Back in 2005, when I first started writing, I joined a wonderful online forum called WriteWords. There I learnt a lot, from published authors, about what it was like to have your dream come true – the good, the bad and the ugly. It prepared me, in part, for the journey I was about to go on. But there have still been many things that have taken me by surprise along the way and here are some of them… It’s been quite a publishing pinata…
One – my debut being published didn’t change my life to fit my fantasies. My book wasn’t turned into a movie. Brad Pitt didn’t star. I wasn’t invited onto Graham Norton’s sofa. I didn’t turn into a glamour puss or overnight become the owner of a Porsche.
The fulfilment came in different ways – a lovely review. Interest from family and friends. Support from the wonderful writing community. I soon realised it’s these immaterial things that mean so much.
Two – The release of each book (I’ve had ten published now) is just as terrifying and exhilarating as the last. Five years on and I realise that however well a novel does, you are only as good as your next book so that means you are always nervous about the publication of something new.
Three – it’s really hard work promoting a book. I never realised quite how much an author had to do, especially if they don’t have a PR person on hand to help. My first publisher gave me an information pack that gave guidelines and before I knew it I was tweeting, had a Facebook author page, was on Pinterest and Goodreads, I ran a blog…
I’m lucky. I enjoy social media greatly but even I find it challenging at times and whilst it wasn’t to blame, it didn’t help the mental health problems I faced in 2016 (I talk about those here).
Four – I discovered that special breed The Blogger! Bloggers are amazing. Generous. Efficient. Supportive. They offer up their time, for free, to help promote and review books. And they are the loveliest people.
Five – I thought that after releasing many books some of the inner excitement might have worn off but I still get the same, huge kick from seeing my sales rank rise on Amazon or reading a great review. I was beside myself with excitement when I saw the cover for my new women’s fiction story Forgive Me Not. Those things never cease to thrill me.
Six – I never predicted how being published would feed into the eating disorder issues I’d had for years. I guess, looking back, it’s obvious. It’s hard not to see yourself as a brand and with that comes expectations. I’m still striving to separate Sam the person from Samantha Tonge author. I try to see the ups and downs of my career as a professional journey that doesn’t reflect the worth or success of me. I blog about my tips for good authorly mental health here.
Seven – publishers are businesses. I don’t think that sank in before I got published. This means many things such as… they will have favourite authors and the chances are it may not be you! But that’s favourite in terms of who they think will sell. If an editor acquires you, have no doubt, it means they think your writing is the bees knees. They may just have other authors whose work is more commercial and hooky and will bring in more income.
Eight – It’s consolidated who I think I am in a way I didn’t expect. I know my destiny now – what it always was and where it’s going. I know. That sounds a little precious. But it’s true. I felt a degree of that before publication, but signing that deal and – more specifically – finally getting readers and their feedback has made me one hundred percent sure.
Nine – I still feel like giving up sometimes. I thought that would stop once I was published, but it doesn’t. Getting a book deal is fabulous but it does present you with a different set of problems. I’ve had ups and downs, successes and disappointments. I remember seeing an Olympian interviewed who’d won Gold the previous season and she was asked how fantastic that must have felt. Her response was fairly muted – yes, it was great, but winning brings expectations. And that’s how I feel but I try to remember that mostly those expectations are from me, my perfectionist side, and I need to keep them boxed up.
Ten – Whilst I do occasionally feel like giving up, I never forget how amazingly lucky I am to be doing a job I love and to leave a legacy behind, even if it is just a few thousand words! I still remember the pain of agent rejections and having to ditch yet another project and not forgetting this gives me perspective when a problem with my career rears its head.
There are worse problems to have 🙂