Staying Sane as a Debut Writer
~ By Laura Trentham
I imagine every book has its own challenges, but your debut book is a special breed. Not only is it the first time you’re sending your words out for the masses to read, but it’s an unknown. Expectations are sometimes far from reality. I pinged a special group of women for input—the Golden Heart class of 2014, the Dreamweavers. If you’re every lucky enough to final in the Golden Heart, you come to understand these other women are kind of like your graduating class. All of you final as unpublished authors, but a huge percentage go on to publish. Here are a few things to keep in mind as a newly published author:
1. Do not stalk Goodreads for reviews
This was especially difficult for me as my book hit NetGalley six weeks or so before my release date. You veer from elation to despair depending on what the reviewer thought. And, as many times as you tell yourself, it’s out of my hands or I know not everyone will love it. It stinks when someone actually, really doesn’t like it. I’d liken Goodreads to a form of torture.
** This does get easier with each release. Your skin gets tougher and bad reviews get easier to brush off.
2. Do not follow your Amazon ranking like a stock price
I poached this advice from my GH sister Julie Mulhern who heard it on an RWA conference recording. Amazon is crazy, y’all. Rankings change hourly, and with the introduction of Amazon Unlimited, can jump around like a rabbit on crack.
3. Temper your expectations
Unless you’re an anomaly, you are not going to be a bestseller. You will not be in Amazon’s top 100 or even 1000. Heck, you’ll be doing great to crack the 10,000. My expectations were too high, and when I didn’t reach them, it messed with my head in a very negative way. I started to doubt myself. My productivity went down. I was distracted and unhappy and anxious when I should have been celebrating a release.
4. Publicity is never-ending
This can be terrifying or comforting depending on where you fall. Especially for a debut book, you can feel a little like a lost chick looking for someone to herd you along. Your publisher may be very supportive (setting up reviews/blog tours, etc.) or not at all, leaving you to hire a town yeoman to announce your book release.
The positive here is realizing that not everything hinges on having the most fantabulous release day ever. You can book blog tour a month or year later. Like my GH sister Nan Dixon says, a sale is a sale no matter when it happens.
5. Do not compare yourself to other writers
This was mentioned by two other awesome writers, Erika Kelly and Amy Patrick. It’s hard to put on your blinders and focus on your path. Your path is not going to be like anyone else’s path, but if you keep to your path and put one foot in front of another, I truly believe you’ll reach the goals you set for yourself. And, those goals will be different for every other writer.
So what can you do to make your debut a success? If you write a great book and put it out there, it will find readers. Will it be the day or month or even year you release it? Maybe not…maybe readers will find that book after you release your third or fourth or tenth book. The key to making your debut a success is to make sure your debut is not your only book.
An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.