Thursday, August 11, 2011

Confessions Of A Writer With A Book Deal

Before I get into the post, I want to point you to a new website that I'm pretty excited about. It's called Ladies Who Critique. It's a site dedicated to finding crit partners! And you all know how I feel about crit partners. I'm so glad to see something like this on the web, and I wish the creators the best of luck. Go check it out. Also, I did an interview for them on crit partners, if you're interested.

Okay, onto this slightly nerve-wracking, but necessary post...

(Warning, it will be LONG.)

It's probably no surprise that stuff changes after you finally get that book deal. No matter how big or small, no matter what form of publishing, having sold a book changes your life. There are a lot of good things, of course. But there are a lot of weird things, too. It's a very strange dichotomy, and today I am going to attempt to give you a taste of what it's like.

Now, I am extremely aware that there are tons of writers out there who want to sell very badly, and that maybe my saying anything "negative" about selling a book will make me sound like a stuck up brat. So I want to make it clear that my intention is not to say "selling a book sucks," because it's definitely still awesome, but like with any Big Event in life it comes with...adjustments. I hope this post can prepare people for the experience when it comes (May it be sooner rather than later!).

Confession #1: The Freak Out
Some people scream for joy. Others sob in relief. There are the dancers. My "OMG I JUST SOLD A BOOK" freak out turned out to be kind of this dazed, awed, shock. Now, granted, I was literally driving to the dentist when I learned, so dancing was out of the question, but picture me in my car, wide-eyed, giggling every few minutes because I ACTUALLY GOT AN OFFER. It was unbelievable, amazing, surreal.

On the way home from the dentist I still was pretty dazed, and as I was stopped at a light this one little thought came to me, "Holy crap, I will actually get to write an acknowledgements page."

Which is when I burst into tears. The gratitude and joy was overwhelming, because books don't get written and published without those people who helped and pushed and taught and loved you along the way. I felt so lucky and blessed and undeserving.

...And then things took a weird turn. The pendulum swung, you could say. As utterly joyful as I was, part of me started to panic. What if the deal fell through? What if Harper changed their minds? What if I can't make back the advance? What if they get to publication in two years and decide, eh, it's not that great after all? What if people read it and go, "This is IT? Well that was a waste of time"? What if? What if? What if?

The catastrophizing got crazy out of control. It was like being in a death spiral, my joy being sucked out with each ridiculous thing my brain chose to panic about. It was almost like I'd been so used to bad news—rejections and revisions and near misses and setbacks—that I literally could not process the reality of good news! There had to be a catch. There had to be something bad in there because good things just don't happen in my publishing life.

This all sounds so pathetic when I read it typed out like this, but it's the truth. As high as my joy was, there was also pain. A dichotomy. Luckily, the pain part passes. The freak out ends, and I'm feeling pretty dang good now.

Confession #2: The Announcement Conundrum
Of course you want to tell people you sold. Of course. After so long, I was excited to let the world know that my years of hard work did mean something, and hoped that maybe it would help others believe that their long journey could end well, too.

But then there's the other side—the very real understanding of how devastating reading about a book deal can be. I know all too well how painful seeing someone sell is, and the thought of doing that to someone else terrified me. The last thing I ever want to do is make another writer suffer. While I was on sub, there would be days that reading a book deal or seeing a beautiful cover announcement or someone's pub date moved up sent me into a pit of bawling, pity party despair.

I knew people would be happy for me, too, but I was honestly concerned about those writers who were struggling and would stumble on my announcement and have their day ruined. But in the end, you have to share. Because, yes, talking about the hard times is honest, but only when it's balanced out with the good times. Life is always both.

Confession #3: The Terrifying Reality of People's Opinions
There's a moment when you realize in a way you never have before that, for better or worse, people are going to read your book now. Which is, of course, what you always wanted, right? The whole reason we are trying to get published is to share our stories with a bigger audience. We want people to love them as much as we do. I personally dream of that fist honest to goodness fan letter from a complete stranger, saying they loved my book more than anything they've ever read.

Lofty, I know, but true. And it is EXCITING to think that in two years my book will be out there for anyone to read. I was starting to think it'd never happen, and I'm so grateful it is.

But...oh, the but. I'm sure you can guess where this is going. What if people don't like it? More than ever, reviews are real now. Like, pre-book deal, they were this hypothetical thing that seemed pretty cool. Like, dang, won't it be awesome someday if I actually have reviews like a real live writer? Now? A wee bit terrifying.

I mean, TRANSPARENT is two years out (maybe a little less than that now, depending on what month I release in Summer 2013), and I already have a four-star rating on Goodreads from someone I don't know at all. I find interesting. I never expected my work to be judged so soon, but it's already started and of course it'll continue. That's the thing about putting your work out there—people will say stuff about it. Go figure.

I really thought I was prepared for that, but I guess it's like going off to college. Never quite what you imagined. Not horrible. Just not what you expected.

