(For previous Diary entries check here.)
This was the most difficult of all my diary entries to write. It’s a very personal post and one that I hope prepares some of you for the unexpected consequences of writing and publishing your first novel. This is not meant to be discouraging but it is realistic. When you write and publish your book, you might not get the reaction you expect. Not from the marketplace and not from your loved ones. For those of you who’ve already gone through this, I’d welcome you to share your experiences in the comments. Ok. Deep breath.
I had created this thing. This story I was so proud of. I enjoyed writing it. I enjoyed reading it. It was the kind of book I’d buy for myself. It had taken months to perfect. It was time to get the word out. The truth is, even with exhaustive marketing, it is tough to sell books. In fact, buried among all the other titles available in today’s market, it will be a miracle if anyone even finds your book. Sure you could spam the crap out of Twitter, Facebook and so forth. Tell me how many books caught your attention that way. … Right, me neither. Don’t be discouraged. It’s going to take time. You will not be an overnight success. If instant sales are important to you, consider doing some paid advertising. But please don’t tell me you are only in it for the money.
Here’s the rest of the story: Three Empty Frames was published at the end of June, 2015. There it was! Out there for everyone to read. I made a few early sales! Woo hoo! I announced it to my friends on Facebook and Instagram. Surprise! Apparently, not everyone is going to care that you wrote a book. Even worse, your family and friends might even think you’re crazy. Especially if you already have a day job, like me. (If you are a writer by profession and just starting out, that might be different.)
You know what? I am totally struggling with how to put this into words. I don’t want to make my friends who read this uncomfortable and I don’t want to come off as a whiner either. (I really hate whining!) Oh, who am I kidding, none of my real world friends are reading this blog anyway. And that’s kind of the point of this article. I really thought more people would be at least mildly interested in the fact that I wrote a novel! (This does not apply to a small group of my dear friends who were just as excited about the book as I was; they know this isn’t about them!)
But in general, hardly anyone asked me about it. Some who did would whisper to me, “I heard you wrote a book,” like it was a secret I was ashamed of. Like, “I heard you have toenail fungus. I’m so sorry.” Being a writer is not embarrassing, come on! Could it be that no one thought I could possibly be any good? Or was it, “Oh, she’s only self published,” with a snort and an eye roll, kind of thing? I’ll never know, because I will not ask. In fact, I’ve come to terms with it largely because I did ask the question in a safe place: a writer’s forum.
I was amazed to find out how many other writers experience the same responses from their friends and family. I will recreate that conversation here, without the names:
My question: How do your friends/family feel about your writing? Since writing is not my day job, it seems like nobody is really taking it seriously. It kind of hurts that no one seems to care that I’m doing this. I’m trying to not be oversensitive but it’s bumming me out. Anyone else have that experience?
Here are some answers:
J: I don’t really talk to my family about my writing–I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so they know I like doing it and that’s all they need to know. I talk about writing with my friends, but my real life friends aren’t writers, so there’s only so much they want to hear about it. It doesn’t matter if people in your life don’t take it seriously. Do you take it seriously? Will you pursue it no matter what they say? Is it something you enjoy? Also, make some writing friends. It’ll help you out tons if you have some people who understand what you go through
L: It’s pretty common, I think. My family supports me on a superficial level, but they don’t understand what it takes to put a novel together. Keep in touch with your writing tribe — we understand.
S: My family and friends roll their eyes even after my 4th book got published
R: My family and spouse are all hugely supportive. Most friends too. I did have a friend who I shared a writing frustration with (she asked how it was going and I went beyond “fine”). She told me “good thing it’s just a hobby.” She meant to make me feel better. By then I had contracted with an agent and had a book on submission to pub houses. I was beyond hobby. I told her as much, kindly, but it was always awkward after that.
D: Hi Meg–I’d be lying if I said that writing isn’t a lonely place. You’re going to come to find that no one in your life is as interested in your writing as you are. And that’s okay! Because there are loads of us out there who understand exactly what you are going through right now, and we’re here for you. And we care about your writing. We know what goes into it: the heartache, the tears. We know how hard it is when a loved one seems disinterested. Try not to take it personally. People who don’t write aren’t as interested in writing because they have no way of knowing how much goes into it and why it’s so truly important to us. We get it though, Meg. We’re with you. You are so, SO not alone in this!!!
Some fabulous advice there. Yes, being a writer is a lonely endeavor. Unless you quickly make it to the best seller list, it will likely be your experience too. Remember that your blogging buddies and writing group pals will understand. Join forums, find other writers and make friends. These are the people who will relate to your struggles, help when you need advice, give you a kick in the butt when you’re moping and rejoice with you when you succeed! My door is always open for anyone who needs it. As a new writer, I might not have all the answers but I promise I’ll listen!
Next time: How blogging fits into the picture.