A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Oh boy, I could talk to you all week. I didn’t know a single bloody thing before I got published. I think narrowing this post down to just five things was, in fact, harder than getting published in the first place (I jest. Mostly.)
1. Selling one book doesn’t mean it’ll be easier to sell your second.
God, I wish someone had told me this. Or maybe they did and I just didn’t listen. You get this idea in your head that you’ve done the hard bit now, you’ve got your foot in the door. Hooray! Except it doesn’t work that way. Unless your first book is a bestseller, there’s no guarantee you’ll sell a second. In fact, poor sales of a first book actually make it harder to sell a second book than it is to sell your first. My advice? As soon as you sell your first book, start writing a new one (if you haven’t already). Then write another. And another. Get as many eggs in your basket as possible so that you have all these shiny new manuscripts to whip out and thrust in front of your agent/editor before your first book hits the shelves. One book does not a career make. (Unless you’re Harper Lee. Except not anymore, because even Harper Lee, who probably never needed to sell another book again in her or her great-grandchildren’s lifetimes, will soon have a second book out.)
2. You’ll make amazing friends.
Writing is solitary. And lonely. I thought it would always be that way before I got published. Then, when social media became kind of a necessity because I now had to promote myself, I started to realise how much fun I was having with it. I started to love talking to other authors. I became an Allsort! Writing isn’t lonely anymore. Twitter, Tumblr and the internet in general make it possible to have just as many close “work friends” as your husband/mother/brother/seemingly every other person you know in real life who works in that awesome fun social office.
3. You know how you read that book when you were thirteen and fell in love with the book and wanted to tell the author all about it? And as you grew older, a part of you kind of dreamed you’d write a book that would make someone else fall in love? You will do that.
I didn’t mention this under the social media bit above because it warrants its own massive mention, but my favourite part of writing books (apart from actually writing them) is interacting with readers. I have chatted with so many fantastic people and these people have gotten in touch with me because they read my book and they loved my book. My book! They can quote it. They make fanart. They tell me about how my book touched their lives or made them cry. It fills me with awe to hear that something I wrote has left an imprint on someone’s heart. I’m so grateful for it. My readers blow me away every time they reach out to me. Yours will too.
4. You will come to hate the words “so how’s your book selling?” with the fire of a thousand suns.
Brace yourself. People will ask. They will ask and they will never stop asking. Other variations include: “So how’s the book doing?” and “So how many copies have you sold?” And even if you are actually making millions off your book, you will still hate those words because it’s. All. Anyone. Ever. Effing. Asks. And chances are you’re not making millions. Chances are you’re not even earning out your modest advance. So every time they ask the question, it will feel like a knife to the heart. (Sorry. I have no tips on how to make this one better. I include it on this list so that you’re prepared, not because I can help ease the trauma.)
5. Being able to work in your pyjamas? Yeah, it really is as cool as you imagine it will be.
So there you go.
Fellow authors? What do you wish you’d known before you got published?
Sangu Mandanna was four years old when she was chased by an elephant and wrote her first story about it and decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Seventeen years later, she read Frankenstein. It sent her into a writing frenzy that became The Lost Girl, a novel about death and love and the tie that binds the two together.The Lost Girl is out now from HarperCollins Children’s Books (North America), Random House Children’s Books (UK and Commonwealth) and in translation. Sangu lives in Norwich with her husband and two sons. Find Sangu online at www.sangumandanna.com or on Twitter (@SanguMandanna).