Have you ever dreamt about becoming a published author?
It’s been my dream since I was a little girl. Like many of you, I’ve always enjoyed reading. I read when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I feel worried or anxious. For me, the act of reading feels as essential as air and water.
Every author I’ve ever read has given me the gift of escapism through their craft of world-building and prose and I’ve always dreamt of one day being able to do the same. After writing for a living for most of my life, on Sunday, 1 October 2017, I woke up a published author and my dream came true. It was one of the most exciting and incredible moments in my life.
As you can imagine, I celebrated. I drank champagne, posted on social media, and had a book launch. My friends sent me a cake. My publisher sent flowers and a card. My husband kept introducing to me to his colleagues as his author wife. My parents took photos of my novel in bookshops and supermarkets. It was everything I imagined it would be.
But like any life-long dream, there are also a few unexpected surprises. Here are five things that I didn’t anticipate about becoming a published author.
1. My self-doubt would increase
While I wasn’t naïve enough to think my self-doubt would disappear completely, I did hope that the constant worry about my writing would ease a bit. It was what I was looking forward to the most about writing my second and third books - that I would sit at my desk, happily writing away, more confident in my skill now that I had a published book under my belt. However, that wasn’t the case at all. Instead I was plagued by new doubts.
What if I only ever have one good idea?
What if I’d just got lucky?
Fast forward to currently writing my fourth book and they’re still there but I have learnt to control them a little better and that’s good enough for me.
2. I would read differently
I remember the day so well. It was one of Ian Rankin’s novels and the story was amazing, as they always are. But this time it was different. Instead of curled up in my chair with a cup of tea, two digestives, and a slice of escapism, I was taking notes.
Underlining certain passages.
Analysing how the author had brought the protagonist to life.
I even went so far as mapping out the narrative arc of the story on my laptop.
I was like a student revising for an exam.
Except there was no exam.
Since becoming an author, that complete immersion into a story has been replaced with more of an analytical mind and I’ve never read a book the same since.
3. My business would increase dramatically
I’ve always been incredibly impressed with anyone who can write a book, but I didn’t realise that everyone else did too. When people found out I’d published an award-winning book, my business - a content writing company which I’d run for seven years by that time - shot through the roof. In fact, during meetings with potential clients, they’d spend more time asking me about my book and where they could buy it than focusing on their own content writing requirements. The day I started gifting my book at sales meetings was the day, I stopped hardcore selling. If I could write and publish an award-winning novel, then I was the best person to write their content. It was perhaps one of the nicest surprises of becoming an author.
4. I’m more of an extrovert that I realised
I’ve always considered myself a typical introvert but the isolation that comes with writing books was not always an easy adjustment for me. After a few hours, I craved human connection and while social media helped, it wasn’t enough. I remember when my deadline was looming, I hadn’t left the house in a couple of weeks, not even to go to the supermarket, and the only people I’d talked to were my husband and toddler (and really, does a chat about Peppa Pig count?) I’d felt so disconnected, I started writing my next book in coffee shops and shared office spaces.
5. Writing books is a profession
The Good Mother was originally titled Dear Michael. When my publisher told me they were changing it, I was taken aback. I thought the original title was great, fitted the story, and was succinct. But, as I learned later, I really had no idea as to what sells well in the book industry. The title is critical as well as the cover, the blurb, the reviews, the PR and everything else that goes into making a book a success.
As the writer, it can feel slightly upsetting when editors and agents come back and tell you to change something. Especially something as significant as the title. But even though I didn’t want to, I agreed because by that time I’d learnt that publishing is a business and I had to trust those who had worked in the industry a lot longer than I had.
And they were right. The Good Mother was incredibly successful for a debut novel winning the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Award and over 300 four and five-star reviews on Amazon.
NB This post was originally written as a blogpost for Grace J Reviewer.
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