A while ago, the brilliant brain behind this website came up with an idea for a series that would take readers behind-the-scenes of a first novel’s publication, expose the nitty gritty of a book release, while providing advice for authors anticipating their own launches or emerging writers stockpiling tips for when that magical day was finally upon them.
The series is called Debut Diary and it is a huge success. I myself read every entry, often more than once.
But one of the truths about this industry is that the debut is only the start of a very long game, and it doesn’t always get easier after landing that first book contract. In some ways it can get even harder.
I was a first-time author almost exactly five years ago. My debut novel did the awards circuit, hit a few bestseller lists, garnered some acclaim, and ultimately became one of the biggest sellers for my publisher that year. It wasn’t a phenom book like either of the Girls (Girl on a Train, that is, and Gone Girl), and you may not have heard of it. (Then again, you might have. Several readers wrote me last year when my debut showed up on their Book-of-the-Day calendars!)
I released two more novels in the next two years, equally acclaimed, although not as well-selling, which I was told often happens after the debut. Then I hit a roadblock. You can read all about it in this How It Happened piece.
And then my savvy agent managed to land me in what seems like the best publishing home I could’ve wished for. Deal Diary will allow readers to follow along on the run-up to the release of my fourth novel on May 1, 2018. Things are different here at my new publisher, and also at this stage of the game—four books in.
My hope is that this series will be of interest to students of the industry, and offer writers tips for not just surviving, but thriving in it. For those who wonder what happens after the happily ever after of the debut, I think this series will offer hope. Cinderella never told us, but I suspect that along with a good dose of reality testing—it ain’t all bluebirds and sparkly slippers out there—she found out that marriage is far more fulfilling than that first, blissful whirl around the ballroom.
So where am I just a little under four months from the release of my fourth novel, Wicked River? Well, clinically insane, of course—should I read my GoodReads reviews? Did Library Journal really like it? Will my dream reviewer crack open the ARC?—but also facing some thrilling, daunting, exciting challenges.
Let’s take the aforementioned Library Journal review, the first trade to report in. My publicist and editor seem super happy with the review. My agent called it “awesome.” As for me…well, I don’t ever want to sound ungrateful because I am incredibly appreciative of every reviewer, book blogger, reader, or cat who takes the time to read and share thoughts about a book of mine. Some of them are so insightful, they teach me more about my own book than I knew when I wrote it.
But I still find reading reviews of my work hard. In “Too Much Information,” Kevin Bacon sings: “You know I just don’t read reviews/’cause they just give me the blues/when they’re bad they’re really rough/when they’re good they’re not good enough.”
Sing it, Kevin. Please come star in a film based on one of my books.
In two weeks, I will be sent down to one of the biggest publishing and bookselling shindigs of the year. Winter Institute takes place in Memphis, TN this time and I am told there will be 1000 booksellers to meet the authors and procure signed advance copies of their books.
What’s so daunting? Not the 1,000 booksellers. A lot of authors are introverted, and thus hate book events and being on show. But I actually find that the more public side of the business imbues me with energy for the long, solitary months of writing a new book.
What intimidates me about my upcoming trip is the plane. The aircraft. The blankety-blank tons of metal (I don’t want to deal with reality enough to Google the exact number) that have to become airborne so I can arrive. I haven’t been on a plane since 2010 or thereabouts, and you can explain Bernoulli’s principle to me eight thousand times and I’ll still look at you and say, “Air flow? I’m trusting my life to air flow?”
Come to think of it, I guess I trust my life every day to air flow.
With that out of the way—I feel you really know me now—I’m headed down to Winter Institute, which, along with a week-long pre-pub tour that my publisher sent me on back in October, will mark one of the first introductions of my book to the outside world. Writing a book is a solitary endeavor, and even submitting that book, selling it, then editing it, designing its cover, and preparing a marketing plan involves only a small, intimate circle of people.
This is different. Did I mention there will be 1000 booksellers there? Okay, maybe I am just a teensy bit intimidated about that, in addition to the notion of multiple tons of metal hurtling through the air along with the passengers inside.
I imagine that at Winter Institute I will get some sense of how anticipated my next release is, how appealing different industry folk might find it. What if I’m the only author who’s not asked to sign a single ARC? Can that happen?
I’ll report back to you in the next Deal Diary, and maybe share some tips for a) getting all 1000 booksellers to line up at my table so I seem like that kid in the lunchroom everyone wants to sit with—ha, I was never that kid—and b) finding the best ’que in Memphis.
Till then, happy writing, reading, and flying.
Jenny Milchman is the USA Today bestselling and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of four novels, including the forthcoming Wicked River. She sits on the board of directors of International Thriller Writers, is a member of the Sisters in Crime speakers bureau, and founded the holiday Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated in all fifty states and on five continents.
To learn more about Wicked River, click on the cover below: