That was the week that was…
April 9th 2011
I’m honestly not sure I can take the strain. I know that sounds genuinely and deeply pathetic – launching a book is supposed to be a massive high – but for someone who doesn’t react at all well to stress (it would be Too Much Information to go into details), and has barely-supressed OCD (find me a writer – or a scientist – who doesn’t), it hasn’t been the easiest few days.
Back in yesteryear, authors would have to wait weeks, if not months, to find out how their book was selling. Now, they can check in real time. Reviews would trickle in, be collated by the publisher, and get posted when there were sufficient to make it worth the while. Now, in an era where everything is instantaneous, our hapless scrivener swings from joy to anguish and back in the course of a single afternoon. Readers’ reactions – once largely unknown – are now in the public domain, thanks to the star systems on Amazon and Goodreads.
It makes for an exceptionally intense experience: one of those rollercoaster rides I absolutely hate because I can’t see what’s up ahead (because I’ve had to take my glasses off) and get nauseous with all the abrupt changes in direction. It isn’t what I signed up for, even though it’s clearly a critical part of the business. What’s galling, of course, is that I know make it worse for myself. If I could relax and enjoy it, I’d be having such a good time right now.
The reviews have been almost universally positive – some of them have been downright glowing – and I know there are more to come. The graffiti walls were such an amazing thing to do – so unutterably cool and so totally the embodiment of the Metrozone – that I couldn’t stop grinning after I’d seen them. Sales – well, I’ve actually sold some books. And ebooks. I’ve sold them in the UK. I’ve sold them in the USA. And in Canada. And in France, Germany, and Japan. And on the back of those sales, some discerning folk are pre-ordering Theories of Flight. So I – and the heroic Orbit publicity machine – must be doing something right.
And at the end of April, we’re doing it all again. And again at the end of May. My disreputable writing friends made heavy use of both irony and mockery when we met down the pub last week, along the lines of “Woe! What a terrible thing it is to have three novels published across the globe, one after another, by a major SF publisher, and have them well-received by critics and readers alike. Woe!” Alcohol may have been involved, too, but you get the idea.
It’s not that I’m an intensely shy person, either. I teach at a school, in front of ten and eleven-year old kids. I speak in public about writing, and science, and faith, and other stuff. I go to conventions, and I mingle. But in working through this blog-post-thing, I think what really disturbs me is that I feel both wholly unprepared and out of control. I don’t know what else I could have done at this point. Neither do I know how to manipulate what’s happening Out There.
It feels like an exam that I can’t revise for. I’ve taken many tests in my time, and being the swot I am, I’m meticulous in my planning. I didn’t ace them all, but I knew what I needed to do for each one. Yet when it comes to this, there’s no curriculum to follow and no revision I can do. My precious words are not my own any more. They belong to other people now. There are no right or wrong answers, mainly because I don’t know what the questions are supposed to be.
For someone like me, that’s really hard.
Now go and find someone who, unlike me, actually deserves your pity…