Hope everyone had (or is having) a good holiday break. The new year is just a few days away and, as I look ahead, I realize I’ll soon cease to be a debut novelist—the publication of The Far Time Incident is just around the corner (early April, more than three months from now, is considered just around the corner in the world of publishing.) I’ve learned many practical things since Regarding Ducks and Universes came out, like where to order business cards (I like Moo) and how to make a pic like the one above that says 2013 and incorporate it into a blog post. But I’ve been thinking about the big things, the ones that perhaps should be obvious but aren’t. These five writing truths will probably be of interest mostly to other writers, but here they are anyway:
1. Not everyone will like your book. In fact, someone somewhere will think that it’s the worst book in the world. And say so publicly—on a forum, in a tweet, in an Amazon review, or all three. Don’t worry—yours and my book can’t both be the worst book in the world. Only one is and I’ve yet to come across it.
2. What goes up must come down. For every promotion where you excitedly watch your book climb the Amazon bestseller lists, there is an inevitable reversal that follows (how soon depends on how big your book gets) where you get to watch your pride and joy slowly sink in the ranks. Writing is a business where your sales numbers and royalties (i.e., your paycheck) can vary wildly from month to month and from year to year.
3. Reviews—you don’t have to read them. I’m not talking about reviews from Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus, but the ones readers leave on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. I am very grateful for these and appreciate that people take the time to write them—a good reader review is almost irreplaceable in helping spread the word about a book. But if you drop everything and run off to read every new review that pops up on Amazon, only to emerge elated or crushed, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional roller coaster. I recommend staying away from the one and two stars (see point 1: Not everyone will like your book) unless you have nerves of steel. I don’t. Besides, I figure that book reviews are meant for other readers, not for me as the author.
4. No one can predict how well your book will sell. Regarding Ducks and Universes has done better (sales-wise and review-wise) in the US than in the UK. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they just like me better over here. The just-released German translation seems to doing nicely so far on Amazon.de (Danke, German readers!), better than the English version in the Canada store. Was there any way to predict that? Not in my, uh, book. The point is that, as with reviews, tying your worth as a writer to your book’s sales numbers at any given moment is a recipe for a lot of emotional ups and downs. So don’t do it. (Easier said then done, I know.)
5. Writing is just like any other job. But only the people you live with know this (and that’s if you’re lucky, and I am). Friends and neighbors will wonder why your house is always messy and why you’re perpetually behind on your errands, when as a writer you are flush with free time. After all, you’re your own boss, aren’t you? Yes, but you’re also the only employee—there’s no one to pass on the job of writing to. If you take a sick day, the manuscript word count doesn’t budge. As a rule, you don’t get up in the morning and wonder when you’ll get around to doing some writing; you get up and you do it. On a side note, yes, you do have to pay taxes, as in any other job.
And that’s it. Just five things. As I write these, I realize that knowing them is not the same as keeping them in mind, which I know I need to work harder at. A New Year’s resolution, then.