Tuesday, April 25, 2006
First Day of School
I've heard authors compare seeing their books published to giving birth to their children. I've never given birth, but I have had books published, and there do seem to be similarities to the process. Both involve growth and development that goes on inside, so that it's a very private, personal thing, and then with great effort and pain, your offspring enters the world. There's a lot of waiting and anxiety. Sometimes there are even cravings (I can't be the only person who craves certain snacks while writing on deadline). I guess the biggest difference between having a baby and having a book is that with a book you can usually see your own feet most of the time, unless you overdo it on the deadline snack cravings.
To stretch the metaphor to the breaking point, I think the day your book goes on sale must be what it's like to send your child off to school for the first time. You've done everything you can to prepare him, and now it's out of your hands. You hope he'll get a nice teacher who takes the effort to put him in a good seat where he can see the board and hear the teacher, maybe near some kids who will be a good influence on him. You hope the other kids will like him and be nice to him, and you hope he'll make friends. You hope he represents you well, reflecting well on what you taught him. Good grades and good conduct scores would be nice.
With a book, by the time it reaches the shelves, it's out of your hands. You've sweated over all those words, proof-read them, copy-edited them, checked and double-checked, but now you're sending it out into the world where it's out of your control. You hope the booksellers will be nice and put the book in a good spot where people will see it, near other books that may draw attention, but not so much attention that your book will be eclipsed. You hope readers like it and buy it, and you hope it will make friends out of them who want to come back for more. You hope it represents you well in the marketplace, and you hope it performs well, getting good enough sales that your publisher is pleased.
I get nervous before the release of each book, and I was surprised to find out that my editor feels the same way as each of the books she works on goes to market. She said that of course she thinks the books are good, because she chose them and she worked on them, but then there's some worry about what others will think. As Colleen said the other day, putting a book out does make you feel vulnerable. You're opening yourself to criticism, evaluation and judgment.
My latest baby is going out into the world today, so I hope it makes new friends and is loved and accepted. If you see it out there, please be kind!