I almost named this Performance Anxiety (heehee), but I digress…
It seems like a good time to reflect on my last twelve months…one word comes to mind cRaZy. I will never have another year like 2015. Last January, I had one book on preorder. Now have eight(!) books listed on Amazon and by the end of the month will have five books released into the wild. Looking in, I’m sure it seems like I’m ‘livin’ the dream.’
And I am! Being a published author *is* a dream come true. I just didn’t realize how stressful the dream is. As in I cracked a tooth this year stressful. As in I’ve put on 10-15 lbs stressful. I haven’t written a post on this before or really talked about outside of trusted author loops, because I don’t want to come off whiney or ungrateful.
Believe me, I’m neither. (Not that some of you who are still in the trenches won’t want to punch my cracked tooth out anyway. Lol:) When I was receiving rejection after rejection during the submission process of my first manuscript, I remember reading a quote from a big-time author (whose name I can’t recall to give credit too, unfortunately).
She said, “Getting published isn’t the hard part. The hard part is *staying* published.” I scoffed. I harrumphed. I might have even flipped a virtual bird. Because there’s no two ways about it, getting published is damn hard!!
Here’s the rub: SHE WAS RIGHT. I apologize profusely to this wise woman for the virtual bird flipping.
At the beginning, it’s all exciting, fun times. Signing the contract. Getting your first advance check (if you’re lucky). Seeing your cover for the first time. Finding your book on pre-order at Amazon. You think, I’ll never come off the high. The warm fuzzies can’t be controlled!!
For me, the anxiety started when my book went out to reviewers. I knew it went out to reviewers because I was stalking my Goodreads page and noticed a bunch of bloggy-type readers were adding my book. The nail-biting commenced. The first review rolled in. A five-star. Yay! I was riding high again. The second one came soon after…a three-star. I plummeted. It wasn’t a bad review. She liked the book even. But, why didn’t she *love* it? It made me sick to my stomach. Now my obsessive checking of Goodreads filled me with anxiety instead of excitement. The crazy thing is I generally received great reviews. It didn’t seem to matter to my psyche.
From the time my book went on review, I had a difficult time writing. Which was very bad considering I was under contract to write four full length books in eleven months. To make matters worse, somewhere between the reviews and release day, I realized that there were Expectations—with a giant E.
I’m ambitious. I have goals. Even when I was seeking an agent or on submission, I put expectations on myself. But this felt different. Before, if I fell short, it was only me who was disappointed. Now I had an agent and editor who had taken a chance on me. And a publishing house that wanted to make money.
The expectations weren’t explicit, but the reality is that this is a business. If your book doesn’t perform…well, they aren’t going to give you another contract because they like you. Release day rolled around. I got a lovely email from my editor. My agent spread the word. Yet…I was not filled with joy. People congratulated me, and I grimaced out something resembling a smile. I drank copious amounts of wine while obsessively checking Amazon. My book spiked low and then after a week drifted higher and higher in the rankings. Higher is not good.
I read happy, joyous tweets or Facebook posts from other authors releasing books and wondered what the hell was wrong with me? Why wasn’t my first book release the greatest time of my life??
Anxiety stole my words.
At this point, you’re probably waiting for me to drop some words of wisdom. I wish I had some. After an author on one of my loops confessed her anxiety, a floodgate opened and *so many* authors chimed in with their own struggles. Most of us suffered through the same roller-coaster of emotions with our first release. If you can relax and enjoy the ride, then good for you!
If you can’t, I can tell you this from my experience…Bad reviews still have the power to sting me but have stopped paralyzing me. (And, yes, I know I shouldn’t read them, but I do and nothing seems to be able to stop me!) Approaching my fifth release, I can also tell you that I still do not enjoy release days. I’m not sure I ever will. But they don’t turn into week-long sessions of me curling up in the corner in a ball refreshing Amazon either. (And, yes, I know I should stay off Amazon too, but…yadda, yadda, yadda).
After all the release day anxiety/excitement fades, I hope every single one of you remembers why you started that very first manuscript years ago…for the love of storytelling. So that’s what you do. You sit back down and write another book. Maybe a better book. *That’s* where the joy is. In the work, not the release. Published or unpublished, debut or fiftieth release. The work will carry you through the insanity to the other side.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always alcohol…