A great many things are frustrating when you’re an author, but this one frustration rules them all…
Call it an epiphany, a revelation, finally seeing straight (which is really, really hard if you know me!) Doesn’t matter, but this post isn’t about how frustrating it is to work so hard and not to earn any money. It’s not about how frustrating it is to see stupid people read your books, thinking they know it all, and it’s not about how frustrating it is having to battle an increasing monopoly in book sales. No. There is this one frustration to rule them all, and I finally understood, yesterday.
My most recent fiction publication happened in mid-September, with the release of the final book in the Jonathan Trilogy. That’s six months ago. But it’s been almost eleven months since I began writing Last Winter’s Snow, the next book up for release in April. So much work! I’ve been talking to readers, my editors, proof readers, and publisher about it, we’ve been discussing the book’s title, theme, content, research, and I’m still at it, having just completed a final read-through before the galley is off to print, in time for the release.
You build up this anticipation for a new release, you tease, release morsels of information, create a trailer, reveal (not release, Hans) the cover, panic over the edits, and slave hard to get the ARCs (Advance Review Copies, in case you’re unfamiliar with this particular publishing acronym) out in time to give reviewers time to read the book and review it in good time for the release. If you’re an author, you’ve undoubtedly been there, done that, and you have countless t-shirts hanging in your closet to commemorate every release.
Then comes the big day, you send out the ARCs, and the waiting begins… 24 hours later, I had the first verdicts, and so far, they’re all very good. Do NOT misunderstand this. It’s not frustrating to get feedback, particularly not the positive kind I’ve seen. But it’s bloody frustrating when the feedback is encapsulated in a couple of sentences, a paragraph. Eleven months of hard labor, pouring your life’s blood into a story, investing a significant amount of money into research, covers, lots of people involved in getting things right, and all you get in return is a paragraph.
Now, I am fully aware that I have no right to expect more. And yes, it could be so much worse. The paragraph could be a single short sentence: “I hated it!” This isn’t what this post is about. I do not, would not, ever expect more. And I have no clue how this feels for other authors out there. But I have little inhibitions to talk about this, and what I want more than anything else is to sit down with readers, to hear how they interact with the text, the characters, if they walk away with anything from the plot, if they like the characters, if they found any moral morsels to enrich their life. I want to talk about the book, the story. Eleven months of work. I love my characters, they are a part of me. And like a parent, I’m never really ready to let them go. They’re family, they all include a bit of my DNA, a bit of me (and no, don’t go looking for it).
And all I get back is a sentence, a paragraph. I know I do not get to expect more, but it’s just bloody frustrating that eleven months are turned into five hours of reading and then it’s done, “I loved it!” and they move on to the next book, the next story, the next author’s life blood. Such are the rules of publishing, the plight of being an author. I have no right to complain. Doesn’t make it any easier, does it. There have been a few instances when a reader took a story to heart, made it their own, literally. They never shut up about it. Those are the few instances where I bask in the warmth of finally being able to share my feelings, my emotions around a book with someone else.
Those instances are few though, and they’re far in between. I have no right to complain, but I can’t help the way I feel. Authors, tell me, do you feel this frustration? Is there a bigger frustration in your penmanship? Feel free to comment. I hate being the “only gay” in the village… 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend.