Snakes & Snails

I began writing this bog post on April 29th, in the main lobby of the Best Western Westminster, less than an hour after the WRW Retreat officially ended. A few of the Mermaids convinced me to stay on a few extra days with them, to work on my massive pre-book-tour to-do list in solitude and sisterhood.

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I have my spoon, and I’m all set to dig my way out of Shawshank. The adventure I’m about to embark upon is a massive undertaking of my own creation, but I am equal to the task because I AM AMAZING.

I am also a mess.

I feel like I’m completely coming apart at the seams. I managed to hold the AWESOME together until last night at dinner, when Robyn Carr told us that everything was going to be all right.

I’ve always said that if I could go back in time to tell my teenage self anything (apart from “Boys are stupid, avoid them at all costs”), it would be just what Robyn said: I know it’s hard right now. This is the hardest part. But everything’s going to be all right.

With that in mind, I present to you:

Princess Alethea’s Fairly Short List of Things No One Tells You When Your First Book is Published

This list always changes. With advances in both technology & social networking, the expectations of authors ten years form now will be vastly different than it is today. As always, your mileage may vary. But as this is what I’ve learned, this is what I mean to pass on to you right now.

1.) DON’T PANIC. Douglas Adams wasn’t joking. In the month leading up to your publication date, you will be overwhelmed. Even if your publisher prints all your promotional material and schedules your entire book tour (for which I will forever be jealous), there will suddenly be a mountain of teeny little tasks that bury you under your to-do list and drive you mad as a hatter.  Any plan you have will be discarded the moment your publicist tell you that you have 48 hours in which to drop everything and write an article for the New York Times or Huffington Post…regardless of whether or not that article ever sees the light of day.

You must also remember Rule Number One when…say…the publisher of your novel declares bankruptcy three days after your book is released…but I digress.

2.) Expect the unexpected. And vice versa. Prepare yourself and at all times have on your person:

Pens
Water
Granola bar
Promotional material (bookmarks/postcards/etc)
Business Cards
Napkins/tissue
gum/mints
medicine (Advil, Excedrin, etc)

It is possible that the bookstores will provide all of these things, but it’s more probable that they will have none. If you have it all, that’s a boatload of stress off of you. I suggest making a special “booksigning kit”. Keep it stocked, and keep it with you.

Conversely, don’t expect the expected. All of your friends will offer to help you out in various ways. If 10% of these people come through for you in the way that you expect, count yourself lucky. (My 10% know who they are, and yes, the Mermaids are among them.)

Most of these disappointments will be caused by events beyond your control–funny how those events seem to come from every corner of the universe and conspire against you all at the same time. A very similar thing happens when friends promise to help you move.

You will be disappointed. It’s inevitable. You simply have too many irons in the fire. But with so many irons, it’s okay if a few fall out. And if you leave yourself open to the whims of the universe, you will be pleasantly surprised at the gifts Fate leaves on your doorstep right when you need them. (Mary Rodgers, I’m looking at you, fairy godmother.)

3.) Your publisher will screw something up. These things are so far beyond anyone’s control it’s ridiculous. A bookstore will suddenly put a price cap on all their acquisitions. Your e-book will not be ready by release date. Your name will suddenly disappear of Amazon as the author of the book, and the cover will go with it.

All of these things have happened to me at one time or another. When they do I vent in the manner appropriate (scream, cry, call a Mermaid), and then I straighten my tiara and Tweet to everyone how the world is an amazing place. I do this because FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

Shit happens. It just does. If you throw a fit & draw attention to it, that’s what people will remember about you. Chances are, your fans will never notice a thing, and your publisher will applaud the fact that you’re not one of those authors.

I could go on, but this is a pretty good start. If you prepare as much as you can up front, you’ll have more time to spare putting out fires o the back end. Three people on your blog tour jumped the gun and posted on the same day while you’re out of town at a funeral? No problem. You planned for this.  If you don’t link to them today, you’ll do it tomorrow. The world will not end. Bookstore signing cancelled because they only received in one copy of book? Smile and reschedule. They will be more embarrassed about it than you.

Whatever happens to you, keep your head held high. The Earth will not stop turning and the sun will come up in the East, just like it always has…and always will.

This is the hard part. We do it because it needs to be done in order for us to keep doing the one thing we love most in the world: Writing.

Launching a book is sweaty and stressful and unromantic. It’s also wonderful and magical all at the same time. You take the good with the bad. We writers are married to this life, for better or worse. Sugar and spice and snakes and snails and all.

Above all, keep your faith.

Because everything is going to be all right.