I recently had dinner with some friends, and the topic of my book came up. This is a thing now – the book enters conversations in much the same way as a new boyfriend might. Or, like, a baby. “How’s the book?” I’m asked, and it’s funny, because I’m not really sure what kind of an answer it’s supposed to elicit. But, anyway. This time I was asked a very specific question, and I thought the answer might make a good blog post.
The question was as follows: “So, the book’s been out for a month now. What’s been the best part of the journey, and what’s been the worst?”
Now, let me tell you – if I was KJ Micciche of four years ago, the girl who’d just finished writing her very first manuscript and was beginning to query it to agents, I would have loved to know what authors thought about being “on the other side.” It’s so elusive. And so it’s with those people in mind, my striving writing cohort, that I aim to share (as transparently as possible) the answer to these heavily loaded questions.
Question 1: The Best Parts of this Journey
Hands down, I can easily say that getting to know my literary agent has been one of the most gratifying pieces of the past three years. Finding an agent is so difficult, and it’s impossible to know if you’re going to gel with that person. I was in a really unique situation when I was looking for my agent; because I was enrolled in an MFA program and writing was brand new to me, I’d completed a manuscript, but did not have the luxury of basking in the glow of that accomplishment. Because I had to keep producing new work, I developed four distinct works that ended up being points of conversation between myself and Elizabeth Copps. In fact, I had what I thought was going to be “the call” with her back in May 2021, but she didn’t sign me until four months after that. I don’t know of many agent-client relationships that begin with such a lengthy querying process. We talked about three of my four different projects, amounting to several emails spanning about 18 months before she signed me. Now, I realize that to most authors starting out, that probably sounds like a nightmare, but the upside is that by the time she signed me, we already had a genuine rapport. I felt comfortable asking her questions, hearing her feedback (including critical feedback), and I got a sense of how she communicated. All to say, I knew what I was signing up for when I signed with Elizabeth.
Fast forward to the release of The Book Proposal – I’m now so close to my agent that she traveled to New York from her hometown in Colorado to be at several of my launch week events. She came to my house, met my family, and was every bit as lovely in person as she had been over email and on the phone for the past three years.
So, it should come as no surprise when I say that the best part of this journey was finding a literary agent who is the exact right person for me. Many authors are not so lucky. I know I gush about my agent a lot, but believe me when I tell you that having an agent who you respect, admire, and trust makes all the difference. Because it does. Especially when you have to deal with some of the not-so-fun parts of the journey.
But, before I get to that, there have been other fabulous moments I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention.
- Getting a Publishers Weekly starred review: That was incredible. Some authors have entire careers without ever getting a review like that, so to have a trade review speak about my book so kindly and call me a “writer to watch” was a pretty surreal experience.
- Similarly, being designated a Library Journal Debut of the Month was pretty spectacular. I think some newbie authors forget how genuinely important libraries are at getting your book in the hands of readers. And those copies are not free! Libraries pay to stock your book, and often they carry multiple formats: e-books, audiobooks, sometimes even large print, just so readers can have access to your work. I believe that as a debut author, I was extremely blessed to garner the attention of Library Journal. In my on-sale week, almost half of the copies I sold were to libraries.
- Having a launch party that not only allowed me to meet an insanely funny comedian, but also raised money for a great cause. It’s true – there are very few moments in your life when all the people you know gather because of you. Think about that for a moment. Weddings? Funerals? Maybe a baby shower? We don’t often celebrate the good things in life, and my book launch party at the Brokerage will definitely go down as one of the top-five most memorable days I’ve ever had. It was a ton of work, but it was totally worth it.
- Meeting other incredible authors. That’s been a huge perk of this whole ride. In fact, I’ve even been blessed to befriend several of them. (Ahem, looking at you, Kristan!) Authors who have been in the game for way longer than I have, who have fabulous insights and advice about the industry, writing, and more, have welcomed me into their fold with kindness and warmth, and to those authors, I am endlessly grateful.
