Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To The Debut Authors

My debut, and therefore a book that will
always mean the world to me.
I've been thinking a lot about debuting lately, probably because we're getting close to a whole year since my first novel came out (May 21st! Crazy!). It's hard to believe it's only year, while it's also hard to believe it hasn't been longer.

So I want to talk to you about this thing called debut. I don't know if I should call this advice or not. Maybe more of a word hug?

Because, look, debuting is hard. You can plan and imagine and do all the things you're told to do, but it's still something you can't quite understand until you go through it. Which is frustrating and exciting and All The Things. It's truly a life event. It changes so much but also not a lot. There's so many things to navigate after that you never expected to deal with. And no one can really tell you how YOUR journey will go.

But I can tell you it's a journey. Debuting isn't arriving, it's getting to the next trail. It's realizing the trek actually never ends. It's deciding what to do when you're tired and things seem like they'll never get there. Wherever "there" is.

When the reality of numbers and expectations and meeting them or not comes, it might feel like you put in a crap ton of work and it didn't pay off the way you thought it would. You might hit some low points—and you maybe thought the low points were hit before you got that book deal! You might feel like you're screaming into the void and no one is listening. You might feel like…you failed.

Why yes, I am telling you this because I have felt ALL of those things myself. I know many other published authors who have. It seems counterintuitive, to have reached that big goal of Becoming A Published Author and still feel like that, but it happens.

Here are my words for when those feelings sneak up on you: KEEP GOING.

If you can't sell another novel for a long time after that first deal, keep trying.

If it feels like your marketing efforts are useless, keep trying to be seen.

If you hit the bestseller list and feel like you'll never top your first novel, try anyway.

If your publisher lets you go, find another publisher or try your own thing.

If you don't get great showings at your signings, don't stop having them.

If reviews hurt and paralyze you, turn it off and keep writing.

Keep writing. KEEP WRITING. I think one of the most surprising things to me since debuting is how easy it feels to just…give up. So often I don't want to keep trying because it feels like a futile effort when there is so much talent out there and I question my own merit. So often it feels like, if you don't have a marketing monolith backing you, that no one will ever see your words.

But the thing is, if you give up trying, then yeah that will be true. I know this is the advice we've all heard from the beginning—I suppose I've been surprised by how relevant it still is.

Yes, it's hard to sit at that signing table and sign two books, when the author next to you has a line an hour long. It's hard to be the noob with one book when the panelists next to you have been publishing for decades. It's hard to act like you're a Big Deal when you feel anything but. As tiny as you feel, as futile as your effort may seem, it does add up.

Book by book. Event by event. Review by review. Blog posts. Tweets. Whatever.

It. Adds. Up.

Most days, I feel like I'm one person with a toothbrush trying to scrub every floor in the world. I will never make a difference. The impact I can make is so small. And yet if you scrub everyday…eventually you clean a few floors. Then a few more.

That's a pretty lame metaphor. Maybe another try? Think about drafting a novel. It's a HUGE undertaking, but it happens one word at a time, one page, one chapter until you have a book in front of you.

I may not be a big shot. I am only a year into this whole published author thing. But looking back at it all, I have made some progress. I've signed and presented and shared and written my ass off. I'm about to publish my 4th novel. In a year.

Because I decided to keep going. Even when it felt like no one wanted me to. I can't promise you bestsellerdom or quitting your day job, my dear debut authors, but I can promise that if you keep going things will add up. Step by step, word by word, you'll find your way down the endless publishing road.

So keep going.


  1. Thank you, Natalie. I needed this today. <3

  2. Thanks for this post - and for what it's worth, I think you're pretty dang inspiring! (And four in a year... Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it.)

  3. Great advice. Thank you. You are an inspiration to those of us just starting the journey.

  4. Good advice, and thank you. ^_^ I always remind myself that giving up seems easy because it is, and very little ever comes from taking the easy route in life.

  5. I loved the toothbrush metaphor! =) And I just put Transparent on my shelf today, having just gotten it back from my younger brother who borrowed it. I always appreciate these honest, keeping it real posts from you!

  6. Wow! That packed a punch just in time. Today I was thinking Why do I spend so much time networking on Twitter? And by the way, Twitter is how I landed my first radio spot. My first book just came out and I've been marketing it non stop for 6 months and I'm already tired, so I needed this pep talk. Thank you.

  7. As an author preparing for my 'debut', release date still isn't set and I'm working with the cover artist obtained by my publisher, I found your advice intriguing. I hope I will remember this when new 'low' points arise, as they inevitably will. Thanks for speaking the truth about your journey. Wow. Chins up and fingers typing away.

  8. I used to hate posts like this. Because as a fledgeling writer, I just wanted to believe in the dream. The closer I get to the goal of debut, the more I realize how true this is. Thank you for being so real. When I got my agent over a year ago, I was over the moon. Now, after over a year on submission with no sale in sight, and in my fourth round of revisions on the novel I've been working on for almost two years, I can see that this is a long process. And I just have to love writing, and do a piece of what I love every day. Ii can't be so results-driven. I just have to find a way to enjoy the journey.

  9. Needed this word hug today. Thank you!