Sunday, March 31, 2013

The higher you get the farther the fall

By: Joelle Charbonneau

The last couple of days have been a bit surreal.  On Friday, the trailer my publisher created for THE TESTING was revealed on  Um…wow!  (Entertainment Weekly?  I mean, that’s just…yikes.  I don’t even have words to describe how stunned I was to learn that was happening.  In addition to the trailer, the website, went live and the e-book prequel has been released.   I’ve also had bracelets that say THE TESTING delivered to my door as well as a glimpse of all sorts of other cool stuff the PR and Marketing teams are planning for the release on June 4th.

To say I am delighted is an understatement.  To say I am scared is even more of one.

 Every book that publishes brings worry and angst.  Will readers like the book?  Will they hate it?  Will anyone ever want to read anything by me again?  This Tuesday, END ME A TENOR (Glee Club Mystery #2) will hit bookstore selves and I am gnawing my fingernails off as I wait to hear if readers once again connect with my heroine Paige and her colorful supporting cast.

But those nerves don’t compare to the ones that I feel when I think about The Testing launch. 

I am scared. 

I love my publisher.  I love this trilogy of books.  I did my utmost to write the best stories I could and am so fortunate that my editor and everyone at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt believe in this series with such incredible passion.  It is an author’s dream.

But as wonderful as it is, I am scared. 

Getting a book published was my first dream as a writer.  I wanted to see my name on a book.  I wanted to see that book on the shelf of a store or in a library or even more exciting in the hands of a reader sitting on a park bench somewhere.  My second goal as an author was to make a moderate career out of it.  Maybe be able to publish two books a year.  To make a financial contribution to our family with my writing and maybe…just maybe hang around as a midlist author for a while. 

My expectations as an author weren’t huge.  I wanted them to be realistic.  And in many ways they were one important thing –safe. 

Each time a book is read by a reader, authors put a piece of themselves on the line.  And in the age of social media and blogs where everyone says anything they feel, authors (whether they want to or not) are forced to see and face the reaction of those readers.  The more notice a book gets, the more push by the publisher and buzz it receives the more vocal readers are.  And people often forget that their words can bring the highest of highs with their praise or feel like attacks and bring an author down low.

With the release of the trailer of The Testing, I have gotten a small glimpse of what might be coming.  The first comment on was someone who was angry that the author quote on the cover said readers of Hunger Games would like it.  On facebook, I watched my friends post the link to the trailer only to have their friends say that I had clearly ripped off other books and that I probably didn’t deserve to be published.

And the ride is just beginning.

I don’t want anyone to think this post is about wanting sympathy or pats on the back or even a hug.  (Although I like hugs.  I wouldn’t turn one down!)  I am the luckiest girl ever to have this opportunity and to have the full weight of a publishing team behind me.  No, this isn’t about feeling sad or unhappy or wanting people to be nice to me.  (Again…I like when people are nice, but I can take my licks like anyone else and get up to fight again.)  This is a post I needed to write because I have now seen several sides of publishing and am continuing to learn how to deal with the aspects I have seen.

As authors, we often talk about the choices we need to make for our careers.  We discuss whether we want to self-publish, traditionally publish, have an agent, control every aspect of our book or search for channels to aid us in publication.  People discuss how to find readers and promote their titles.  There are lots of discussions about monetary compensation for authors.  How much should a book cost?  How much should an author hope to make?  How much should authors spend on promotion?  What are the best books for editing?  What is the best method to improving our craft?

But something I have realized more and more as the release of The Testing grows closer is that as authors we often forget to talk about the emotional cost that comes with publishing a book.  It’s natural for us to want people to like the work we have done.  Clearly, we did or we wouldn’t have written the story.  But while we want people to like what we have written, there will always be those who do not.  Some will love what we have created.  Others will attack it from every side.  And the higher and bigger the release, the more those attacks will come.