- Events! My launch party was – as advertised – a party, but I’ve had events with readers since then, and that’s been truly delightful! People who come out to talk about the book are so lovely and interesting, and as nervous as it makes me to talk to new people, I have honestly loved these events. I think my favorite one so far was with the NYC Book Hoes, who hosted me at an awesome venue (a bar in Brooklyn called 66 Greenpoint), asked really thought-provoking questions, and had a fun, chill vibe. I’m excited to hang out with them again in the future. I still have more events coming up this month and next – one in Portland, Maine in a few days and then three on the Cape with Kristan Higgins, and I’m looking forward to every single one of them.
Question 2: The Worst Parts of this Journey
There are some universal things that I think other authors would agree with me for saying here, and they all classify nicely into the “things I wish I really knew about before I published a book.”
- Social media. I am still super uncomfortable with all of it. For the life of me, I’m trying to develop muscles for it, particularly Instagram, but it’s been challenging. For one thing, it’s a whole new level of creativity that I didn’t know I would need. Also, I won’t put pictures of my kids online, so I’m not left with a whole lot of interesting content. Perhaps most importantly, social media cuts into my writing time, and there is nothing I hate more than being unproductive. So, I’m learning how to navigate it and balance it with the other pieces of my life. I knew that all of my favorite authors had a decent presence on social media, I just didn’t know I would need one, too, or how much of my time it would consume.
- Goodreads/reviews. There is a reason that authors are told to seek therapy after publishing a novel. It’s a real treat to read people’s thoughts on how awful your writing is, or how your book was such an abomination that they couldn’t stand to finish it. It takes a lot of mental and emotional training to handle the Goodreads roller-coaster. I didn’t realize how hard that was going to be for me, but on the up side, I do feel like I’ve turned a corner. For a long time, I couldn’t look at Goodreads at all. Now, I can mine it for information and statistics, so I’m happy that it exists. But my change of heart came after many sleepless nights and panic attacks, so if you’re an author just starting out, feel free to contact me for a Goodreads pep talk when the time comes. (See “Meeting other incredible authors” under the “Best Parts of the Journey” section of this essay. Had it not been for their pep talks, I would continue to be a full-on disaster.)
- Being exhausted. Throughout the publication process, I’ve also been tasked with running a non-profit organization (read: having a full time day job) and also with being a mom and a wife. These are not easy tasks in general, but when you’re moonlighting as an author, they become even harder. I like to give 100% of myself to everything I do, so when the plate is too full, I begin to feel guilty all the time, in every situation, because I just physically can’t do all the things I want to. There is zero shame in asking for help, but certain things I have to do myself (you know, like writing) so it can be challenging when I have to compromise sleep or day-job work in exchange for something non-negotiable, like being a mom.
Case in point: The week before my novel came out, my younger daughter was scheduled to go away on a four day, three night class trip to a sleepaway camp that is owned by the school. When my older daughter went on this same trip two years ago, I attended as a chaperone. So, naturally, I planned to chaperone my little one’s trip as well. And she needed me there: she’s been having night terrors that often lead to vomiting episodes. So, sure, I was T-minus 10 days away from being a published author, with a launch week that consisted of 6 events in 5 days, but first, I had to show up and be a mom, because if my kids aren’t okay, then really, nothing else matters.
So, there I was, away in the mountains with shitty cell service and very little time to work – and, I almost forgot to mention – I had a May 10th deadline for the developmental edits for book 2. Yup, that’s right: I’m in New Hampshire on this class trip from May 3rd to May 6th, with edits due May 10th, a book coming out on May 16th, and a day job that I’m completely ignoring while I try to muddle through it all. I ended up crying on that trip, more than once. And I’m not the crying type. I just felt so stressed and overwhelmed that I broke, twice, both times in front of strangers (thankfully, never in front of my daughter).
Definitely a low point on this journey.
But, it’s a learning process – all of it – and I think that as I move towards my second and third books, I will find ways to manage all the things I don’t like and amplify the things that I do.
I will say, I’ve enjoyed having a blog. When I started this website, I figured if it was going to have a blog component, it would be great if I wrote about all the things I wish someone had told me along the way. So, that’s what I try to do here. I think one day, I’ll look back on the blog with just as much fondness as the novels I write. After all, this is a story, too. The only difference is, this story’s real. ♥