Back in January I shared the photo of a gold letterpressed drawing of two pears on Instagram. They were sketched by Cat Grishaver, the illustrator and designer who took the words I wrote and turned them into a living, breathing book. This permanent piece of art is one of the ways I've chosen to mark this sweet milestone because, as predicted, publishing a book is indeed a season. It's worth relishing and devoting ourselves to, but then, like autumn leaves turning from green to crimson, they fall to piles.
But let's stop time for just a day and talk about how exactly one year ago, my first book was published! Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was born on March 21, 2017. It's one! Should we throw a party? Maybe. But I'm usually pretty reflective on my birthdays (evidence here), so I thought I'd reminisce about some of the lessons I've learned this past year.
6 Lessons From a Book's First Year
01 | Prepare for a low-key publication day
Before a book comes out (and especially in the final stretch) it feels like nothing else can possibly be as important. There's a lot to do on the marketing front. I was drafting guest posts, pitching stories to websites, creating Instagram images for National Poetry Month, and making travel arrangements for places like Seattle, Michigan, and Brooklyn.
When the 21st arrived it was sort of ... quiet. It makes sense now because even if lots of people pre-order your book, it might not arrive until later in the day, and they won't be able to read it until the weekend, say. A lot of the fun fanfare when you actually see your book in the world comes a few days later after packages are delivered.
That Tuesday morning I went to work like usual, but refreshed my Amazon page most of the day to check the rankings. I may have stopped for donuts in the morning. I may have received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my publisher. But it wasn't the kind of day that felt like a parade. Instead, it felt very heart-centered. I just wanted to journal and take in the moment, especially since it had been five years in the making.
02 | The emotional roller coaster is open for rides
Emotions run high. They're mostly good ones, but days can really bring highs and lows. There's the adrenaline rush of the first couple of weeks of publication and seeing all your efforts happening in the form of social media posts and reviews popping up on Amazon. Then you go to sleep and wake up feeling totally exhausted. This continues for months.
03 | 'Tis the season
As I mentioned, publication is merely a season on the long writer's path. This wasn't a lesson I needed to learn because I anticipated it wholeheartedly, however, when you're in it, you have to do everything you can to embrace the experience and help your book catch flight. Then you have to put your head down and start writing again.
04 | Keep talking
One of the fears I had (and I've heard this refrain from other writers) is that people will get tired of hearing about your book. Maybe some of them will (especially if they follow you everywhere), but studies have shown that people need to hear about something at least seven times before they buy, so there's no shame in telling people about the book you wrote, as long as it's not all day, every day.
05 | Ask, ask, and ask again
Getting Amazon reviews is hard. Even if you have a team of people who fully committed to helping you spread the word, it'll still be hard to get them to write reviews. This isn't true for everyone, but I found myself having to remind various groups of people more than once, and I was afraid of sounding like a broken record or a desperate first-time author (see above). I eventually hit the 50 reviews I'd hoped for, but it took months, not days.
06 | Your parents = your marketing team
My dad has bought and given away a lot of my books. So many, that Amazon flagged his account and didn't let him post the 5-star review he drafted. Never underestimate their reach.
I'm still blogging here, and have a few Eat This Poem events planned for later this year. But the big news to share is I'm writing another book! You can read a bit more about it here, but come 2019, I'll be doing this all over again. And no, it's not a cookbook! It's a book about embracing the ever-changing creative seasons. It's everything I've been living, preaching, and guiding fellow writers through over the past few years, and I'm so excited for you to read it. It's called Wild Words: Routines, Rituals, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer's Path, and I'm deep into the first draft right now.
So, over to you. If you've published a book of your own, did anything surprise you about the process? I'd love to hear!