Confession #4: Shifting Relationships
Way back in 2004, I announced to my friends that I was engaged! There was some squealing and celebrating, but something...weird happened, too. One of my friends became distant, even a little snippy, with me. She rolled her eyes every time I mentioned my fiancé. She complained about him being around so much. And if I ever expressed frustration with anything? Her reply would be along the lines of, "Well, you're getting married, so stop being such a whiner."

That sort of thing happens sometimes when you announce a book deal, too. And it's heartbreaking on so many levels. First, because you know how much it hurts when you're not selling and it seems like everyone else is, so you get it. Secondly, because there's really nothing you can do to stop other peoples' feelings of jealousy or sadness or whatever it is that causes this phenomena. And finally, because in the long run, you are still the same person, but suddenly people view you differently and it's an adjustment trying to figure out how to deal with it.

And it's not just the people who seem slightly unhappy about your success (or maybe it's more that they want it, too, and it's hard to watch others get there first, which I totally get). There are the...I'm not sure how to say it, so maybe I'll use another example:

In school I was never popular or even close. I was bullied a lot. I was kind of a lone wolf, but I tried to be friendly when others talked to me. Well, in 10th grade I was paired with a popular girl for a class project, and she was really nice to me. Genuinely nice, and I could tell. We became friends, to the point that she'd wave to me in the hall and stuff like that. And because she waved to me, some of her friends waved to me, too.

That's when it started to feel weird, you know? Like, I hadn't changed at all, but one popular person's approval had all those other girls thinking I wasn't so bad. Sometimes that happens when you get a book deal, too. And I'm not even talking within in the writing community—I mean friends and family and stuff. People view you differently, for better or worse. They sometimes put up these walls to separate you into a new category different from them (or equal to them, depending on the situation), even if to you there isn't a wall at all.


Well, I think that's about all on the confession front today. I hope that this comes off right, and if not I swear I didn't mean to offend. I just always find it so interesting to compare "The Dream" I have of publishing to the reality, because coming to terms with those truths has always helped me be happier and more grateful for my own journey, as rocky as it has been. But right now, the path is pretty smooth, honestly, and I plan to enjoy it for as along as it lasts.


  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Natalie.

    I can tell you that you're not alone. I went through every one of these stages of joy and doubt. Hell, I still do! It's an ongoing rollercoaster of emotion. Thrilled and enjoying discussing it with my friends one day. Uncertain and wondering why people have stopped asking about it the next.

  2. I think it's great that you wrote this post. Especially that last confession, because I know I view "published" authors like they are some sort of gods, even if I knew them before they were published. Suddenly they've been vaulted in this position that I can only dream of right now, and although I try not to treat them any differently there's still that feeling of awe. I never thought of how it felt on the other side of awe.

  3. I think it came off perfectly, and I love that you were so honest with us (par for the course!) about how amazing and yet bittersweet some of these changes can be. Thank you. :)

    And for the record, I am not even the teeny tiniest minisculest bit unhappy about your success. I mean that.

  4. Thank you. As someone who is such a freshman (or a pre-schooler?) in this business, it was a relief to be reminded that the benchmarks of selling an agent/selling a book/getting a release date are just that...benchmarks - not the the endgame.

    Your emotionally honest descriptions both heartened and relieved me. You made the moment completely identifiable.

  5. Every big life event comes with stress, but publishing a book can be scary because so much of the process is out of one's hands. You can't control what people think about your book, or how friends will react to success. It's terrifying, but if your dreams don't scare the pants off of you, then, well, you need to find a new dream.

  6. Thank you for being so honest and open with your thoughts, Natalie. Your thoughtfulness definitely comes through in your post, and I think you did a great job of giving us a glimpse into what it feels like, both the celebrating and the doubting. You're amazing and I am so ecstatic for you! :)

  7. I guess the things that would scare me most are along the lines of: Can I write a book a year? Can I write that fast? Do I have enough interesting ideas? Will I attract enough readers and have a big enough sell-through that I actually CAN continue to write? Will my career be short, or long ? Can I pull it off, and continue to, year after year?

    It's interesting, the things that daunt us. You're there, so there's no holding back now!

    Good luck and best wishes. You deserve all good things to come your way.

  8. Thanks so much for taking the time to fill us in. I could see how getting published could have that exact impact.

    And thank you so much for posting the Ladies who critique website. I've been trying to find critique partners and have not been successful.

    Wishing you the best!

  9. This is a wonderful post.

    As an unpublished writer I can say I am not in the least bit offended, nor did I think this post came off as whiny at all.

    I love your honesty. Not many people talk about the other things that happen post-book deal, and I'm glad you did. It's nice to see a genuine account of the reality of getting published.

    Congratulations on your success! I'm happy for you, really, I am. :)

  10. I heart this post so much especially the 'Freak Out' part. I freak about all these things and I don't even have a book deal.

    We writers are a weird bunch.

