A week ago I received my thirty author's copies of BECOMING DARKNESS and it goes without saying (given that this is really my debut) that it was an exciting moment -- definitely one of the highlights of the year for me, and one more step toward the fulfillment of a dream I've probably been nuturing since I was a child (which, I regret to say, was a very long time ago).
When I opened the first of the three boxes and looked at the stacks of books inside, I think that's when I well and truly felt I'd achieved the status of bonafide author. Signing the contract with Switch Press two years ago, getting a check for an advance (actually two), and working with the editor were all confirmation that I'd succeeded in becoming a traditionally published author, but holding a physical copy of the final, retail version of the book -- the book as it will be sold to the public in bookstores -- just somehow made it that much more concrete.
The book in its physical form is nothing short of fantastic. Capstone Publishers (of which Switch Press is an imprint) did an excellent job of turning out an appealing, well constructed product. Inside and out, the book is pure quality, highlighted by an attention to detail that sets it off from many other books out there. On the dust jacket, for example, you'll find embossed lettering and a high gloss finish to the red stripe that runs down the middle. Under the dust jacket, the sturdy library binding features an alternate version of the cover -- which though similar, does contain subtle differences.
While some of my copies will undoubtedly end up in the hands of family and friends, I'm hoping to use the bulk of them to help promote the book. In this day and age, with so much competition out there, a writer can't simply sit back and do nothing after the book has been published. I've been doing as much as I can using social media, but that's a tough haul for a debut writer who hasn't accumulated the kind of following that would make social media platforms useful in the promotion and marketing of a book. Unfortunately, there are limits to what I can do even locally, and beyond that it gets even more problematic.
For that reason I find myself anxious about the October 1st release. In many respects it will be one of the best days of my life; but it'll be sobered by the fact that I'm all too conscious of what I'm up against. The world of publishing has probably never been more competitive -- primarily as a result of the self-publishing revolution that has completely transformed the landscape of the industry. There are only so many readers out there, and each has a limited amount of money they can spend on books. Meanwhile, the number of writers producing books has exploded within the last decade, meaning that a shrinking pie of readership has to be divided among a burgeoning buffet of writers. Needless to say, that suggests that for many writers the returns will become steadily smaller and smaller, making it that much more difficult to pursue writing as a full time career.
Of course, everyone who writes a book hopes for a bestseller. The reality, unfortunately, is that few will ever achieve that status. Not, at least, in its truest sense of the word. Generally, the fate of a book is determined within the first few months of it going on sale, largely because word-of-mouth remains one of the most crucial and fundamental means by which a writer can achieve success. If you don't get people talking about your book, it's going to be hard for others to become aware of it amidst the many millions of books that are out there clamoring for attention. You need to generate buzz and you need to do it quickly, but that's far easier said than done.
For most debut authors, it's an uphill battle -- unless you happen to be blessed with a huge marketing campaign (but that rarely happens). In the end, you just have to hope that what you've written will garner an audience who will, in turn, encourage others to read the book, until at some point you achieve that crucial tipping point of readership that assures you'll get the chance to write and publish another book.
Getting traditionally published is difficult and there are no guarantees that even when you get that far that you'll be successful. But as with everything in life, you have to take it one step at a time. There's no point in anticipating failure before you've even got started. So for now I'm going to enjoy the ride and savor what I can of my achievements thus far. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?