly,
    Julia Fierro

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  32. says

    Good advice. The “you are your own sales department” pitch is rather baffling to me. It’s like telling a budding concert violinist that, oh yeah, you’ll also need to do some serious weight training, and will be expected to take up NASCAR as well. If you’re a good writer–and I speak mostly of fiction here–how can you possibly be a good salesperson? THey are utterly different skill sets, parts of brain, attitudes, cultures. Indeed, if you’re tearing it up in the internet advertising/sales/blogging/giveaways world, I’d venture to guess that whatever you’ve written probably isn’t going to attract or hold my interest–which is fine, because probably writing is not what you ought to be doing–it’s selling!

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  33. says

    Wonderful post. I’m glad Leslie shared it on Facebook. My debut doesn’t come out until March 2014, and I’m already anxious. Anxious about the promotional tasks and “platform building” I should be starting now according to the “experts,” and anxious about the WIP I, like Heather above, am too distracted to sink into.

    Your post plus Donald Maas’ comment are right on. It’s hard not to get sucked into the promotional time suck, that’s for sure!

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  34. says

    Wow, great post. I don’t know if I could ever fully divorce myself from the people in my head, but I won’t be able to say you didn’t warn me. Thanks.

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  35. says

    Well, my first novel is going to be published this fall by a small publisher in the UK. I know the book may not sell well. There’s no marketing budget. All my friends have advice, “Send it to Oprah!” (Not doing that.) And they are all sure I’ll be successful. I just nod and hope I’ll do my best. Luckily, I’ve got several books written and my publisher is supportive.

    Anyway, good to read this. I know it is all true.

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  36. says

    Yes, Julianna, thanks for the wonderful post. I self-pubbed a novel two years and pretty much have been doing a lot of marketing. I’m fortunate that is has been well received by book clubs and word of mouth as well some national awards. I have all the while work shopped its prequel (done a few years ago) and am now working on its final notes from my editor. It’s been easy to get sucked in, but I agree with the advice about not worrying over sales and concentrate on writing. On that end, I’ve enjoyed the feedback from readers. Another novel is completed and if not picked up, I’ll do it all over again.

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  37. says

    Great advice! We spend so much time editing, revising, and promoting our work. Especially when it’s our debut novel it can be so easy to inextricably connect it with our worth as an author. As a debut author whose book releases this month, I truly appreciate your reminders.

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  38. says

    I’m behind on everything this week, but this could not BE more spot-on. Thanks for sharing, Julianna.

    I also agree with Therese: so much of good sales are just plain luck. Just like so many other things in publishing.

    It took me months after my debut to get back to writing. Luckily, my second book was already finished at the time. But I am now paying for all that obsessing.

    Speaking of, I should get to work. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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  39. says

    Julianna, thanks, for these important reminders. I have two s-p novels out getting good reviews, several short stories published in lit journals, a decent blog audience and do lots of promos on FaceBook Groups. With good days and bad days, I know in my head that focusing on sales, reviews, and promos can send writers up quickly and send us into a dive just as quickly. But knowing this “emotionally” is another kind of intelligence that I still have trouble with. I think Donald Maass has a point about building TRUST with readers and keep growing as a writer by writing, writing, writing! You’ve sparked me today.

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  40. says

    “Protect your relationship with the page …” Julianna, such sound perspective in your post, catching the core of what drives us to write in the first place: the writing. Luckily, my expectations for my first (self-published) novel were wildly fulfilled. Because they were saggingly low. Victory!

    They weren’t a lot higher for my small-press published short-story collection, though I did dash all about online with a salesperson’s jester’s hat on for a bit. But the platform shoes chafed too much, dangit. Thank goodness I still savor the clatter of the keyboard.

    Thanks for some discerning words.

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  41. says

    This is great no nonsense advice, I really appreciate that. I am currently working on finishing my first novel, thus I appreciate the realness of this discussion. Many articles focus on HOW to get to publication but it is nice to have a little no joke advice about what to expect afterwards.

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  42. says

    Julianna – such sane, sound and sensible advice. I published two books, one in 2007 and one in 2008, which are no longer available from their e-press home. I am waiting for the edits of another from a different publisher, but I have a problem with writing that has not been touched on here.

    I am 72 and partly disabled, hubby (also not in the best of health) and I are age pensioners with no other income (very tiny from the two books!) I have a lot of unfinished m.s. and several finished but not yet “computerised”. My problem is lack of strength. I actually don’t care a great deal whether my other works are published or not, but I have trouble with the whole creative process, even processing words I’ve already written. It’s simply physical and mental weakness, so I therefore say to the readers of your blog post – do the thing before you become old and decrepit!

    And I simply cannot do the marketing one is asked to do, even online. It is too much for anyone. I read one young woman’s blog which stated she was on the computer twelve hours a day! Impossible for me, and others. Another lady, after going through it all, found the most effective tool to be printed business cards distributed to every soul she came in contact with.

    I am aware that Mr Maas is correct in that one needs to get the books written and out there, to grow a fan base and make one’s name known. I’m trying, Donald.

    My best wishes to you all, love your work and keep it up. And I beg your pardon for whining about my own personal bugbear.

