Things I Learned My First Week as a Published Author
1. You're going to gain 5 pounds.
Whether it's because you're worried to death and nibbly or celebrating constantly, you might as well just drop the diet and quit caring. Life's too short to turn down cake and cupcakes and cake pops and chocolate hazelnut sea salt caramel torte, which is what I was enjoying in that pic up there. It was fully as amazing as it sounds.
2. Your full-time job will involve being online and freaking out.
For a few days at least, you will want to follow every link, record every review and interview, thank everyone on Twitter, respond to all the well wishes on Facebook, and constantly email your agent and editor with email titles such as OMG OMG OMG, I'm freaking out, man.
3. You're going to need a nanny.
If you have kids, do yourself a favor and secure a favorite aunt, beloved teen sitter, or very generous grandparent. You will need personal and emotional space, and your children will sense your desperation like bludbunnies scenting a sheep carcass, and they will BLEED YOU DRY and drive you insane. At the very least, shove them out the door with a paper bag full of granola bars and tell them not to scream unless they lose a limb.
4. Don't think you're actually going to get any writing done.
You're not. Your brain won't even be able to do the thing where you put the words together rightly in order the. Heaven help you if you're on a deadline. Ask me how I know.
5. Be on the lookout for amazing mail.
This week, I received five bludbunnies, 24 hat-shaped cake pops, 5 pounds of perfume and soap samples, plus all the usual stuff I review for Cool Mom Picks. Thank heavens I came home right after lunch today, or all that gorgeous soap and chocolate might have melted like the Wicked Witch of the West, and then I probably would have cried into it and licked up the puddle.
6. Go ahead and tell yourself you're not going to look at reviews/Goodreads/Amazon. You will anyway.
Because you can't help yourself. You will refresh them. You will compare your baby to other books. You will investigate screen names and stalk blogs and Twitter feeds. Because you are a writer, and that means you are infinitely curious and utterly narcissistic. That's okay. WE ALL ARE.
7. If you have a significant other, you should apologize in advance.
You will not mentally be there. You will not want to snuggle in front of the TV and watch Firefly and discuss your day. You won't want to listen to anyone else talk about anything that isn't your book. You won't cook, you won't clean, you might forget to do laundry and not remember for a couple of days that there's stinky stuff moldering in the wash. Oops. You're going to need a lot of hand-holding, reassurance, understanding, and delicious food. Lots and lots of delicious food. See point 1.
8. Think you're introverted or shy? You're going to have to get over it.
You must walk into bookstores, introduce yourself to managers, and sell your book. You're going to have to hand postcards or business cards or bookmarks to anyone with open hands. You're going to have to read an excerpt of your book to a quiet room of everyone you've ever met, including your wealthy uncle and your 10th grade TAG teacher and your favorite boss and the ladies in your neighborhood. You're also going to have to email popular people to ask for guest blog opportunities and beg people to retweet or share things and ask all sorts of real life people for favors, such as bringing a potluck dish to your launch party. And then you're probably going to want to write lots and lots of Thank You notes, afterward. Which shouldn't be hard, because YOU'RE A WRITER, DAMMIT.
9. Even when it happens, it's not going to feel real.
You think getting an agent and selling a book will change everything forever, but... it mostly stays the same. Then you think having a book on the shelf will change everything forever, but... it mostly stays the same, just gets more busy and anxious. I hear hitting the NYT bestsellers list is also oddly anticlimactic, and I'd really like to find out for myself. The truth is that no matter how many times I look at the pictures of my book at B&N and Books-a-Million, it still doesn't sink in that this is real, that I'm a published author. It's kind of like losing your virginity or turning 21 or getting married-- something madly huge has happened, but... you're still the same.
10. It's going to be awesome.
Seriously. The last two days, I've felt like Harry Potter when he drank Felix Felicis. Happy, smiling, slightly disconnected from reality, just following my heart and stomach and occasionally brain to wherever they lead. I love everybody all the time. I want to reach through the laptop and hug all the reviewers and bloggers and people who retweeted things or added Wicked as They Come to their TBR pile. I want to share my top hat cookie pops with all of you.
Kind of. They're really good.
This week? Rocks. And I couldn't be happier.
A special note on What It All Means
When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say a vet or an advertising executive. I always thought authors were out of reach, that writing a book was impossible. When I got older and my friends chose colleges and professions and people asked me what I wanted to be, I said "I just want to be happy." I was high school Valedictorian, but I didn't do a speech because I didn't have anything to say.
If my high school invited me to speak today-- because who doesn't want a vampire sexytimes author addressing their impressionable youth?-- I would say this:
Forget other people's hopes and expectations and pieces of paper and sitting behind a desk being bored. Figure out whatever makes you feel alive and do that. Just because it's not a job on your counselor's list doesn't mean someone won't pay you to do it if you kick enough ass. Comfort won't make you happy but passion will. If you have to sit behind a desk to pay the bills for a while, stay up all night following your dreams. Find someone who cares as much about 10-years-ago-you and 1o-years-from-now-you as they care about in-their-bed-now-you and commit to caring that much about them, too.
Never stop fighting. Do the thing that scares you. Resist much. Obey little. Paraphrase badly. Borrow extensively-- ideas and quotes, not money. Never stop reading, never stop learning, never stop questioning and asking What If?
But above all, if you find yourself thinking, "I should change something" or "I wish I was doing something else with my life," then for the love of all that's holy DO IT. You have nothing to lose but mediocrity and the status quo. You've got one life, a million chances, and a body that's going to start getting wrinkly at 33, so just carpe the hell out of that diem. Nothing tastes as sweet as the revenge of a fulfilled life.