  11. It's such an interesting conundrum, isn't it? I can totally imagine myself feeling the panic . . . people will READ this?! But still, I'm very excited for you! You've worked hard, and you deserve it!

  12. Natalie - I am so with you on this. Every aspect of it. I was agented and subbed for various books for more than 2 years before I got a deal and I have felt everything you felt. It changes your life, and then it doesn't change your life. Thanks for writing this, from a kindred spirit.

  13. #4 scares me the most. I've felt it already, and I'm not even repped for crying out loud. I guess you just cling to the people who love you no matter what and don't worry (too much;) about the rest.

  14. Great Post! It's so good to see that hard work pays off. I loved reading about your deal! I always knew it was just a matter of time.

  15. I've been scared of some of these things happening, but #4 is one I hadn't thought about. Sad that that has to happen, but I can understand it...

  16. You've been so honest about the highs and lows that I have a hard time believing people would begrudge you success. It takes all kinds, I suppose.

    And who cares enough about a book they haven't read to review it, but not give 5 stars? I could understand if someone read your blog and loved you, so was just sure they'd love your book...but to only really like it? That's funny.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. Great post, Nat. (As always) So true.

  18. Natalie, you are so truly lovely! Thanks for sharing.

    My biggest fear is being judged by other parents and parents of teenagers. "Oh my gosh! She wrote about that kiss with so much detail! What is really going on in her head!" Actually...that already happened. But I'm terrified it will happen on a larger scale.

  19. I just received 'the call' and felt all of those things! I lost a friend early on when she realized I wasn't going to get discouraged and quit. It's sad, but still a reality. Thank you for sharing!!

  20. I just love your honest, refreshing posts about the realities of the publishing business. I'm sure most authors have gone through those emotions, but I'm not sure many have written about them so well. Thanks a bunch!

  21. Thank you for sharing your journey so openly. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  22. I am always so inspired by how honest your posts are, Natalie.

    Thank you.

  23. Natalie, I can so totally relate. I have had three PB deals in total (though there were six and a half years between my first and my second) and definitely feel like "Wow, I've lost all right to EVER complain to any of my un-pubbed friends. But sometimes you get a particularly disappointing rejection and you still want to!

  24. This is hands-down the best post I've ever read on post-book deal feelings/issues. Well done. I am on subs and have been for 10 months now. I'm feeling down a lot but having followed your blog (albeit silently) for awhile now, I don't feel crushed reading news of your book deal--I feel inspired and hopeful. This could be me too, I think. I hope it is one day. Anyway, I love this post and I think you are awesome and deserve all the success that you've earned and that will come your way in the future. Well done!

  25. I loved (and needed to read) everything in this post.

  26. There's a reason why I come back to this blog almost every day. Love the honesty as usual!

  27. Natalie, I look at it this way. A true friend will support you and help you to bring out the best in yourself. A true friend shares your happiness without jealously.
    You've come a long way in self-discovery over the past year or so that I've been reading your blog. Well done.
    Looking forward to sharing in your journey to publication.
    All the best, blog-buddie.

  28. I can so relate to the doubts, like will I make back the advance, can I meet my deadlines. Thanks for sharing this so the rest of us know we're not alone.

  29. It comes across as just right. Very well said.

  30. You were so sensitive in your post, to cover the ranges of reactions. Best of everything as your book comes through the publication process.

  31. I love that you posted this. It made me stop hating you for your success. :P

    Seriously #2 is awesome and so true!

  32. Good for you for sharing this! It's sweet of you to worry about offending the unpublished/unagented masses (I'm one of them), but really, nothing you say can MAKE me offended unless I choose to be offended.

    And I, for one, don't choose to let these things upset or offend me. It's great information to tuck away and hang onto. Someday I'll be one of the published/agented (determination and persistence are my friends) and I may experience some of these same emotions. Then I'll remember this post and take comfort in knowing I'm not the only one.

    Not only that, but it prepares me for the future. Often we have that "grass is always greener" ideal, and it's good to know that the grass on the other side has just as many dandelions (maybe more). =D

  33. I read this post last week, but am just now getting a chance to comment. I wanted to, though, because I just HAD to tell you how much I loved it and to thank you for your honesty. I think that there's this perception that if you finally achieve X in publishing you will feel like a whole new person. I'm starting to see that that's not actually the case, though. I was excited when I started my first book, excited when I finished it, excited when I wrote a few more and revised them and was ready to submit. I was really excited during the querying process and really, really excited when I got my agent, but I'm still me, and I still went through most of those feelings you mentioned above. I was afraid to tell people in case I dreamed it all or my agent backed out or I would hurt their feelings or the book didn't sell and they'd give me a hard time about it.

  34. Thank you Natalie for posting this. I having reached the sub part yet, so I know there is a whole lot of new territory in front of me, thanks for the "news from the unexplored" for me. =) Awesome post!

  35. I am WAY late to this post, but it was just what I needed to read. Thank you so much!