A lot of authors post what they do when they release a new novel, and I’ve always been entertained by the mix of superstition and excess. After all, the day a book goes live is the culmination of thousands of hours of work, That’s the type of thing that deserves a moment or two of reflection, even if the book sucks.
Especially if the book sucks.
I had a lot of preconceived notions about how I’d feel after I sent my novel out into the uncaring world like a neglectful mother hen pushing her baby chick out of the nest.
I figured it’d be a huge relief.
While I was writing the book, and people asked how it was going, I could give them a tangible answer. I was at so many words, or on such and such chapter. But for the last year, I was editing. And editing. And editing. And when people asked how the book was coming along, all I could say was that I was editing. And when I saw them a couple months later, and they’d ask how the book was coming along, I’d say I was still editing. Sure, I could church it up some, and say I was doing developmental edits, or structural edits, or copyright edits, but those words only meant something if the person I was talking to was a writer. After a while, when people asked how the book was coming along, I got the suspicious feeling they didn’t really believe I’d written a book at all. Like back in ninth grade, when I told people they’d never met my girlfriend because she lived in Canada.
I also had some ridiculous fantasies about how my release day would go that were akin to the night before a big lotto drawing. Those moments before falling asleep when you lay in bed and imagine what you’d do with millions of dollars. In those fantasies, I spent the first couple hours after pushing the GO button on my book doing more writing. Now this wasn’t fantasy me being a workaholic and starting the sequel. (Although fantasy me should get on that.) This was fantasy me drafting a resignation letter to my boss because fantasy me was confident the money dump truck would be backing up to the house in a couple days, five at most.
Then fantasy me would spend the next hour searching the internet for the perfect fake dog poop to include with the resignation letter, but decide, after a long bout of introspection, that fake dog poop didn’t send the right message. After all, fantasy me wasn’t writing a fake resignation letter. This would be followed by a walk around the neighborhood to look for the real thing.
After that, fantasy me would spend a couple hours waiting by the phone for a congratulatory call from J.K. Rowling since he missed Stephen King’s call while he was out walking.
The rest of the day would be spent window shopping for mansions on Trulia and deciding which sports teams to get season tickets to.
Obviously, that’s not what happened.
What did happen:
I uploaded my files the night before and received the obligatory email that it could take up to 72 hours before my book went live. Less than 12 hours later, my novel was ready for purchase. Unfortunately, Amazon didn’t link my paperback and kindle versions. When I looked into resolving that, I found out that could take up to 72 hours as well, and may necessitate a call to their help desk with the ISBN and ASIN in hand. I also saw that the product description in the print version had smooshed itself together and gotten rid of the spaces between the paragraphs. Then I downloaded the kindle version to both my kindle and my phone and realized that all the font sizes were off and that the Kindle Create previewer was less of a preview and more of a “it might look like this, maybe.” That necessitated going back into my electronic version and changing the formatting and font size of pretty much everything except for the text of the novel itself, re-uploading the new version, re-checking it in the previewer, waiting more hours for it to upload, getting the email saying it had been published, and re-downloading it to see nothing had been changed. Rinse, repeat.
Worse, during this whole process, I began to get the feeling that maybe this whole writing thing was a bad idea. It started slowly, a vague uncomfortableness that something I’d spent countless hours on was now available to be the target of ridicule from complete strangers. Okay, the countless hours part is a lie. Because I tracked my daily writing, I could guesstimate how many hours I’d spent writing and revising my novel over the last two years, and come to a number that I’m reasonably confident would be within +/- 25% of the actual number of hours. I just don’t want to, because I’m worried it might be depressing.
After a while, that uncomfortable feeling began to morph into a solid mass in my gut, a mounting certainty that I’d made a huge mistake. That not only did my book suck, it sucked so hard that somehow author, screenwriter, blogger and all-around super-talented guy, Chuck Wendig, specifically had me in mind all the way back in 2011 when he wrote this blog post:
I tried not to worry about it. I thought, after a while, the feeling would go away.
And it kind of has. Now it’s like a scab. A crusted over mass of grossness to keep bandaged lest anyone see it. Even now, I can’t quite believe I had the sheer hubris of asking for money for something I made up in my head. For asking strangers to give me cash for telling them a story, like a literary beggar on the side of the road, holding up my book cover instead of a cardboard sign.
So that’s what release day is like. Or was like, for me. If there was any silver lining to be had, it was the outpouring of support from family and friends. Also, later that day, the town I live in had its inaugural whiskey walk.
That helped too.
Update: For any other writers out there, continuing to fix my paperback description in KDP, and then re-uploading everything never worked. What did work, the first time, was changing the product description on the book tab in my Amazon Author Central account.