Letter to my Pre-Publication Self

Dear Vanessa,

It’s now 9 months since the book was first published, so I decided to invent time travel (patent pending) to give you a preview of what will happen and what you will learn during this crazy, baffling, exciting, scary time.  You can thank me later.

  1. Writing the book is not job done. It’s just the beginning.  You will need to create a lot of content for blogs, websites, and other media—quickly.  Make a list of topics to write about.  Better yet, bank the pieces so you can pull them out at short notice.
  2. Facebook isn’t just for your cat pictures and grammar jokes. Create an author page and keep it stocked with posts that will interest readers.
  3. All authors are trying to make their books stand out, and there is no magic formula. Find some trusted sources of advice and tune out the rest, or it will make you crazy and eat up any time you have for productive work.
  4. Bloggers are the fuel in the publishing engine. You will work with several who will really help to raise awareness of the book, and a few who will become good friends.  Cultivate them ASAP.
  5. You will be asked the same questions over and over. Find a way to make it sound like it’s the first time, every time.
  6. Your publicist’s job is to interest media outlets in the book (magazines, newspapers, TV/radio) while the marketing team will be targeting readers, through giveaways, reading groups, etc. LEARN EVERYONE’S NAMES AND KEEP THEM STRAIGHT.
  7. When you visit the publisher’s office, bring key lime pies for the team. They will like this.
  8. You will get some bad reviews. It will hurt. A lot.  No matter what, NEVER ENGAGE.  That way lies madness and public humiliation.  Go for a walk. Eat some cake. And did I mention NEVER ENGAGE?
  9. There will also be good reviews—thank Odin, the majority. NEVER ENGAGE publicly.  This looks creepy and is an intrusion in the reader space.  Private thanks are OK, if the person reaches out to you.
  10. Readers and aspiring writers are very interested in the creative process—sometimes, more than the book itself. Be prepared to answer questions about this.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a process as such, just a random series of tasks which results in a book.
  11. Get on Twitter and find Antonia Honeywell. She will invite you to join a new group of other 40+ debutants.  This group, which will come to be known as the Prime Writers, will transform your experience of being a debut novelist.  The members will make your highs higher and your lows more bearable.  You will learn things from them, and read books which you would never have come across otherwise.   You will help to create the group’s website and establish it as a real thing in the publishing world.  Above all, it will mean that you’re not alone any more.
  12. Social media is not the whole world. If it were, then based on my timeline, everyone would be an animal-loving, cake-eating bibliophile.  Keep a grip on your perspective.
  13. You will sit for far too long. Get a standing desk.
  14. There will be unexpected successes and surprising failures, all outside of your control so there’s no point in fretting. You will anyway.
  15. New books get the attention, and then the circus moves on. Write another one.
  16. Finally, the most important thing: make a point of being grateful, every single day, for this extraordinary opportunity. Show your gratitude to people involved in the process, and everyone who pays you the huge compliment of reading your words.  Yes, it took hard work to get here, but plenty of good writers never do.  Remember this when things go wrong, when people are dismissive or just plain mean. Savor every single moment, good and bad, because you will never, ever be a debut novelist again.



PS  Your hair will grow back curly.  You will hate it.  Some things aren’t fixable.

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