When I began seriously writing and submitting my books back in 1996, I dreamed about what it would be like to see my books on a store shelf someday. But as I found out a couple of weeks ago, none of the things I imagined compared to the actual event. I stood there in the middle of Wal-Mart, with exciting things like bananas, deodorant and grass seed for the yard in my shopping cart, and just stared at my first book surrounded by other authors’ books. There was my name on the cover, my characters represented by the artwork. I grinned like a fool and called my husband at work to share the moment.
Here I am at Wal-Mart with my debut release. This photo was taken after midnight (thus the lack o’ makeup and hair product) since we were there to get the new video game, Spore, which released at midnight, for the hubby.
The past year has been full of surreal moments like that. That moment on July 24, 2007, when my agent called to tell me I’d sold my first two young adult books to Razorbill. Oct. 26, 2007, when she called me again to tell me I’d sold my first two romances to Harlequin American. Signing my first contracts. Seeing my first covers. Getting my author copies in the mail. I kept thinking I’d wake up and it would have all been a dream.
But the official release day for A Firefighter in the Family, Sept. 9, was the ultimate. It’s now real.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve gotten e-mails from friends telling me they’d pre-ordered the book. I got a fan e-mail from someone who’d read it because she was in the Harlequin American book club and had gotten it early. I got a four-star review from Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine, the lovely co-sponsors of the American Title contest, which brought those of us here at Title Magic together. Beginning the week before the official release date, friends started e-mailing telling me they’d gotten their own copies at their Wal-Mart, B.Dalton or other book outlet. The friend who along with her mother started me to reading romance novels back in high school called on Saturday excited because she’d just bought two copies. Though I’ve done speaking engagements for a few years, now I’m doing them as a published author. The weekend after my release, I was the featured all-day speaker at another RWA chapter. Was I scared half to death that I’d prove a disappointment to those attending? Heck, yeah! But it’s still a wonderful feeling that I’ve finally gotten to this point. And the meeting turned out wonderfully, even if my voice was really strained by the end of the day.
It’s impossible to get to one's debut release day without looking back and reflecting on all the times it would have been so much easier to quit. It wasn’t easy to keep coming back to the computer day after day when the rejections rolled in, when a project I loved got no love from anyone else, when an editor who wanted to buy my work left the publishing house a month after I left my full-time job. The number of manuscripts I completed and the number of rejections I collected got harder with each passing year. I wondered if I was wasting all that time that I could be using to do something else I enjoy or spending more time with my husband. But he kept encouraging me. My friends told me it was only a matter of time. And you know what – they were right. I’m glad they kept pushing me and that my own stubbornness to not have all that effort be in vain brought me to that day when I made my first sale.
Because it took me eleven years to sell once I got serious about trying to get published, I’m now the queen of preaching perseverance. I know it’s hard to keep going in the face of “no, no, and more no,” but trust me. If you keep working at your craft, keep networking, keep a positive attitude, and make it known to everyone that you treat this as a serious business, you’ll get there. You will have your own first sale, your own debut book release, your own squeeful moment when you see your book on a store shelf for the first time and say to yourself that, yes, it’s all been worth it.