In the last week I met two people who had just published their first book. I congratulated them, but I could see the look in their eyes. One I knew all too well.
Days after I published my first novel, Monster Island, I was on the floor of my apartment, so wracked with anxiety and self-doubt that I didn’t want to stand up. I reached for the phone and called the features editor of a magazine that was supposed to run an article about my book. It was going to be a huge coup, a great opportunity to get the word out and hopefully drive book sales.
“I just saw the magazine,” I said. “I couldn’t find the piece about my book anywhere.” I had torn the thing apart, cover to cover.
It wasn’t there. I knew it wasn’t. I called this person on the off chance that I had just lost my mind.
“Oh, yeah, the thing about that,” the features editor said. “We decided to bump it for something else.”
“…are you going to run it next week?”
They didn’t. They never ran it.
I spent weeks tearing my hair out about that. Angry and sad and convinced my book would fail, would be a flop, because the piece didn’t run. There were lots of other things to obsess over, lots of numbers to crunch, lots of fingernails to chew and brows to furrow. By the time I managed to get over it, to reach some level of calm again, the book had been out for a month.
It did fine–it did great, actually, one of the biggest successes of my career. But I wasted all that time worrying about it, and in the process I forgot something:
I had just published my first book.
The thing I’d been dreaming of, working towards, for thirty years. The thing that was supposed to define me, to let the world see who I am, see my talent. The thing I had wanted more than anything else in my life. After a bad breakup with my college girlfriend, I had gone to my favorite professor (I am a nerd, yes) and talked to him about it. As part of that conversation, he asked me “If you could have a stable relationship or a book deal, which would you choose?” He was quite shocked when I said, with zero hesitation, “book deal.”
Now I had one of those. But I couldn’t enjoy it.
If you’re in the same position–don’t make the same mistake. Yes, reviews are nerve-wracking and sales numbers are never what you want them to be. There’s the next book to worry about, and the possibility that your first effort was a fluke. There are angry readers to fend off and bills to pay.
Take an hour a day, after your book comes out. Sit somewhere quiet with a beverage of your choice and a copy of your brand new book, and just look at the cover. Riffle through the pages. For God’s sake don’t actually read it–you’ll only find typos and errors–but smell the paper and the ink. If it’s an ebook, tap wildly through the pages and look at all those words.
Glory in it. Take comfort in it. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. You did this thing. And it is good.
An hour a day. Minimum. You’ll be glad later that you did.