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I got an email yesterday from a reader who said she saw me a few DragonCons ago when I did a panel on being a new writer. At that time (if I remember correctly) I did not actually have a novel out yet. I was merely in that pre-novel stage of, "I SOLD IT, AND SOMEONE'S GONNA PUBLISH IT, YAY!"*

But to make a long story short, she was hoping for an update. Her email concluded, "What have you learned since Four and Twenty Blackbirds cme out? What do you know about publishing now that you wish you'd known about then?"

So here's my update, just for her. Let me call it,
Things I've Learned Since My First Book Got Published

    Everyone will think you are rich. Obviously, if you got a book published, someone must have given you fat sacks of cash dollars American. You now have a moral obligation to donate to charities, give to your alma mater, and consider including PBS in your will.

    You will not be rich. Whatever money you might have earned from an advance will have been spent fully a year before your book appears. Maybe you paid off your car, or maybe you got that leather jacket out of lay-away at Wilson's. Whatever, that money is LONG gone.

    Publishing is very exciting. For you, personally. Everyone else will think it's dead boring, and will be sick of hearing about it by suppertime -- once they figure out that you are not rich.

    You will probably still have a day job. This will make you look like a failure to all the people who assume you must be rich. These people can bite you.

    Getting your foot in the door is not the hard part. It is the first hard part.

    Drinking and blogging is right out. Because once you've published a book, you forfeit the right to ever make a typo in public, ever again.

    You are now the foremost authority on the English language. At least, this is what all your friends/relatives who do not write will assume, and they will treat you like their personal diction consultant. While you are at work, you will receive phone calls from Florida, where your aunt wants to know about a comma she's considering for the church bulletin.**

    Everyone will want to know how you did it. This will make you feel very SMRT and like an expert and stuff, for maybe the first (I dunno) two weeks after Locus mentions it. Then you'll get kind of tired of talking about it.

    No one will believe you did it by writing a book that was worth publishing. Aspiring writers will be sure that you had a secret short cut, and you are a raging bitch for holding out on all those other poor folks who are just as worthy as you, but who were unwilling to flash their boobies at exactly the right people. And if you don't think people will actually say things like this, perhaps you have not yet published a book.

    Everyone will want to know why you're not on the New York Times Bestseller List yet. You will pretend that you're much more reasonable about your expectations than that. But secretly, you will also wonder why you're not on an important list someplace and you will feel inadequate.

    People will "helpfully" tell you what you should have done differently with your cover. When you explain that (a). you really love your cover and anyway (b). you-as-author don't get any say-so over this aspect of the publishing process, they will feel sorry for you because obviously you are a loser.

    You now have the inside track to publishing. Everyone you've ever known -- even in passing -- who has ever written a book now thinks that it's your God-given duty to put them in touch with your agent/editor/publisher. This will get awkward.

    People will use your name to lie. At least twice, other writers with whom I was peripherally acquainted approached my (now former) agent and told him that I'd recommended them.

    You will be asked to work for free. This is because you've now achieved that career point of, Technically Successful - Yet Still Approachable. Small upstart markets, acquaintances, etcetera, will appear with offers to "let" you write for them, for "really great street cred." You should kick these people in the shins.

    There is such a thing as the law of aggregate success. You will also be offered more paying gigs, and if possible, you should probably try to take advantage of them. Some paying gigs (especially short markets) do not pay much, but there are plenty of very fine venues that can't afford to offer a huge rate.

    People will ask you questions about stuff you wrote, and you will say, "Um ..." By the time your book actually comes out, it will have been a full year or even two years since you actually composed the material. You will have moved on to other projects, in which you are wholly immersed; and when someone asks about why character X in book one does thing Y, you'll have no earthly idea. But you'll be confident that there was an excellent reason.

    You will get book reviews. If they are good, no force on earth will get those reviews into your hands so you can read them for yourself. If they are bad, fifteen people will email you the text before breakfast.

    You will acquire fans. This will blow your freakin' mind.

    Some of your fans will be annoying. Especially when they email you to say how much they love your work, and then they spend three pages pointing out all the things you did that they totally hate.

