Publishing a Book: 3 Very Different Experiences

Publishing a Book 3 Very Different Experiences, Lela Davidson
 

This is the story of three very different books. The process of publishing a book can be thrilling, disheartening, empowering, and everything in between. My three books are very similar to the reader, but the difference in what Blacklisted from the PTA, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? and Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life have meant to me is striking.

The first book is thrilling. It's your baby, your supreme accomplishment, and your delusion. Despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite your absolute insistence that you have not fallen prey to literary fantasy, you believe that you will soon find yourself on the Today Show, laughing with Matt and Savannah about that especially endearing anecdote on page 42. You think the cash flow from book sales will soon cover not only the new housekeeper, but also the new house. Not right away, but you know, eventually.

Publishing your first book is the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to you. (Unless you are a mother and then you're supposed to say it was giving birth. But let's be honest, that's just hard and you really don't get any return on investment until your baby turns three or four, at the earliest.) So you spend an inordinate amount of time focused on the celebrity aspect of authoring, versus the authoring aspect of authoring. But the whole writing words is actually super important if you hope to ever produce the elusive second book.

Somehow you manage to pull yourself away from your intoxicating affair with your first book and get busy writing the second. You will undoubtedly believe the second book is better than the first, and it will be better because you have thousands more hours of writing experience than you did when you created your first book. So you hustle and get that second title out as quickly as possible because Amazon has algorithms and your tentative celebrity status has a shelf life. You launch the second book into the world expecting the same reception as the first. Nay, expecting an even more enthusiastic reception, because, see above-- this book is better than the first. Except that all those friends and family who could hardly believe you actually published one book, have now become accustomed to your newfound lot in life: Author. Therefore, they no longer think it's a very big deal that you have produced a second book. That is, after all, what authors do. In the span of 18 months your adoring public has gone from fawning over your incredible accomplishment to yawning over your excessive Facebook posts.

It's not like your sophomore effort is a failure, it sells more in 6 months than the average book sells in its lifetime. Its LIFETIME. Number two continues to be a steady seller, inspiring smirks and smiles around the world. But relatively speaking, it's really only about half as successful as your first book. Do you know who is incredibly unimpressed by half as successful? Agents. Talk show bookers. Publishers who drink their coffee in Manhattan. Those sorts of people.

Still, you cling to your ambitions. While working a full time job, you flesh out a project you'd been playing with. You write, edit, polish, and learn new skills to produce your... wait for it-- BEST work yet.

This time, however, is different. This time you're non-delusional. This time-- it's business.

Even though you don't have nearly the time you'd like to promote the book and reach new readers, you make better choices about how to spend the time you do have. After all, this is your third time out. You didn't get here without learning what is going to, as we say in the day job, "move the needle" and what's going to be a wasted effort of your ever more precious time. You hustle and hope, and remember that you do not actually run the world.

And then the most delightful thing happens. Your third book has the most successful online launch in your long (4 year) history as an Author with a capital "A." Just for a minute it's not business anymore. This book has become the pure bliss of your first time around, without the silliness and misdirected fantasies of that giddy time. This time you know exactly where you're going with all this. You've got strategy. You've got an end game. Once you figure that out, it's all just play.

This art and commerce gig is tricky. Sometimes you're focused on the art, other times the commerce. What I've learned from the third book is that focusing on the commerce forces you to refine the art, to make decisions about how you're going to serve the audience, and more than anything else-- to ask for what you want. No one's going to give it to you. That's business.