August 23rd, 2012

Your funky firsts

EndlessSummerH546At the Booksigning for Literacy at the Romance Writers of America convention in July, a lovely reader happened to mention that she'd bought my book at Sam's Club. She went on with her sentence while I leapt over the table, grabbed her by the shoulders, and shook her, screaming, "YOU BOUGHT MY BOOK AT SAM'S CLUB?" I then dashed across the room to tackle my literary agent and tell her, "MY BOOK IS IN SAM'S CLUB!" To which my literary agent replied, "YOUR BOOK IS IN SAM'S CLUB? No, wait a minute. That is too huge. If your book were in Sam's Club, the publisher would have told you."

A few days later we found out that Endless Summer is indeed in Sam's Club. And in case you are still puzzling over why this would be a big deal...well, so is my publisher. My editor seemed surprised that we were so happy. Why is it a big deal for your book to be sold in a store that also sells cottage cheese by the gallon?

You have to understand how many times I have walked past the book section in Sam's Club or Costco, with millions of copies of a book stacked on a pallet, and thought, "If I could only get a book into this store, I would know I had made it."

I had a similar experience yesterday when people were tweeting about me in Portuguese. My books have been published in seven languages, but nothing brings home to you that your books are ACTUALLY OVER THERE BEING READ BY SOMEBODY ON ANOTHER CONTINENT like people tweeting about you in Portuguese. Of course, I don't understand Portuguese. I thought they were saying things like, "When is Such a Rush coming out in Portuguese?" but they could very well have been saying, "Why is Such a Rush a big pile of dog poo?" and I would not know the difference. Happily.

The reality of a career writing novels is that when I reach milestones like these, I do not know I have made it. Even if one book sells well, the next one might flop, and I might find myself going back to my day job copyediting medical journal articles about nasal polyps. Even becoming a New York Times bestselling author--a title I have not achieved--can't save you from having your next book rejected if your sales start to slip. There is constant pressure to make the next book bigger, better, more relevant, more hip--and not just to achieve bestseller status. Just to keep your head above water.

So in this work climate, on a day when I really need to revise one novel and think up a second so I can start writing a third, I find it helpful to dwell unnaturally on the fact that people are tweeting about me in Portuguese. As my husband often says, in a dire tone that I don't like very much, "You'd better enjoy this because it might not happen again." It took me 15 years, 10 novels, and 3 agents to finally make a sale, and I honestly try to enjoy all the milestones along my publishing journey. Some are obvious and some are funky. Here are a few:

My first cover.

My first Booksigning for Literacy at the Romance Writers of America convention. Alas, my books did not show up. In a small consolation prize...

My first sighting of my book in a bookstore--which was in the same mall complex as the Booksigning for Literacy where my books were not. I am trying to look authorial.


My first review. A good one, thank God.

The first time a random person had heard of me. That was a big thrill until, upon questioning, it was revealed that she was thinking of Simone Elkeles.

The first time a random person had actually heard of me.

The first time I finaled in the RITA. Yes, I only finaled, but that is a huge deal. You attract a lot of attention when you final in the RITA, and you can get a new agent pretty easily if you strike before you have lost the RITA. See, I go through this business thinking I don't know much and it confounds me, but I actually know a lot.

The first time I was a bestseller, on December 26, 2010. See Forget You at #9. Thanks to lovely readers telling other lovely readers about my book, it climbed as high as #7 in the next few weeks. My husband made a screencap. I told him he was silly and you know what he said in that dystopian tone: "You'd better enjoy this..."

barnes&noble top 10

There are many more firsts I would love to achieve. Being a New York Times bestseller--I wouldn't turn that down. I would love to sell film rights to my books. Oooh, what if my YA romantic comedies coming out in 2014 made the Scholastic Book Club? I would visit the sale at my son's school to buy books for him and I would be knocking over the displays, screaming, "MY BOOKS ARE IN THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK CLUB!" Ahem. And since my first adult romance is coming out next February, I'm looking forward to that rite of passage for so many romance authors I have talked to: the outraged e-mail asking me why my sexy novel has sex in it.

What are your milestones--either obvious or not? Ones you've passed, or ones that glow like solar lights from Sam's Club along the sidewalk of your career, guiding your way up the street?
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