Before I landed my first book deal, I imagined publication was more or less synonymous with instant and ecstatic stardom. If only I could jump that hurdle, my life would transform overnight. I could abandon the drab anonymity of wannabe writer parties spent mumbling about Nietzsche and leap headlong into dazzling soirées where I would sip champagne and nibble cocktail weenies with Nick Hornby. I would, at last, arrive.
A month or two before my first release, I went to my local bookstore to alert them of my imminent fame. The graying bookseller peered over her spectacles at my advance reader copy and smiled wearily. “That’s nice, honey,” she told me. “Why don’t you come back when it’s a bit more…fleshed out?”
Fleshed out? What the hell did that mean? Didn’t she realize she had first dibs on a rising literary star about to burst into an orgasmic supernova of Dan Brown proportions? How could she be so naive?
The truth is, there are a lot of new titles published every year—approximately 150,000. Of those, only one third will sell more than 100 copies. My first two novels faired pretty well in the face of those staggering odds—whatever, they did alright—but I’ve yet to nibble cocktail weenies with Nick.
Much like grief, I believe the emotionally sticky process of publication comes in stages.
1) Delusions of Grandeur: During which we fantasize about record-breaking sales, million-dollar movie deals, martinis with Letterman, and—naturally—hordes of hot groupies who are emotionally transformed by our book and thus eternally grateful (read: string of meaningless affairs).
2) Google Fever: Once the book is released, we incessantly Google ourselves in search of reviews, recommendations, and incidental name dropping. Jody Gehrman + Oprah + Tour de Force is one of my favorites.
3) Amazon Ranking Trance: As hope of more lavish reviews quickly dwindles, checking the Amazon ranking becomes an hourly ritual. Narcissistic? Sure, but someone’s got to be obsessed with us, right?
4) Romantic Despair: The crash is inevitable. Nobody’s reading our book, nobody loves us, we suck. During this stage, Virginia Woolf’s rocks-in-the-pockets technique holds fresh and poignant appeal.
5) Bargaining with the Writer Gods: Usually something along the lines of please, please, please let someone other than my mother attend my readings before I die.
6) Getting Back to Work: After all this, the only hope of escaping the downward spiral of self-absorption is to make some coffee and get back to the grind. I mean, before we checked our MySpace profile every three seconds we used to actually write, didn’t we? And we liked it, right? Which is what got us into this mess in the first place. Like old lovers recalling the scent and murmurs that seduced us long ago, we sit down at the keyboard and begin again.