Today I’m thrilled to welcome Meg Eden to the hot seat! She is the author of the novel “Post-High School Reality Quest” (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection “Drowning in the Floating World” (2020). Welcome, Meg!
I’ve asked Meg to look back and give her Baby Author Self some advice on the publishing and writing process. What does she wish she knew? What would she tell to authors who are just starting out? Over to you, Meg. Oh…and can you even handle how cute this childhood pic of Meg is? I can’t!
Book Promo and Writing After the “First Book”:
It’s easy to get tangled up in book promo, to excitedly send out queries and fall down the research rabbit hole of what kind of new events or activities might be possible. But remember to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. So much of book promo is throwing yourself out there and hoping for the best. There is only so much you can really do. After you’ve done your part, all you can do is wait, and check in if you don’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time. Instead of constantly refreshing your email or checking social media every five minutes, focus on the next draft. Restrict admin work like book promo to specific days. Set timers. Set writing goals, and write.
Social media is over-rated. Stop comparing your life to all your Instagram friends. You don’t know the story behind the photos. Just because so-and-so is a NYT bestseller doesn’t mean they didn’t go through years of struggle to get there. Everyone’s writing journey is different. Trying to say you’re “failing” at this writing gig compared to so-and-so is like comparing apples and oranges. You both have important stories to tell. Again, see the “writing after the first book” point. Don’t linger on what you can’t control. Focus on what you can, aka, writing.
Also, get your husband to set up social media locks. It’ll do wonders for your mental health.
Friends / Family:
Even though you have some awesome people supporting your work, they have lives outside of your book. Just because you don’t see them every time you do or post something doesn’t mean they don’t care. You have the hyper-focus and memory of a goldfish, and sometimes lose sight of all the support in the chaos of debuting. Do whatever you need to to remind yourself how many people have your back and have helped you get where you are today. Maybe start working on that acknowledgements page. Once you start writing out how everyone’s supported you, it can help get everything into perspective.
Announcements and Algorithms:
Social media algorithms mean people don’t always know what you’re doing. Don’t assume that just because people are following you that they hear about everything that you’re posting. Proof of this: your cousin just messaged me maybe a month ago, saying he had no idea your book was out and he was going to get it immediately. That’s 2 years after debuting. So don’t get mopey if only 20 of your Facebook friends like a thing or Aunt Leslie never likes any of your book posts. Stop caring about how many likes you get, anyway. It’s not going to make your book a better book.
If you want to make sure someone specific knows about a thing, do it the old fashioned way. Call them. Get tea with them. Send them a personalized email or message. Put a letter in their mailbox. Send a carrier pigeon. People are much more likely to respond—not to mention radiate positivity and encouragement—when you take the time to personally reach out.
Stop looking for worth in positive reinforcement from friends, family, readers, people in the industry, likes, sales, shares, what have you. Your worth is not reliant on the product you create. Your worth is not reliant on the feedback you receive from said product. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a writer, and you have important stories to tell. Don’t let any of the book pub business make you lose sight of what really matters.
Book Sales and Money:
Remember that whole “what you can’t control” point? You can’t control book sales. Don’t go to an event expecting to sell x amount of books. Many events will end in zero sales. That does not mean you fail as a writer. Take what you experience from events and learn from it. Re-strategize.
Don’t expect money from any of this. What were you thinking, expecting money from this? Do it for the words. Do it because you couldn’t not do it. If you get money from this whole gig, great. But don’t put the pressure on your craft to demand money from it. It’s not fair to your stories or characters. You cannot guarantee money from this. Get your money from another avenue, so you can focus on the craft.
Find someone who gets your work. Who’s willing to work with you to make the best possible book. Who makes time for you. Don’t rush into a relationship, because if they don’t love it (and if they don’t know what they’re doing) they’re not going to get books sold. Do your research. Be picky. You deserve to be picky. If it means you have to be in the query trenches, so be it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. The worst they can do is say no. You might be surprised at the answer you get.
Keep writing in the trenches. Persist.
Barnes & Noble author signings are (largely) over-rated. They do not bring crowds of people in. Sorry, B&N, but it’s true. Do one B&N signing so you can get a picture that shows that your book is in B&N and fulfill your childhood dreams of being an Author with a capital A. But maybe leave it at that.
Do bookstore events to build relationships with bookstores and booksellers and the local community. Don’t do too many and instead focus on getting people in the door to those couple of events. Collaborate with other authors to host joint events. Be creative. Bookstores are counting on you bringing folks in, so if you schedule like, ten bookstore events, you’re going to have trouble bringing in enough people to justify the time and effort that goes into said events.
Don’t look at Goodreads.
Also, everyone’s a critic.
Pin your crappy reviews to a piñata and give it a good whack.
Then go back and write.
Hold to them dearly. There are some things your non-writer friends are just not going to get. That’s OK. Get to know your writing community. Serve other writers. Gush about their books. These folks will be some of your biggest advocates, and most encouraging friends during the rough writing and pub business times.
So you know how you think you’re done with that current manuscript of yours? Ha! Guess what? It’s still on submission because it needed to be rewritten about ten more times. But guess what? It’s way better because of it (plus, I ended up finding about three more novels hidden inside of it!). Sure, it’s taken about three years of serious work, and it still may take more. Who knows. But don’t settle for a mediocre manuscript. Challenge it and dig deeper. Challenge and examine yourself. There is no shame in taking the time to make the best book you can.
Wowee, what amazing advice!!! Thanks so much for stopping by, Meg! If you found this advice helpful, why not let Meg know in the comments 🙂
Meg Eden‘s work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College and the MA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel “Post-High School Reality Quest” (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection “Drowning in the Floating World” (2020). Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.