I joined the Debutante Ball because I wanted to connect with writers on the same crazy ride to publishing a first book. My debut memoir Go Back and Get It comes out on April 4th from Bold Type Books and I am equal parts thrilled and terrified. Like so many of the writers that I have met in this process, Debs are a generous and supportive group. (Stay tuned to meet the rest of our 2023 Deb class in upcoming posts). Our current class spans the time zones, so we prop each other up and share publishing pointers virtually.
When I realized that 2022 Deb Cleyvis Natera and I live in the same town, I reached out to her for some face-to-face time to congratulate her on her critically acclaimed novel, Neruda on the Park and to find out how she weathered her first book launch. She graciously took time out of her busy life teaching, writing, and raising children to answer my book-launching questions.
Q: What are three things you are happy you did in the lead up to your publication?
Leverage the network. I had a good friend who told me early on that he'd gone through his virtual rolodex and listed the organizations, schools and people who were in positions that they would help magnify the news of his upcoming release. As time consuming as it ended up being (I focused mainly on searching via my social media networks), it paid off big time. Right now, eight months after publication, I'm still reaping the benefits of that effort. Folks consistently think of me and my book as opportunities come up. At first, it felt kind of awkward but very quickly I realized that those who responded were excited about my success and were willing to do anything to help me get the word out.
Trust your team. It's nerve-wracking to be so dependent on other people who are making decisions around our careers. At first, I was very inquisitive about every step and every decision but as things heated up and demands increased, I found it easier to just surrender to the experience and trust that the people in my team were all invested in reaching the same goal - a successful launch that would lay the foundation for a long-lasting career. I wish I'd just given in a bit earlier as there were moments when my uneasiness about my lack of control slowed things down.
Establish clear boundaries and expectations with my family. I have two young kids and a husband who works really hard. The nature of the work I'd done in my corporate job before pivoting to become a full-time writer was demanding but had clearer boundaries between "work" and "home." During the months leading to publication, the pressure and expectations changed. Most of the events we're expected to participate in to market our books are usually in the evening and on the weekends. It was hard at first for my family to understand this shift as it is obviously disruptive to our existing routines. But I was clear with them (and myself) that this was a part of what it takes to launch a successful career and that it had an end in sight.
Q: What are three things you wish you'd done or not done?
Meditate. I know it sounds kind of cheesy! But I really wish I'd focused intentionally on breathing. The rollercoaster of debuting has some seriously high highs but also some really indignant lows! I adopted a meditation practice several months past my publication and only wish I'd done it sooner. Even a few minutes a day makes a huge difference!
Journal. A few friends recommended that I journal the events and my feelings after my book came out and I honestly couldn't see any point when I hardly had any free time at all. Now, I wish I'd captured the emotional roller coaster with all the hilarious moments and even the sad and stressful times. Everything happens so fast that I think a practice of slowing things down with pen and paper and thereby contemplating the miracle of a published book may have grounded me in the present.
Get a grip on my diva tendencies! Disappointment is ripe during the weeks and months after publication and if I'm totally honest here, I found myself releasing my inner diva in very unexpected ways. For example, a dear friend threw me a party in his gorgeous house and unfortunately, didn't hang my dress so when I arrived to change out of the clothes I'd worn to a reading beforehand, the dress was a total wrinkled mess. LORD! Mariah Carey would have walked out of the room the way I went on and on about a steamer. Luckily for me, my dear friend and I have known each other since we were twelve years old so he just let me go on and then reminded me to eat. After I ate, I apologized and promised myself to get a grip and lock away my inner diva. We laugh about that moment often now - who knew I had it in me? Not me, that's for sure!
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Hello fellow authors! I was a 2020 Deb. Nice to see that the program is still going strong. Best wishes on your publishing journey.