Special Note: The piece below was written before COVID-19 began to affect our lives as it now has. I wrote it, sent it off to WU, and turned to other tasks. However, as my fellow debut authors began to post about the cancellation of their launch events—and as the online community began to respond—it became clear to me that I had to write an introduction in light of the unique situation that debut authors (like me) are facing this spring.
In fact, we debs seem to have gone through the classic stages of grief, in an astonishingly compressed period of time. As identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, the stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- “The virus isn’t that bad and, besides, it won’t affect me.”
- “Why did this have to happen now, to me, when I’m finally publishing my novel?”
- “Okay, I won’t go to that big book fair but I can still hold my small bookstore events.”
- “My whole launch is ruined, everything I worked so hard for!”
The Kubler-Ross model stops at stage five: acceptance. But for us, the spring 2020 cohort, it’s gone a step beyond resignation. Instead, something amazing has happened.
One after another, book bloggers and hosts of Facebook groups for writers have stepped forward and offered to do anything they can to help promote our books. Mini online interviews, social media blasts—whatever they can do to help us compensate for the cancelled in-person events. Their kindness and generosity has been overwhelming.
The debut experience described below remains absolutely valid because it covers so many aspects of the process and applies regardless of publication date. But there’s an additional aspect, unique to those of us launching this spring, that I need to honor as well
It’s a cliché that becoming a published author is like becoming a parent. The astonishing reality of this new creation, after all the months—or even years—of preparation. The swift change of identity. The joy and the vulnerability.
As a parent by adoption, I’ve always been sensitive to this metaphor, finding it both illuminating and constraining. Unlike some who choose to adopt, I didn’t try every available means to conceive a biological child but switched paths fairly quickly because I believed—and still do—that raising a child was far more important to me than how that child arrived in my arms. Even so, there were plenty of moments, especially in the beginning, when I heard myself grow defensive—“explaining” and justifying my choice, even though no one had asked.
It was a bit like that when I decided—after a single agent query that seemed destined to be the “one-in-a-thousand” exception to all the stories I’d heard, until it wasn’t— to publish with a hybrid press. As with motherhood, I had the means and the temperament to take this path. Bringing my book to life felt more important than how, exactly, it got there. Once out in the world, its fate would depend on its merits and reception, not on its pedigree. Kind of like my kids, now that they’re grown.
My journey has been immensely rewarding, a lot of work and a lot of fun. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if my experience, as I prepared for the launch of my debut novel, was like that of other new authors. Being a former researcher, I did what comes naturally. I asked. [Read more…]