I remember that day like it was yesterday. That day was also special to me because it was my birthday. I held a birthday party to celebrate a milestone birthday. I could even remember what I was wearing: pretty green sleeveless elastic waist blouse and white maternity capris. I was pregnant with my third child and first boy (of course I was ecstatic). Life couldn’t be better. I felt I had accomplished my dream.
My family came from out of town. They camped at my home sleeping on air beds, futons, sofa beds, couches, and any surface that they could occupy for the party (and my family is large). Friends converged on my back lawn as my husband cranked out barbecue chicken and ribs to accompany the spread of Caribbean dishes.
The next day after the party I gave my family members a surprise. I outed myself. I gave them signed copies of them my books. They had no idea that I had published a novel. With the exception of my younger sister (now deceased) who was my confidant and my proof reader, they didn’t even know I wrote a book.
I was on cloud nine until a few weeks later one of my in-laws asked, “When is the launch party?”
Huh? I was ashamed to tell her that I didn’t know what a launch party was. I looked it up and kicked myself. Dang! I could have made my birthday party into a launch party and kill two birds with one stone. Major Faux pas!
That was only the beginning of faux pas to come. Actually it had begun long before when I signed the contract that gave me a measly 4% of sales. As one nerdy co-worker calculated, it was 15 cents a copy.
The next major faux pas came when my publisher asked me (after the book was published) for an outline of the things I would do to promote my book. Promote my book?! Wait, don’t writers write and publishers publish and promote books? It showed just how green and naïve I was. But thank God the publishers had put me in contact with Liane who introduced me to Novel Spaces and the world of blogging. Prior to that, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what a blog was.
Fast forward to today. I celebrate my birthday. I’m older, wiser. I have published five books since then, including a children’s story and a YA novella. Dorchester was bought out by Amazon. My contract is way better. I’ve used a small publisher to publish my most recent novels. I should be an expert right? Wrong. I still don’t know what the heck I am doing when it comes to promotion. It changes every day. It changes with every book. Back in 2009, book trailers were the in-thing. I figured early on it would not work and refused to do it. Today, I’m hard pressed to find a book trailer.
What I learned from my experience now that I am a published author is that I still don’t know jack about being a published author. I still haven’t pinned it down to what works and what doesn’t. And nobody can because the markets are changing rapidly. I learned that getting the second novel published is harder than the first. And I learned not to give away my books to family and friends without a receiving a firm commitment to honestly review the book. I learned you have to be open to different methods of publishing and promotion. The last thing my reflections of being a published author revealed is that my expectations as an aspiring author were miles away from my experience as a published author.
So tell me, what are the differences between your expectations as an aspiring author and your experience one you got published?