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  43. says

    Hey Julianna, I read this with both relief and fear. My debut is released in just 23 days and I’ve been grappling with the four or five suggested marketing plans to get my book ‘out there’. It’s very time consuming and mind boggling. I have no idea what I’m doing and feel a little foolish every time I hit the enter button and put myself out there.

    My only hope is that someday a random stranger – not friend or family – writes to me saying how much they enjoyed my book. How good would that be?

    Thankfully I already have my next book with my editor and I’m making time to plot/write my third. Writing is my passion and I make a little time for it every day…that’s what keeps me sane.
    Cheers

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  44. says

    Hi Julianna –

    I so appreciate this advice, and it’s relief to hear the suggestion not to take responsibility for the sales, or lack thereof, of a book. My first book came out in April, and since then, I come to the computer every day with a sense of dread – I’ve been told of the many things I need to do to ‘get the word out’ – groups I need to reach out to and join, etc. I find it daunting, but, worse, it chips away at my writing time, which is very limited already. I’ve been missing writing like crazy. And thanks to this post, tomorrow I’m going to devote some time to it without feeling guilty for all that I’m not doing for the book I’ve already written.

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  45. says

    Wow, just released my debut with Random House three weeks ago and have been reeling trying to keep up with all the social media and online stuff I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve been missing the creative days of being in the moment with my work and haven’t been feeling creative at all. I feel like your post gave me permission to be creative again, and to just relax. Many thanks!

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    • says

      Publishers are obsessed with social media. Now. Not too long ago they thought trailers were the thing. And blog tours. They keep changing what we’re supposed to do and invest in, because nobody really knows what works.

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  46. Fifie says

    I published my debut novel via Trafford and since then being ‘harassed’ by them to fork more money for marketing (I paid the publishing, editing and everything) but when I told them to lower the price a bit (it’s quite expensive, even for me), they refused. But yet still tell me to buy more promotion things (to introduce the books) even though they dont put my book in a bookshop (e-book and online shop is the craze now, said them). They even ask me to buy a couple hundreds of my own novel and then sell it myself or they can help sell it if I can pay for the warehouse to keep the book in USA. I was sad for a while until I realized that this experience is to show me how hard it is to be a writer and I must not give up. Now, I ‘let go’ of the novel (written in English) and focus on a new novel (written in Malay – my mother’s tongue) and hopefully I can find a better publisher to publish and sell the new one. Never give up, that’s all I keep reminding myself.

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  47. says

    Kudos ditto to every comment and this post! I just have one thing to add (need reminding myself): “Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.” Margaret Atwood on writing fiction. PS I like marketing. Oh no, there goes the WIP

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  48. says

    Amen. For anyone who needs proof about the crapshoot nature of a debut novel, I recommend they read some coverage of sales for new thriller writer Robert Galbriath’s book, The Cuckoo’s Calling. Published several months ago, stellar reviews, hardback release in the UK and shifted only 1500 copies [or 499, depending on what statistics you believe in].

    Then word leaked Galbraith was actually JK Rowling…

    P.S. Loved Juliana’s talk about the genre/lit fic divide at AWP in Boston this year!

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  49. says

    Best advice I’ve heard … ever. I was going to say -best advice I’ve heard in a long time. But every writer needs to pin this entire blog to the wall and read it religiously. Burn it into your memory. Julianna Baggott must’ve been divinely inspired when she wrote this one.

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  50. says

    I learned these lessons the hard way, but it does help to have published more than one book and in different genres. 24 books into my career, I’ve seen a book I didn’t expect much of get translated into many languages and sell several hundred thousand copies, and it’s still going strong. And I’ve seen books i thought would do just as well not perform much at all. It’s all random, a question of luck and timing and karma. There are way too many factors out of our control. What we do control is the writing itself.

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  51. says

    THANK YOU!

    My debut novel, The Circle, was released June 1st by the wonderful folks at Odyssey Books.

    Since that glorious day, I’ve been feeling a little off. I find myself worried about whether or not I’m doing everything I should be doing regarding social media.

    I sit down at my desk to work on the sequel, The Lost, and instead find two hours have flown by while I’ve been trying to keep up with everything, track down new reviewers, etc.

    I’m going to stop daydreaming about how I used to write for hours in bliss and start doing it!

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  52. says

    Exactly what I needed to hear today. Book launches in 2 months. Already overwhelmed. I am vowing as of this minute to get old school and write for an hour every day, seven days a week. Thank you, Julianna, for the excellent reminder.

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  53. Elyse Walters says

    I’m just a READER. — but here are my thoughts: I think it’s about balance. If my close friend, daughter, or husband was about to see their first book ‘hit-the-shelve’, and hopefully have the opportunity to do a book tour of such..I would want my loved one to soak in the satisfaction, the pride, the happiness… And enjoy connections with readers who ‘have’ enjoyed their book. I think these authors have earned a honeymoon period. Then… At some point it ‘is’ time to move forward. I’ve been harassed by new authors ‘because’ I enjoyed their book six months after their reading their book. They still wanted me to talk about it. Wanted me to start a discussion for ‘them’ on a reading- connection site so they could join in too. At ‘that’ point… Enough is enough. But, don’t pull out the joy too fast for new authors…. Let them celebrate and enjoy the love and support from their family friends and their new fans who sincerely enjoyed their work. Just my 2 cents

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