Happy publication day to me!
Ah - that joyous day in any author’s life... At least, it should be. It’s the day your book comes into the world.
For traditionally published authors, it’s a day spent in front of a screen on twitter, or Facebook, thanking people and generating a buzz while waiting for the flowers to arrive from the publishers. It’s a day spent refreshing the ranking button until your wrist aches, and watching those five-star advance reviews magically appear. For a lucky few, it’s a day spent in anticipation of an evening book launch or signing. It’s a day of recognition of all your hard work. Sometimes it feels great… is great.
But what if it doesn’t?
Look – the reality for a lot of us authors is that we don’t have the buzz around our book especially if it’s self-published. There are no flowers on the way from the publisher, and if we get a few retweets or Facebook likes and move up the amazon rankings into the low hundred thousands, then we’re probably doing well.
Here’s a little secret. You may not feel great on publication day – and that’s OK. If you do, that’s a bonus! By all means generate as much buzz as you can, and please buy yourself some flowers. (Personally I decided to save the £10 quid that I would have spent on the flowers at Tesco and spend it on advertising instead – this must officially make me one of the lamest people ever!)
If you’ve ever given birth, you may know that the joyous occasion is often exhausting, and sometimes a little bit anticlimactic. A book is a bit like that – you work so hard to get it into the world, and it comes out as this helpless little creature that you love, and your friends and family may love, but often, that’s the extent of the love. It’s not the kind of love that generates book sales and amazon reviews.
So here’s another tip. As soon as that book goes live, it’s not your baby anymore. It helps if you can delink it in your mind from the thing you’ve spent thousands of hours and given up years of your life to create. It becomes a product, a commodity, a thing that you are selling and want people to buy. If it does well, or flops, or gets a one star review, that is not a reflection of your personal worth. Period.
It’s easier said than done. Publication day and the period that follows is an emotional time for an author. And other people really don’t ‘get it’. That can be hard.
So what happened on the publication day for My Secret Sister?
Not a lot. I did have lots of lovely tweets and Facebook comments, and was actually in Tesco and considered buying some flowers (instead, I bought myself an amazon advertising campaign). Sadly, I have given up alcohol, so didn’t even have a glass of wine (OK – I did have one glass a few nights later with my writing group). In my mind I had moved on to ‘how can I start selling this thing?’ and coming up against the brick wall of ‘haven’t got a clue’.
To do or not to do a launch party
Heck, if you are a party person, then by all means, throw yourself a bash. Buy a special pen and sign those books. It’s your day! Enjoy it if you can. But for me… no thanks. My one and only launch party was held for my third book, The Polka Dot Shop. It was held at a real-life London bookstore and I was so excited. I bought out half of Waitrose and the bookshop was teeming with wine and cakes. Amazing…
I think all of ten people showed up – and I’m including the clerk and random people who came in off the street. And their dogs. It was embarrassing. It felt terrible. I will have to get JK Rowling-level of famous before ever doing that again!
But I digress…
Back to the publication day of My Secret Sister.
All in all, I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel terrible. I had less expectations than I did when I was traditionally published. I truly appreciated every single message from well-wishers in a way that I might not have done before. So overall it was a good result for me.
But a monster was looming in the background. Even though I’d kind of been expecting it, it still took me by surprise…
Publication day can feel great, but if it doesn’t, that’s OK too.
Your book is not your baby. It’s a product that you can start selling. The sooner these two things become clear in your mind, the better.
Other people might not understand how much work you put into your book, and that this is an emotional time for you. Realistically, this is your journey and you can’t expect them to.
Be kind to yourself (for heaven’s sakes, buy yourself some flowers – I’m going to do this now, belatedly).
Publication day is not the endgame. It’s the start of the next phase in your book's life.