A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
The topic this week is to discuss the toughest times in our publishing journeys. Which forced me to look back on mine and realize that basically most of it was me being an emotional trainwreck.
A pictorial representation of my pre-publication mental state.
Most traditionally writers begin our pre-publication journey with a book we wrote while assuming (often correctly) that few people will read it. Maybe our critique partners will take a gander and tell us all the things that are wrong with our manuscript, but we wrote it for ourselves first. In some cases it’s OK for a manuscript to burn bright in an author’s mind and then die quickly having gone nowhere. I wrote 9 other manuscripts that are sitting in a drawer that few people ever read, and some days I like to open them up and peruse them and thank the universe that none of them ended up being my debut.
The Falconer was another case of me writing the book for myself, initially for fun and entertainment (I have a morbid sense of fun and entertainment, as some of you may know). That I decided to pursue publication was only after the concept received some positive responses from agents before I began querying, and my Giddy Child Mind said, “Hey, maybe we could try this publishing thing!”
Giddy Child Mind turned tail and ran away when I signed with an agent and sold the book. After that I was stuck with Panicky Adult Mind and the sobering realization that this thing I had written for me was no longer going to be mine. It wasn’t going to belong to me anymore. It was going to be put out there in the world where people could read it and judge it and critique it, and I couldn’t take it all back.
Yep, I freaked out.
Around the time the book was published I went into a state where I basically wanted to burrow into the bed forever, and have Mr. May bring me wine and hold me. This was the hard part of the journey: putting so much work into something and finally letting it go. It was me admitting to myself that the book was entirely out of my hands and that I couldn’t change that. It’s emotional, and it’s scary.
People keep saying, “Aren’t you excited? It must be so exciting!” And I felt like I had to smile and be like, “Oh my god, YES. YES. I’m excited. Really.”
“SO. DAMN. EXCITED.”
And I actually kind of wasn’t. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t be as happy for the release as other people were, even though it was something I had always wanted so badly. After spending years being immersed in The Falconer’s world, in the prose, the editing, and the process of smoothing out the story – after having such complete creative control over it – it was finally finished. The honest truth is that when an author commits to publishing a book, they relinquish control once the finished book touches the hands of readers.
It was the first time I realized that, and it was very hard for me to handle. I couldn’t write anything new for months. Initially, I struggled through writing The Falconer 2 because it was the first time I had ever written something knowing it would be released out into the world.
Eventually those feelings faded, but I don’t know if it’ll get easier, or if I’ll respond the same way when the sequel comes out. But The Falconer is released in just under a month in the US and I finally feel like I’m in an adjusted enough place where I can enjoy that. But I’ll keep the blankets and wine handy, just in case.
ELIZABETH MAY is an occasional book cover photographer, a fantasy novelist, a lazy PhD student, and an accomplished coffee drinker. She resides in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she can frequently be spotted skulking about dark wynds with a camera in hand.