Well, whoopy-ding-dong-doody for me (wow, haven’t said that for thirty years.)
My friends and family have made it clear they think it’s rude for me to complain about anything connected to getting a book published since the very fact that I get books published means I’m luckier than most, and any subsequent complaining makes me look like an ingrate and a gloater.
Can’t I complain just a little bit? If I promise to keep it short?
Look, I know how lucky I am. I’m not arguing that at all. It’s just . . . publishing a book is not always as perfectly wonderful as you hope and dream it will be.
Here’s the dream:
It’s publication day! And as you dance from one promotional event to another, you discover that the book has debuted at number 9 on (a fictional constantly updated version of ) The New York Times bestseller list. Someone stops you on the street because he recognizes your picture from the book’s cover and then you stop someone on the street because she’s carrying a copy of your book and you just can’t resist asking her if she likes it or not. Of course, when she realize you’re the author, she screams with excitement, which brings an enthusiastic crowd to throng around you.
Every major newspaper runs a feature story that day about how you manage to juggle a challenging home life (four kids! two dogs and a cat! twenty loads of laundry a week!) with churning out books that are simultaneously critically acclaimed and hugely popular.
Your agent and your editor are of course devoting themselves to you because it’s your Publication Day. They call you every few hours, and make sure you know that within a few hours of its release, your book jumped up to number 5 on the New York Times bestseller list.
The TV and radio requests have been pouring in. You’ve sorted through them and decided to only do the ones that interest you. Oprah, of course. NPR because they’re so classy. Nothing on Fox News.
When you pick up your kids at school later that day, the teachers and the other parents fawn on you in a nice way. Yes, you’re wildly famous–your book is now number 2 on the New York Times bestseller list–but you put being a mother first, and they respect you for that. Your kids are excited because it’s such a big day for the whole family: Publication Day! The day Mommy’s in the newspaper and on TV! As you drive home, you see displays of your book in every shop window. Not just the bookstores. Every shop.
Despite your incredibly large advance, the royalties start pouring in later that day and the book goes back to print several times that afternoon, because the first run of 100,000 sold out within hours. By 8 o’clock that night, it’s number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and later Leno and Conan make jokes about its meteoric rise in their show monologues. On the national news they say that no book has ever sold so many copies, so fast. This day will live forever in history.
You go to sleep exhausted but content and ready to start work on your next huge bestseller in the morning.
Okay, I admit that even for a dream that’s over the top.
And just to be clear: I no more expect to ever be on the New York Times bestseller list than I expect to wake up one morning looking like Heidi Klum.
So I don’t really expect anything like that to happen. But why do publication days have to be SO anticlimactic? I don’t need Oprah–but maybe a phone call from someone saying congratulations? Anyone?
I just had a publication day. That’s what got me thinking about all this. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that the non-fiction book I co-wrote with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel of the Koegel Autism Center at UCSB was officially published on March 19–last Thursday.
And do you know what kind of a day that was for me?
An utterly normal, uninteresting, unremarkable day. Oh, wait–not entirely. I did go to see “Watchmen” in the afternoon so that was kind of unusual. But as far as “the big day of publishing” went? Nada. It was all quiet on the western front. Somewhere, I suppose a bookstore employee was putting some copies on a shelf. And I guess some button at Amazon got virtually pushed, changing “available for pre-order” to “in stock.”
Otherwise . . . silence. Nothing. Tumbleweeds and crickets.
This is the way the book gets published, folks–not with a bang or even a whimper. Just a quiet that you only notice if you were hoping for not quiet.
Anyone out there?