Archive for October 22, 2021

writing life

Celebrating the Wins

Yesterday was release day, and I “celebrated” by going grocery shopping and running some other errands.

I guess over the years the excitement of a new release has worn off. In the early days, it was exciting to celebrate every victory. I got the call from the editor offering to buy my first book when I was at work. When I got off the phone, I was shaking and had tears in my eyes. My boss, a motherly older lady, was passing my office and asked me what was wrong. I told her I’d sold my book, and she gave me a big hug. The office later had a party for me to celebrate the release of that book. When I sold a book to Silhouette, my first with a major publisher, I’d changed jobs since I’d submitted the proposal (it took months for them to buy the book), so I got home on a Friday afternoon to find a message from the editor, asking me to call her back. Then there was another message left later in the day, saying she figured I wouldn’t get the message until after business hours and it would be cruel to leave me wondering all weekend, so she told me she wanted to buy my book. I don’t remember what I did to celebrate that sale, but I bought a TV and VCR when I got the advance check. I’d already bought a nice brooch to celebrate submitting that proposal.

I still have the bottle from the sparkling wine I got to celebrate signing with an agent for Enchanted, Inc. (it now serves as a flower vase). I bought the Infamous Red Stilettos to celebrate getting the publisher’s offer for Enchanted, Inc. I bought a new outfit for release day when I went around to all the bookstores in my area to sign the copies they had in stock (which turned out to be a depressing exercise because most of them didn’t have it). There were booksignings, and those were fun.

But after that, sales and releases were less exciting. Getting the next contract felt more like a relief than a triumph, and the release came after a lot of work. With Rebel Mechanics, the release was a frustration because the publisher had basically forgotten about the book and did no publicity, but I didn’t know they weren’t doing anything until it was too late for me to do much.

An independently published release is a bit anticlimactic. It’s the end of a lot of work, so it’s like dragging yourself across the finish line. You can’t go visit it in a bookstore. You just see the sales numbers start to show up, and you’re already thinking about the next thing. Since you were the one who decided to publish the book rather than it being selected by someone else, it feels more like a choice than an achievement. There’s also no advance. You just get paid royalties every month, so it’s like getting a paycheck.

As you learn more about the industry, you become more cautious about celebrating and announcing a sale. Early in your career, you celebrate at “the call,” when you get the call that a publisher wants to make an offer (these days, I’m more likely to get an e-mail), and you want to immediately tell everyone you know about it. Later in your career, you’ve become wary, so you may wait for the contract to celebrate or announce the sale, or possibly even the advance payment. Sometimes these are spread out over months. You have to work out with your agent and the publisher when and how to announce the deal, so you can’t just run around telling everyone you sold your book as soon as you get the offer.

It’s even worse with TV or movie options. There may be the initial offer, then there’s the negotiated deal, then the actual contract and the payment, and then nothing else may happen. I’ve had possible deals fall apart at various of these stages along the way. Even if things are progressing, you may not be allowed to publicly announce what’s going on (since the studios like to be the ones to announce, and they do it on their timetable), which makes it feel less real. I may be at the point where I wouldn’t celebrate a TV or movie deal until I’m actually watching the show or movie. Then I might believe it’s for real.

I don’t think it’s just me being jaded that has changed things, though. For one thing, there’s a difference between making a book sale when you have a full-time job and when writing books is your job. “Announcing” also means something different now. For my first sale, the Internet was barely a thing, so announcing the sale meant calling my friends and announcing it at my local writing group. The Internet had really come along by the time I sold my later books, but even up to the point of selling Enchanted, Inc., it was a lot less public. There was no real social media, so the Internet amounted to a cluster of smaller communities. I announced the sales on the e-mail loops of various writing groups I was in and to newsgroups and forums I participated in, and while some of those were publicly accessible, it wasn’t as though anything announced there was going to get spread very far. Now, I have an audience beyond just my personal friends, and the Internet is a lot more public. If I announce something on Twitter, it can get spread widely pretty quickly, so I have to be a lot more careful. I generally let my agent make any announcements, and then I share what she announces.

But thinking about this has made me realize I need to find the joy again and remember that each book is an accomplishment. Which is why I made a point of making a nice dinner last night, and I had a s’more for dessert (something that goes with the book). I need to get back in the habit of buying something fun to commemorate each book. I have necklaces and brooches that relate to a lot of my earlier books, or I’ve bought shoes. I don’t know why I stopped doing that, and I shouldn’t have. I have writer friends who have book charm bracelets, and they get a charm to go with each book. I don’t wear bracelets, but I need to think of something to do to celebrate even the tiny victories, something to have that I can look at and remember that it represents a book.