June 24, 2008, the release date of my debut novel, CLOSER TO FINE, has now come and gone. The birthing process is over—the novel can now live its own life (hopefully a long one). I have seen my book—my words, my ideas, my characters—in bookstores, and never have I felt such satisfaction. I feel nervous and anxious as well—I want others to read my book, to love my characters the way I do—but mostly I am just proud of myself. Publishing a book is an arduous process—one’s ego must be displaced, and one’s self-confidence must remain steadfast, despite the incredible odds of actually seeing one’s book picked up by an agent, sold to a publisher, worked over by an editor and then successfully launched into the land of commercial fiction. I was fortunate to find a terrific agent and a fantastic editor, both of whom suggested minor changes that significantly improved my novel. I was, and am, lucky in general; the odds of publishing a book these days are slim. I also possess a cadre of friends who, along with my family, have supported my grass-roots efforts to publicize the book, which is, of course, the last and hardest part of the entire process.
Some people believe that publicizing your own book—using email, Facebook, alumni associations, word of mouth, bookstore readings and any and all means of spreading the word so others purchase the book—is shallow, useless and antithetical to what literature is supposed to be. These people believe that it is enough that my book is in stores; they posit that if I believe in my book (which I do) and my book is good (which it is), that is enough—I have achieved my goal, my work is done, time to move on and write another.
I am writing another novel, but I am not about to leave my first-born behind, sitting on shelves, without a voice with which to reach out and appeal to readers. I believe in art for art’s sake, but I also teach college-level literature and am all too aware of those writers who did not enjoy the respect of the reading public in their lifetimes. I do not aspire to be Fyodor Dostoyevsky or Herman Melville—they were brilliant writers who died alone amid poverty—their work did not sell while they were alive, and they were never lauded for their literary talents until years after they died. Part of the publishing quagmire is accepting the role and responsibility of self-promotion—every good writer does it, until he or she sells enough books to attract attention, and then a new, stronger contract. When a writer is no longer an unknown quantity, the publishing house pitches in, and helps sell the next book. Even then, however, thanks to our media-saturated society, a writer should do everything possible, whether it is a third book or a thirtieth book, to promote his or her own book. It is akin to supporting a child, really. No matter how much faith and confidence you have in your child, you would not usher it into adulthood, into the real world, without the tools and abilities needed to succeed.
So as I write my next novel, I will also continue to work on my debut novel, CLOSER TO FINE. It is an amazing book that will appeal to any reader. It makes people laugh, and it also makes people cry. It asks readers to think, but it also entertains readers. It is a part of me, and I will never abandon it.