William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is my first book. (I like saying that, because it implies there will be others.) I’ve learned all kinds of things about the publishing world in the last year, but in these last weeks before publication a few lessons have come clearly to the forefront. Here’s what this first-time author has learned:
1. Don’t Read the Reviews (But Read the Reviews)
You’ve written this book, and now—surprise!—people are actually reading it. And then—double surprise!!—they have their own opinions about it. Virtuous authors, and probably the wisest, do not read their reviews. Or, they find a trusted person to comb through the reviews and read the nice ones aloud. As a first-time author, I confess to having a hard time not reading the reviews. (So far so good—no one has yet called me an utter jerk failure.) I find it’s easier to read the bad reviews than I would have guessed, and not as satisfying to read the good ones as I might have hoped. My advice: don’t read the reviews. Or try really hard not to. Then forgive yourself if you do. That is all.
2. I’m Still Dad
I have two sons, old enough to love Star Wars and young enough to be too young for Shakespeare. They’re thrilled about this book, and my oldest son in particular tells everyone he can—even complete strangers—about his dad’s book. When push comes to shove, though, I’m still dad before anything else. Publishing a book does not change the fact that laundry has to be folded, dishes have to be cleaned, kids’ futures have to be worried over, and so on. And although both boys carry around their copies of my book like trophies, neither of them will hesitate to cry bloody murder in their author father’s face if he threatens to take away their dessert because they didn’t eat their broccoli.
3. Your Family and Friends Will Want Signed Copies
This was one of the weirdest things to me. Why would people who know you and can see you any time they like want your signature? My parents, for example, demanded a signed copy of my book. I’m thinking, “I’ve been your son for almost 36 years. You gave me life, you helped me learn to write, you’ve seen me fail and succeed, and now you want my autograph?” It felt more appropriate to give them a kidney or something. But they are as excited as I am, so what I’ve learned is just to man up and sign the thing, strange or not. If nothing else, they can eventually sell the book on eBay to some other couple named Beth and Bob.
4. Your Publisher Can Make or Break Your Experience
I had to add this one, and I promise I’m not being paid to do it. Everyone at Quirk Books has been friggin’ amazing from start to (nearly) finish, and that fact alone makes me realize just how badly it would stink if I had a publisher who wasn’t supportive, friendly, and fun. As a first-time author, I must drive the staff of Quirk to drink with my nerves, my questions, my general ignorance. Quirk is not only publishing my book, they’re holding my hand through the process like a parent teaching a child to walk. Good times. (Ed. note: We did not bribe him to write this! And the feeling is—obviously—mutual).
Writing a book and having it published is great fun. Really. I hope you will try it sometime, and find out what surprises you most.