9 Things I Learned My Debut Year

So Survival Colony 9 is here! Hallelujah!SC9 Cover medium

Here, in no particular order, are 9 things I’ve learned during this exhilarating, exhausting, extraordinary year.

  1. Hang on to your ARCs. No sooner will your ARCs arrive than people will appear out of nowhere asking you for them. Do not give an ARC to these people. They will not read it, review it, blog about it, mention it. Apparently, they want it only to prop up furniture.
  1. Stay off Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I checked my number of adds, my rankings, and all that stuff obsessively in the months leading up to my book’s release. The end result was: anxiety. There is simply no way for you to know how well your book is selling before it releases. And no very good way to know afterward.
  1. The YA writers’ community is wonderful. Really. These people are great. They’ll tweet you, support you, buck you up when you’re down, interview you, host you, congratulate you, console you, and otherwise make your debut year not only bearable but remarkable. If there’s a dark side to this community—backstabbers, cutthroats, wolves in sheep’s clothing—I haven’t seen it. Be thankful to belong to such a community, and do your part to keep it that way.
  1. Ask for help. From your agent, your editor, your friends, your colleagues, your family, your doctor, your mail carrier, your whoever. Most people will happily grant it. This year will be a roller-coaster, and you shouldn’t ride it alone.
  1. Don’t worry about negative reviews. In the big scheme of things, they’re meaningless. (In fact, any review, no matter how horrible, helps publicize your book.) You became a writer because you wanted to write. Negative reviews don’t stop you from doing that. Ignore them, and write on.
  1. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Print publishing is dead. Only self-pubbed authors make it big. Agents insist that you have 10,000 Twitter followers before they’ll deign to read your manuscript. Never start your book with a character waking up. I’ve read all these “truths” (and then some) online, and all of them are complete and utter garbage.
  1. There is nothing better than holding your own book in your hands. Well, other than holding your baby. Or saving someone’s life. Or gathering with your family. Or watching the home team win the World Series. Or staring into your partner’s eyes. Or lots of other things. But it’s still pretty great.
  1. Try to talk about something else for a change. Your spouse, your children, your family, your friends will be thrilled about your upcoming novel. But they will soon tire if it’s your only topic of conversation. Every so often, you might want to discuss politics, or religion, or armadillos, or screwdrivers. And you might want to listen when other people want to talk about such things too.
  1. Marketing is your friend. Marketing is your enemy. You really do need to self-promote if you want your book to be read. But as with just about everything, there’s a point of diminishing returns to marketing, and you have reached that point when you find yourself walking a tightrope in Times Square wearing only a thong with the contents of your book tattooed over your entire body. And when you haven’t written a word in two months because you were too busy down at the tattoo parlor.

Trust me. I’ve been there.

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since age eight (though his first few were admittedly very short). His debut YA science fiction novel SURVIVAL COLONY NINE was published on September 23, 2014 (that’s today!) by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Josh likes (in no particular order) gorillas, frogs, monsters, and human beings.
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