Friday, September 27, 2013

Surviving the Debut

I'm so grateful for the support of the writing community. I would not have been able to survive this process without help from the wonderful people I've met along the way. Today I'm thrilled to have authors Tiffany Schmidt, Mindi Scott, and Charlotte Bennardo, who all survived their debuts and were gracious enough to tell us just how they did that, as well as offer up advice to those of us who have yet to walk through that fire.

When did it feel real?

Tiffany: I’m still waiting for this one! I sometimes have lingering nightmares about query-letter rejections.

It felt real when I received my ARCs, and when strangers started Tweeting about reading SEND ME A SIGN. It felt more real when I held my finished copies, then saw them in bookstores. It felt even more real when I had interactions with readers at various signings.  Then surreal when I received my first fan mail and email, or when I had a blogger walk up to me at a bookstore event for a different author and tell me she was having a ‘fangirl moment,’ just seeing me.

I’m still living in a constant state of ‘pinch me’ because oftentimes it just doesn’t seem like this can possibly be true!

Mindi: I can’t think of a single moment that helped define it as “real.” More, I think it was a series of moments (seeing my ARCs for the first time, reading pro reviews of my work, having readers ask me to sign their books, bloggers using my book in their posts, receiving emails from fans) that all built upon one another in such a way that it became impossible to NOT believe.

Charlotte: When we got the call from Brian Farrey, our editor at Flux, it was a scream fest (really, the neighbors heard us screaming) so it felt real to me; I’d never had that “We want to offer you a contract” call before. Of course I worried until the contract was signed, sent, received, and copy returned that they’d change their mind. Once I had that binding contract, it was super REAL.

What would you tell your former self?

Tiffany: I’d tell my former self (and current self, since I still really struggle with this) to remember to enjoy the journey. Publishing is a slow, slow process, and release day will eventually arrive, but it’s so important to take time to enjoy and celebrate each step along the way.

Mindi: Watching time-travel movies has made it so that I can’t allow myself to even consider talking to my former self. Ha! Not to mention that my former self is such a skeptic that any needed words of encouragement would be wasted on her. ;-) 

Charlotte: I would say “Savor and remember this moment because there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, but this is a dream come true.”

How is the experience different? The same?

Tiffany: I’m still as impatient as can be, but there’s a little less of the breathless panic/anticipation of what’s next? As a debut, everything is new and scary and exciting. Things are still exciting (and sometimes scary) —I hope I never stop being thrilled and terrified of this industry— but the second time around, there’s a little less panic, a little less fear about “am I doing everything right?” Because there is no single ‘right’ way to be an author or handle promotions.  It’s all about finding a balance between life and writing and all the other non-writing writer stuff.

Mindi: Compared with my expectations? I thought getting published would change me in some huge way. It hasn’t. Small ways, sure, but not in big ways. I think the ways that is the same as what I expected is that having readers say that my book changed them in some way really is the most gratifying thing in all the world.

Charlotte: I get excited about all the contracts, although the one for Sirenz Back In Fashion was bittersweet; it originally was to be for books 2 and 3, not just 2. Things happen. The contract for my 3rd book, Blonde Ops, with a new publisher, made me just as giddy because there was competition and guess who got selected?

What is the best part about debut?

Tiffany: Besides the part where I got to see my dream come true and my story turned into a book? I loved being part of debut group (Yay, Apocalypsies!) and was so grateful to have a cohort of people going through the same challenges and fears and celebrations. And nothing is better than meeting bloggers, readers, librarians, teachers, or other writers. It’s so great to be a part of a community that loves books!

Mindi: Everything is exciting! There are so many firsts happening and so much that you don’t know what to expect.

Charlotte: That feeling of exhilaration- ‘I’m published! Someone likes my writing enough to pay me! I’ll see my book in bookstores and libraries!’ You only get that breathless, one-of-a-kind joy once.


What were you most afraid of? What are you most afraid of now?

Tiffany: Hmm. I think it was a toss-up between terrified of everyone hating my book or everyone ignoring it. I’m still not sure which would be worse, loathing or obscurity. On one hand, it’s so hard to handle criticism, but on the other, inspiring hatred means you’re at least provoking a reaction, whereas being unnoticed means you’ve put your heart on a page and no one cares?

I’m not sure I have a good, clear answer for this one. I’m also not sure that my answer has changed.

Mindi: I think my biggest fear is the same now as it was then: That I’ll have put so much into my writing and no one out there will care.

Charlotte: Initially, the thing I was most afraid of was that they’d change their minds, say they ‘made a mistake.’ Now I worry about sales, the next contract, the next manuscript, the next query.

What advice would you give debut authors?

Tiffany: First, celebrate yourself. You’ve achieved something spectacular and no one can ever take that away from you. Your book, your story, has earned a spot between covers and on bookshelves. While it can be so easy to get caught up in stresses about print runs, reviews, sales, and such, whenever you find yourself spiraling down the not-good-enough rabbit hole, stop and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished.

Second, don’t be afraid of the word ‘no.’ Use it when you need to. It’s remarkably easy to burn yourself out by saying yes to every request that comes your way. Make sure you know your limits. Make sure you protect your sanity and writing time. Remember: if you don’t leave yourself time to sit down to write your next novel, then we won’t get to read it.

…and that would be criminal!

Mindi: Some authors don’t read reviews of their work. Others read every single review. That’s a choice that everyone has to make. My advice is that you occasionally reevaluate your choice—especially if it starts getting in the way of your new writing. 

Charlotte: Enjoy the moment. Take pictures. Save posters announcing your debut. Save reviews (yes, even the bad ones!). Let people approach you to talk about the book- savor the spotlight because it’s all too brief and people quickly move on to the next debut.



Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send me a Sign and Bright Before Sunrise, which comes out February 18, 2014 from Walker-Bloomsbury.


Mindi Scott is the author of Freefall and Live Through This.


Charlotte Bennardo is the co-author of the Sirenz series, as well as Blond Ops, which will be released by Thomas Dunn/St. Martins in April 2014.


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