Publishing a book is the scariest, most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done. It’s hard to believe that my debut novel, The Kindest Lie, will enter the world in less than a month. One of the best parts of this journey has been sharing it with Julie Carrick Dalton and Sarah Penner, writers who are also debuting this year. Three different publishing imprints. Three very different books. Yet one shared obsession when we meet every Sunday afternoon on Zoom: Will my book be successful? Have I done enough to give my novel the best shot at success? What is success?
I turned to a few authors I admire (many who debuted in 2020) to hear what they’ve learned along the way. These writers, like most, were incredibly generous with their wisdom. Whether you have a book coming out this year or someday (and you will), save these nuggets of insight and pull them out when you need them.
What I wish I had known…
“I wish I’d known how overwhelming marketing and promotion can be, immediately after your book is released. Readings, panel discussions, interviews, book clubs, social media posts—all of these take up an amazing amount of time, and it’s important to keep your writing going. So, the best piece of advice I can give is to set aside at least an hour a day to devote to your next project. You won’t be sorry!”
-David Heska Wanbli Weiden, author of Winter Counts
“I had such a great debut year and learned so much as a result. What I wish I’d known going into my debut year is to not be ashamed to ask for help. As Black women, we’re so used to carrying everything on our shoulders. This mind frame bleeds into everything we do. With publishing, you have a whole team behind you with years of experience in navigating the difficult terrain of editing, marketing, publicity, etc. That doesn’t mean you won’t have an opportunity to educate them on how to improve upon this in our evolving landscape between publishing and social justice; it does mean you can use their assistance to grow your platform and give voice to you and your art.”
-Catherine Adel West, author of Saving Ruby King
“As a decades-long career coach to lawyers, I pretty much “coached” the heck out of myself as my debut month approached. But the one thing that most surprised me was how quickly the satisfaction, for me, of a good review dissipated compared to the malingering of a bad one. For every author affected by bad reviews, there is one for whom negative criticism remains instructive and constructive. Sadly, I am not that author! So, having a handle on how criticism would resonate with me, and how to handle or even avoid it, was one thing I wish I’d known.”
-Natalie Jenner, international bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society
“I wish I had known how kind, generous and compassionate readers are. I have received many letters since the publication of The Mountains Sing and I count them among my precious gifts. I also wish I had known how busy the year could be. I have done more than 100 virtual events during the last nine months since my novel’s publication, many of them have been with bookshops, libraries, festivals, and book clubs. It was challenging to manage the time difference since I live in Asia and sometimes I had to do events at 2 or 3 a.m. my time, but I loved every single event in which I have taken part. I am just so grateful for the support my novel has received.”
-Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, PhD, bestselling author of The Mountains Sing
“I wish I had known how strong the temptation would be to compare my publishing path, and the success of my book, to others. From the moment you sell your book to the end of the year your book is published and beyond, there are countless ways you can compare your book to others: marketing budgets, pre-pub tours, galley print numbers, Bookstagram attention, industry reviews, most anticipated lists, best of the year lists, press reviews, best seller lists, the list goes on and on. It really is true that comparison is the thief of joy. When you compare your publishing path to others, you rob yourself of the experience of your dream coming true!”
-Louise Miller, author of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living and The Late Bloomers’ Club
The best advice I’d give debut authors… [Read more…]