    Most of your fans will make you want to squee yourself to death with joy. Because holy crap, someone who is not one of your parents read your book and liked it. I am not exaggerating when I say that this makes it all worth it.

[Edit: I'll update the list as more occur to me.]



* For those of you who know more about my publishing saga -- this was (a). after the first so-micro-it-was-practically-invisible press edition was pulled from the market, and before Tor re-released it. All technicalities aside, I fully consider the Tor edition of Four and Twenty Blackbirds to be my First Book.
** Well, maybe this won't happen to you. But it happened to me.

Comments

( 142 comments — Leave a comment )
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rosefox
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
What, nothing about book reviews? *)
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
Haha! Okay:

You will get book reviews. If they are good, no force on earth will get those reviews into your hands so you can read them for yourself. If they are bad, fifteen people will email you the text before lunchtime.
(no subject) - rosefox - Sep. 6th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cmpriest - Sep. 6th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
martinhesselius
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)

<3 da Cherie...
*AND* her work!
scottopic
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
It's been fun to watch (well, not the bad parts, but they've been educational), and the books have been great reads.

I do admit to name-dropping you once with a friend who was looking to get his first book published. I, of course, was just trying to make myself look good and he took the implication of "I know this cool author" as I meant it: I'm, like, BFF with this uber-author - so he asked me to somehow connect the two of you. There's the problem with conceit - I didn't expect he'd call something on my name-dropping. I hemmed and hawed, as I couldn't swallow crow enough to say "um, she's cool and I see her once every few years at a Con or something and read her blog. You can do the same thing!" until he gave up on me and self-published (his 2nd book actually got picked up by a good press, so happy-endings for all!).

So yeah...you're used in party conversations to impress, and it sometimes backfires.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
:-D That doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, it flatters me silly :)
jimhines
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful, and should be passed out to all new writers upon receiving their first major book contract!
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)
ratmmjess
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Nailed it. Well done!
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Haha! Thanks :)
lisamantchev
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
This post is made of shiny awesomeness. I am printing it out and hanging it on the fridge in between the Cinderella fingerpaintings.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Shiny awesomeness? You don't say!
Thanks, ma'am :)
(no subject) - lisamantchev - Sep. 6th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
archeon
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC)
many of these points apply equally to us folks who do the cover art for books as well...
singingnettle
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
Oh god, yes. When I worked for Big Major Publishing House a long time ago, part of my job was scouting new artists at cons and getting them to work for cheap. (Well, it got them in the door, but I hate seeing anyone get underpaid.)

No, I'm not sayin' who, and it was a long time ago.
singingnettle
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
I love this. As a professional editor, I have some analogous experiences about assumptions (and typos, which I make copiously in my own posting)--although that was much more applicable when I actually worked for the big houses. These days, people are more likely to be dismissive when I say I'm independent, which is sort of disheartening but understandable. I also know that these things are true from most writers' viewpoints.

Would you consider letting me share this with my writers? Um...it's great street cred... ;

I also have had some analogous experience as a photographer, especially the part about being asked to work for free (which I've learned to Just Say No to; nothing ever comes of it other than someone else using my work for free, and making it harder for everyone to get paid for their work since why buy it if you can get it from someone else for free?)
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
Take it, baby. It's under a Creative Commons license, like everything else I put up here -- so you don't even need my permission.

And I'm glad you like it :)
(no subject) - singingnettle - Sep. 6th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cmpriest - Sep. 6th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
queenie_writes
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
YES! Thank you for saying this! Right on!

*high fives you*

cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
[:: high fives back ::]
sboydtaylor
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
*lmao*
Ahh, to have these problems for my very own! :) (I think Jay Lake has a phrase for it -- "trading up to a better class of problems")

...now, back to the grindstone.
graphxgrrl
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, the glamorous creative lifestyle. I feel sorry for all the people who discover the truth. As a graphic designer, people make similar assumptions. My favorite is that I must work in some shining tower of creativity, and create beautiful art all day.

