When I was growing up, I had this image of what being an author would be like. It was very naive and romantic. I pictured sitting in an office garret and pounding out words (on a typewriter, because that was the height of technology back then… get off my lawn, whippersnappers) while industrious little publishing elves handled all the details of turning my words into an actual product for readers to consume.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would have to work with an editor, and probably an agent and publicist too (because of course I would be famous enough to need one), but I didn’t really have any concept of what being an author really entailed. I figured the biggest part of it was writing, and then like occasionally showing up for an interview or book-signing or something.
Of course, even back then that probably wasn’t very realistic. But my childlike imaginings are even farther off base for the world of publishing today.
The biggest part of being an author is still writing. That’s a fundamental. But there’s so much more required, even for people who do get picked up by the Big Four (or three, or however many there are now that things have merged and been bought and split off.) If you’re with a small press, or a self-published author, there’s even more involved.
I have a folder full of short stories I’ve written over the last few years. “Oh,” I thought, “I’ll start sending those out to online and print magazines. Maybe I can find some of them a home.”
No big deal. They were just sitting around gathering metaphorical dust anyway. If they got rejected, it was no skin off my nose. If they got accepted, yay!
It seemed like an easy concept. Polish the stories up, find a listing of magazines looking for submissions, and ship ’em off. No sweat.
Oh, how wrong I was.
The editing process isn’t really all that painful. I know there are writers who hate that stage of the process, but I’m not one of them. I enjoy honing a story. So that wasn’t a problem.
No, it’s the figuring out where to send what that takes way more time than I anticipated. And then the waiting to hear back. Which, depending on the publication, can take up to 6 months.
Patience is something I struggle with, and the only reason it doesn’t drive me batty in this instance is that enough time passes that I kind of just put it to the back of my mind and forget about it.
Then, let’s say for arguments’ sake that you get something accepted. Yay! I can’t even begin to tell you the level of excitement and pleasure I felt when I got the email from Kris at MLR Press saying they wanted ‘A Single Heartbeat’. I’m sure there are non-writing comparatives, but I can’t think of any. A couple who has been trying to have kids finding out they’re pregnant, maybe? Something like that.
But that acceptance is only the beginning.
The people at MLR are awesome, and the turnaround from the time I got the acceptance to when ‘A Single Heartbeat’ went on sale was like 2 months all together. Which is fast. But even still there were stages to go through. Editing, proofing, cover design, etc.
Once it came out, it was time for promo and marketing. I’ve been writing to review sites and blogs to see if they want to review it. Making up teaser images like the one below (which I’m pretty proud of, btw).
Then there’s engaging on social media like Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. And writing blogs like this one. To build a fanbase.
Those are the things that are hardest for me, honestly. I’m a bit of an introvert. Being behind a computer screen makes it a little easier, but it’s still something I have to remind myself to do.
It’s a lot of work. Way more work than I ever imagined it being back when I was a little girl romanticizing my future as a ‘PROFESSIONAL AUTHOR’ at my dining room table. But all that said, it really feels worth it. Even as hard as it is sometimes to put myself out there, when someone reads something I’ve written and enjoys it, it’s worth it big time.
So the reality of my childhood dream is very different than how I imagined. It’s harder. A lot harder. And occasionally depressing (rejections are never fun.)
But I’m glad I stuck with it. And you better believe I plan on working more and harder. Because this is more than what I do. It’s who I am. An author.