So while an author needs to improve their craft and learn the business, one of the most important things perhaps an author can do is develop a very thick skin and the ability to turn off Google Alerts.  Ego is often a dirty word, but an author needs one every time a book is released.  Rejection is hard at any point in a career.  If this is going to be your career…if this is going to really be mine for the long haul…building armor against the naysayers is perhaps the most important thing that can be done.

I loved writing The Testing.  I love my publisher for believing in it.  I loved watching the trailer…it’s pretty darn cool.  And in the months ahead, I will prepare myself for this interesting and incredibly fortunate turn that my career has taken.  The book could succeed.  The book could fail.  But I will grow the armor I need to appreciate every moment of the ride.

And if I’m really, really lucky, there will be readers who will enjoy it with me.  


Marilyn Brant said...

Wise words, Joelle!
This is a really, really tough industry -- emotionally more than anything else. I've come to realize that the only way for me to handle the ups and downs is to know, very clearly, who's really in my corner and to be grateful for those who'll genuinely celebrate with me...or who'll be there when I need a hug...
FWIW, I thought The Testing trailer was awesome, and I wish you all the best for the book launch!!

Blythe Gifford said...

Ah, a testing of your own, so to speak. Wise words indeed. And better to have come at this point in your career rather than with the first book. While that doesn't make it "easier," you are fortunate to have several books worth of perspective. This business is not for wimps.
(It's Hug a Medievalist Day, but you can have one of mine!)

Kathryn Craft said...

Loved the trailer, Joellle! It's fun to watch your journey from my position way behind you on the highway. Love these glimpses into your emotional reality, so thank you!

(...and hi Marilyn!)

John McFetridge said...

Yeah, you really have to believe in what you write.

And sometimes peoples' first reaction isn't how they feel later, once they've let it sink in. Sometimes really good books say things that people don't like to hear and it takes a while to digest, as they say.

Jay Stringer said...

The Testing is a great book. So even if people go in thinking "Hunger Games," because thats the current 'thing,' they'll come out thinking just about The Testing.

I've found learning how to deal with reviews....interesting.

On the day that RUNAWAY TOWN came out I had a five star and a one star review in the space of a few minutes. I think I've learned that often the one star reviews are simply because it's not that persons kind of book. And thats fine. I can take a 'bad' review if it's a review that still confirms I wrote the book I set out to. And I can take one if it has thought-out and valid criticisms.

Seems that some of what you're talking about though is negative comments based purely on what they THINK the book is going to be. And that would probably drive me nuts.

Ah well. It's great, so tell 'em I said so.

Devon Ellington said...

A thick skin is important.

All you can do is write the book of your heart, the book you want and love to write, and work your butt off to make sure people know about it. You are lucky enough to have a publisher who partners with you in that, instead of who expects the author to do everything on his own.

No matter how good you are, or how hard you work, not everyone will love you. Sometimes people just don't mesh; sometimes, they lash out because of jealousy or envy, either wondering why you and not them, or, what often happens, is that people who hate their lives but don't have the courage to change them try to punish those of us who have the guts to do what we love and go after it and make it work.

There will be people who want stuff from you, people who genuinely admire you and your work, and people who just like you for you.

It's a huge toll, but you're already ahead of the game because of the support from your publisher. And because you're assembling a group of people -- some other writers, some readers -- who will have your back, to whom you can vent on the bad days and celebrate the good days.

There is a huge emotional price -- comes with the gig. As long as you're active rather than reactive, you'll be fine!

All the best!

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Donnell Ann Bell said...

Joelle, sorry I'm late for this blog post. You don't want a hug or a pat on the bag, well, okay. Every author, every artist since the beginning of time has faced criticism. If you were that safe midlist author some would say, hey she only made it as far as the midlist, when I submit it's damn hard to write a book in the first place. You have written more in 18 months than many have in a lifetime, so chin up. There is an emotional cost to writing. But I know you, and the incredible strength that's within you. I know you won't let the naysayers take away your joy. You have earned it. Go get 'em.