I sadly spent most of the morning on the phone trying to negotiate photo rights for some images. It means lots of paperwork mostly. I think I might get some time to be creative tomorrow.
gryphart
Sep. 7th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. The people who think that I just hit the art button on the computer and then faff about all day are fabulous. (Many of these people also don't understand that plumbers are paid better than your average illustrator.)
zephrin
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
Fans tell their friends, "This new author I like puts key-lime pie recipes up on her blog, true story." And these fans will see the recipe at midnight and want to make pie.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
But the Key Lime Pie wants to be free! :)
(no subject) - cissa - Sep. 7th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neverless - Sep. 7th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
microwench
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
You will acquire fans.

Yes, yes you will. I totally squeed when I managed to score a copy of your first two books, I stayed up way to late reading them too.
And now I randomly shove them at everyone I know who reads, insisting that they must read them and 'dude the author is totally hot and so cool and you should read her blog and the books are awesome and dude! just read 'em will ya?'

Yeah...anywho...
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you :)
theferrett
Sep. 6th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
You now have the inside track to publishing. Everyone you've ever known -- even in passing -- who has ever written a book now thinks that it's your God-given duty to put them in touch with your agent/editor/publisher. This will get awkward.

I have tried really hard not to do this with my published friends. Of which there are a cursed amount.

But I apologize for those who did.
flewellyn
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
No one will believe you did it by writing a book that was worth publishing. Aspiring writers will be sure that you had a secret short cut, and you are a raging bitch for holding out on all those other poor folks who are just as worthy as you, but who were unwilling to flash their boobies at exactly the right people. And if you don't think people will actually say things like this, perhaps you have not yet published a book.

Why am I reminded by this of fanficcers and the woman who wrote "Night Travels of the Elven Vampire"?
kristine_smith
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
Getting your foot in the door is not the hard part. It is the first hard part.

Truest of all the really true things you listed. Truly.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks :) I probably should've made it #1 ...
jeffsampson
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
This list is beyond awesome. And completely, totally true.
pabba
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, you might want to add that you'll get stalker-like fans as well. For example, Jason Sizemore.


I kid! I kid! Well, maybe...
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah. You've gotta watch out for that Sizemore guy ... he's trouble!
yndy
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
You forgot "those people who were acquainted with you before the 'fame' will often feel awkward about trying to not appear fan-girlish, even if they really like your work..." ;)

Seriously hon - love the list.
Hate some of the down aspects for you!!

Given the number of well-published authors I've known in my life who had day jobs, at least I knew the 'not rich' part - but I think most people assume that 'published author' is exemplified by people like Grisham and King... Then again, they haven't walked through a bookstore lately and thought "hm... for every one of these titles, there's a 'published' author out there - and I doubt they're all zillionaires..."

:)

Hope you keep updating this as it occurs to you - I'm adding it to memories so I can check back.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you sweetheart :)
chickwriter
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
Best list ever!

You will acquire fans.

OMG, yeah - that was the coolest thing. I squeed when I got my first fan mail from someone who wasn't a friend or relative. ::g::
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Haha! Yeah. The first one I ever got, I kept rereading the woman's address and going, "Now where do I know her from?" Because surely, it must be someone I knew ...
pulzella_gaia
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
I love it! ^_^

It amazes me that people didn't like your covers though -- I think they're pretty fantastic, too. Weirdos.
cmpriest
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, mostly it's just the occasional designer saying, "I would've moved this down a little," or "this font is blah blah blah." No one ever grouses about the artwork :)
badclams
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)

The above sounds a little more interesting than "so, how much is my house worth now?"
calendula_witch
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
This is an AWESOME list. Thanks!

And from post-getting-agent but pre-book-sale, there's this: No one knows the difference between an agent and an editor/publisher. I keep getting asked: How's it going with your publisher?
yarggh!! I wish! :-)
moschus
Sep. 18th, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
Heh.

Another thing I remember from that period is what a huge accomplishment it is to finally land a good, legitimate agent -- but the people around you who aren't writers (in my case all of them, at least offline) don't understand that at all. They're like, Whatever. They just assume you picked one like you choose a dentist or something.
calico_reaction
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
You rock. This is a great post. :) But you rock regardless. :)
wishwords
Sep. 6th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
This is great. Informative and entertaining.

What about getting asked why your next novel isn't done yet? Then they get that look that says they secretly know that you are lazing on the couch eating bon-bons instead of writing?
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( 142 comments — Leave a comment )