Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Six Months In - Lessons from the Debut Trenches

Been six months now (plus 8 days) since Dreaming Anastasia hit the book shelves. Six months!? Not sure how that happened. Or as Publicist Paul said when I told him this factoid - "Only six months? It sure seems like longer." Since I am an unfailing optimist, I took that as a reflection of his undying love and affection for working hip to hip with me in the muck and mire known as publishing your first novel, rather than a polite way of saying that I was an annoying twit who still hasn't found the Tweetdeck. (Seriously, Paul - I just. don't. know. where. it. is. And I've been roaming the twitterverse since July. Is it like, invitation only? Just the cool kids?)

Actually, Paul's right. Truth is, I can barely remember the beginning. Okay, working two full time jobs and attempting a semblance at a life is probably a contributing factor. But September does seem like a long, long time ago. Odd, that. But between the blog tours and the real tours and the signings and the conferences and the general angst and then the endless event known as contract negotiation for book 2, and all the stuff in between, I guess time really does sort of fly.

Still, six months! It gives me pause. And since it does, I figure it might be thoughful of me to tell you what I've learned. Because, baby, I've learned a lot. I'm still learning. Hope to be for a long time to come. So without further rambling, my lessons from the debut trenches:
  • Say thank you. It is shocking to me how many people don't.
  • Book bloggers rock.
  • If you are lucky enough to get an editor who shares your geeky love for things like Monty Python and who gets your Ricardo Montelban references, cling to him like a burr. He may try to shake you loose occasionally, but just distract him with a baby gift or possibly some Spinal Tap memorabilia.
  • Publicists can be bribed with cupcakes.
  • Spoil your agent. She is working overtime for a pittance of your pittance. (okay, some of you get more. I am not one of you yet. I have high hopes. Possibly that's all I have) She has taken your panicky phone calls and edge of doom texts and never failed to respond with a 'hang in there.' She has gnawed on your editor's skinny ankles on your behalf more times than you can count. She deserves princess status.
  • Be humble. But don't be a doormat.
  • Children's book authors are an amazingly kind and generous tribe. Be thankful that you get to be one of them.
  • Yes, every single editor lives in a two block radius in Brooklyn. They push baby carriages together, speak in tightly edited but lucious prose and occasionally break into song. Like High School Musical. Only more literary. (if this is not actually true, don't tell me. I prefer my version of reality)
  • Realize that this is not only the hardest you've ever worked, but that it probably doesn't get much easier. In fact, once the bar has been raised, your only option is to keep raising it. Be thrilled about that. Imagine how high you'll be able to leap eventually. (Or not. Possibly you'll just end up with shin splints and a torn ego. But at least you'll be able to say you were a contender. - Okay, we just watched Marlon Brando today in that really old b/w version of Caesar - the one where Brando is decent but everyone else is beyond wooden and Brutus and Cassius keep exuding a weird sort of vibe. So maybe I'm channeling Brando in "On the Waterfront" with that contender reference)
  • Make sure to enjoy it. Because dreams come true don't really happen that often. So it's okay if you've now saved every poster and flyer with your name on it and you've just bought a plastic bin at Target for them. It's only icky if you show all of this stuff to everyone who walks into your house, including the plumber and the ac guys.

Til next time...


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for sharing your lessons learned! Sounds like it's been an amazing six months -- congrats!

PS -

Vonna said...

I enjoyed this positive post. Keep up the good work, Joy. Soon, you and your wonderful agent will be earning more than a pittance on your beautiful novels.

Janet Fox said...

Joy - you always make me laugh, and you always give me something to ponder. Hugs!

Oh, and Tweetdeck crashed my computer. Just sayin'.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Great post! As someone who is still counting down days to The Release Day (52), I appreciate your perspective and your wisdom! Thank you!

I might need to bug you for advice/reassurance because right now I am feeling lost and confused and nervous!

Don't let me hide behind the stacks at the Launch Party, okay?

Joy said...

you guys are very sweet!
Janet - I had heard that before about the pesky tweetdeck!
Dianne - Will shove you front and center at Books of Wonder.
Vonna and Shari - thanks as always for your encouragement and right back at ya!