It was two days before my twenty-second birthday, and after four years of endless turmoil, of hard work, dedication, strife, and an array of growth... I ascended to what became my life's purpose.
June 13th, 2016, I became a published novelist. I made my debut in the industry, and there was so much that I was ready to learn, to see unfold, and to experience as the new kid on the block.
I wasn't disappointed in how much this year has changed me. But it was far from a pleasure cruise. Let me tell you a story about how the first year as a novelist really feels.
The First Day
I'll say this first: writing is not easy. And to this day, it is the most bothersome feeling in the world to be told by someone that couldn't possibly understand that writing a novel isn't a challenge. There's so much effort put into getting the words out, and if you're like me, you probably started your journey with absolutely no knowledge on anything outside of the field. So, after you've typed 'the end,' sent your book off to the world, and you've jumped the gun, congratulate yourself, have a drink (or just something super sweet if you're underage), and breathe! You're ready!
And I really do mean crazy.
The moment that your first book is in your hands, I guarantee that you will feel a sense of elatedness that has never washed over you before. "Today, you are official." I remember that I nearly cried when I first held "The One Left Behind: Magic" in my hands. I even got it on video, right here.
It was my first step into the world of creativity as a fresh, published author. Yours will be no different. But the journey doesn't stop there.
That first day that you start your marketing, traditional author or self-published, you're going to struggle, especially if it's your first book. No one will know you. Sharing your book with the world is difficult. You won't always get to be #1 in your category just because you've made your own personal bestseller. And believe it or not, even those family members and friends that promised to buy your book, they don't always follow through with that. It's a cold truth, but one that we eventually come to accept.
That first step, you're on your own from the beginning, and it's going to frustrate you. But as you work, you find new ways to show off your work to others. One of my favorites so far has been participating in author takeovers (which I'm about to start a day-long one soon!), where you get to showcase your works on Facebook to an invited audience. It's hard to think up the right words to say about yourself, but it's one of the easier experiences I have. Sure, it doesn't guarantee you sales every time, but you definitely get people interested that way.
But keep faith. That first day is one of many to come!
The First Month
Now I'm going to tell you another cold truth: your career as a writer not only depends on sales, but on the reviews and criticism that people give you. And that's something that I came to learn the hard way throughout this first year.
I've been told that my story was poorly executed, worth 2-3 stars. I've been told that my book cover is more suited to middle grade audiences rather than a YA crowd like I aimed for. That it was a mediocre setup. I didn't have the money to pay for an editor at the time, and it was something that dealt me in, played a part in why my book never really broke free from a crowd. It made me feel horrible. I didn't compare to thousands of other people in my field, and it was hard to push away from my failures. The worst thing was learning that my work was never that great because I was too hasty.
But after tears, it's always the best thing to pick yourself up and do better with your next book. Three stars on a novel is better than one, and it allows you to see your faults in your work.
You won't always succeed with your first book. And that's okay.
Someone else is reading your work too, and maybe they'll love it. Or they'll hate it. But you know what? They're reading it. And that's more than what most people can do.
You took the jump. Now free-fall, let the wind hit your face. Have your parachute ready to secure your impact. Rise, and start again.
Taking the Plunge
I was six months into my career when I finally got my first event outside of the online community, participating in Indie Author Day at my local library. It was their first time hosting, and it was amazing to see so many others around me. Though, it was also a bit strange given that I was the youngest person in the room, and therefore, the most inexperienced.
But that event opened so many doors for me. It allowed me to make connections with amazing people, and it gave me the chance to participate in an upcoming event this August! I also got to join up at a Barnes and Noble book sale, and now I have a spot waiting whenever I can finish editing my book together!
Taking the plunge means more than falling flat at times. The moment that you become ready to try again, you're able to push yourself past your limits, break your mold, and then you'll unlock so many opportunities. That's one of the fun things about being a novelist. Sales aren't always there, but you learn more to GET them.
And not just in person. Online too. Remember how I talked about attending Author Takeovers? Part of being a novelist is having a strong online presence in a few places. Not a ton, you don't need to go nuts trying to balance it. Pick two or three places that you frequent already, shape your author pages. I have a Facebook, a Twitter, and I frequent this blog!
And whatever you don't know... there are plenty of people out there that will help you to grow and learn it in a better fashion.
Make your mark.
Is It Worth It?
That's probably the weirdest question here. Yes, it's always worth it. You spend a lot of money putting it out there, but there's no denying that you'll feel grateful when it's over, and amazed when a paperback is in your hands.
You are a writer, or you're going to be. You carry creativity in your blood, and if you truly crave it, then it will always remain. Or it will consume you until you break it out.
The first year in your career will be one of your most difficult, but you earn so much from it.
Step forward. Your future awaits.