Friday, 6 March 2009

Why Books Aren't Babies: Post-Publication Day Musings


We’ve all heard the well-worn metaphor about how books are like babies. We create them, nurture them, and (if we’re lucky) finally bring them proudly out into the world for all to coo over and marvel at. Or, if they’re rather more “difficult” babies, to flat-out ignore and shoot evil glances at when they scream the house down. And write bad reviews about on Amazon… okay, the metaphor rather breaks down there I grant you. In fact, I’m here today to tell you exactly why books are nothing like babies.

Yesterday was PUBLICATION DAY for me - and if I could, I would write that in flashing neon letters. THE ART OF LOSING was finally due to be unleashed upon the world on Thursday 5th March. I had been inking up to the date on my calendar for the past year – and that’s the first difference. Think nine months is a long gestation period? Try twelve… in fact, try thirty, because that’s approximately how long ago I started the novel. Imagine this scene in the doctor’s surgery:
“Madam, I’m delighted to tell you that you are pregnant. Unfortunately, um, I can’t tell you when the due date is. There might not even be one. Just keep the faith and see what happens.” Luckily for me, Fourth Estate gathered my as yet unborn baby to their figurative bosom and bestowed a due date of Spring 2009 upon me. The exact date itself kept changing, right up until a couple of months before publication. I lost count of the number of times I had to scrub out the hearts, stars and flowers with which I excitedly adorned the significant date. In the end I gave up and just went with the flow.

Then there was the question of what to expect on the date itself. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d vaguely envisaged floodgates opening overnight - papers being crammed full of reviews of my book, bookshop tables piled high with gleaming copies. The truth, as I have gradually grown to realise, is rather more complex. Last Saturday (the 28th Feb) I took a stroll into Borders on Oxford Street… just to have a look, you understand… and lo and behold, there on the shelf sat a couple of copies of THE ART OF LOSING, for all the world as if they had always been there. It was too early! “Madam, your baby is premature – we need to get you into the hospital quick-smart. But bear in mind that you’ll probably have to come back again next week, and the week after that…” You see, what I have realised is that book-sellers care little for those red-ringed dates that we cherish so dearly. They may get their stock in weeks early or late, and it’s up to them when they choose to display it. As to how prominently they do so, that also depends on many things and may well change over the course of the next few weeks as a result of publicity, reviews – anything that the sales reps can use to convince them that the book is worth displaying. There is no grand “birthing” – like much else in publishing, this is a gradual and often slow process.

So what did happen yesterday? I got some lovely messages from my agent and editor. I got taken out for lunch by my delightful husband and given flowers and a card. I got to see my Amazon ranking leaping like a salmon when I sent the “green light” email out to my contacts list. All in all, it was a good day. On Saturday, I’m having a little launch do too. Just to wet the baby’s head, you understand. And I’m not selfish – I don’t plan on keeping my baby all to myself. In fact, if you fancy a piece of the action, it’s on sale at £12.99 from your local book-store now…

22 comments:

Samantha Tonge said...

fI would say another main difference is that you are earning money from it, rather than it costing you thousands!!

Also, i am fiercely protective and immensely proud of both my children, whereas sometimes with my novel i think ugh, did i really create that!!

Great post and congrats again for yesterday.

CarolineG said...

Many congratulations, Becky, and hope any subsequent lack of sleep is only because of celebrations (to, er continue the metaphor).

Katy said...

Congratulations! And many thanks for a wonderful post too.

In the wonderful spirit of terrible timing, I was in the process of splitting up with my ex on my publication date, and most likely spent the day itself up a ladder painting and muttering swear words.

Gillian McDade said...

This post made me smile Becky! Congrats to you - I'm sure you're thrilled that all the hard work has finally paid off.
Just look forward to it earning you money, rather than costing you an average of £14,000 as a child apparently does ;)

Kate Long said...

Congratulations! Great title, too.

Rebecca Connell said...

Thanks all! Yes, there really are millions of ways in which books aren't like babies ;-) Any more for any more?!

Katy, that doesn't sound good - I suppose at least publication gave your cloud a silver lining...

Lucy Diamond said...

Congrats! Having gone through both kinds of 'birth' myself, I'm still not sure which is the more painful...

Rosyb said...

My publication day was a total washout as ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED AT ALL and Amazon didn't release it til midnight or something so I was wringing my hands anxiously all day too. :) It was also Valentine's Day so I managed to have a tremendous row with my boyfriend just to round it off nicely.

But my publishers threw a great launch the following week which was brilliant and very kind of them and more than made up for it.

But, you're right Becky, that the whole process is fits and starts a little like writing and submitting and all the rest of it. Things happen all at once and then nothing for a while and then trickles of this or that. And you sit and brood over Amazon rankings and take an advanced Maths degree in order to and work out the famously mysterious algorithm and and and...

But CONGRATULATIONS Becky! Lots of luck from here on in too.

Sam - this made me laugh:
"Also, i am fiercely protective and immensely proud of both my children, whereas sometimes with my novel i think ugh, did i really create that!!"

Better that way round eh? :O

Rosy T said...

Just wanted to add my congratulations here, Becky. Enjoy every moment!

Samantha Tonge said...

Quite, Rosyb:)

I've always wondered whether the actual publication day can be something of an anti-climax. I can't imagine it so!

Aren't you all doing well at the mo.

x

Phillipa said...

Congratulations Becky!

Geraldine Ryan said...

Glad you busted that myth, Becky. It was about time! I don't remember anything special happening on the publication day of either of the teen novels I wrote either.

The god thing about writing short stories is you get a lot more publication days. I've had two this week!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Hoorah, Becky - and huge congratulations! You have breathed new life into the old metaphor - loved it. May your baby grow and flourish.
Susiex

Rebecca Connell said...

Many thanks for the congrats!

Rosy, sorry yours was a little fraught! - but your launch will live on in my memory forever ;-)

And I must admit that I haven't gone through the more traditional birthing process yet, so I can't strictly comment on that from a comparative point of view...

Laurie Paulsen said...

woop! congratulations, rebecca! this is a BIG deal, and i'm happy for you both for the official publication of your book and because you have peeps showering you with attention and praise for it. as it should be. :D

Caroline R said...

Congratulations, Becky!

Another reason why books aren't like babies is that a baby develops without you really having to do anything except get pregnant, and (these days, anyway) it's going to come out one way or another whether you like it or not. A book relies on you putting every word on the page yourself - like constructing a baby cell by cell and making sure everything is in the right place!

Samantha Tonge said...

But both creations need practice...

Ahem, oh dear - i can feel this thread degenerating;)

Sarah Fox said...

Congratulations, Becky. Have a lovely weekend.

Rebecca Connell said...

Thanks again! Had my (v informal) launch party yesterday which was lots of fun, and I've now got six vases of flowers standing around the house!!

Sam, which kind of practicing feels more like a chore for you, though, that's the question?! - ahem.

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