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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Brian Hill & Dee Power

The Thrill of It All: The Moment You Realize You Are An Author
By Brian Hill and Dee Power

For every author, this moment only happens once in a lifetime, but it’s a moment you never forget: The first time you walk into a bookstore and see your book on the shelves. Maybe you just stand there and look at the book sitting there. Maybe you pick the book up to make sure this moment isn’t all a dream.

You might be thinking: “Seeing my book here today is a miracle.” It is, but this same miracle happens to thousands of “new” authors every year, so don’t let yourself get chills when you reflect on all the ways you could have failed, fallen by the wayside and be ignored by the marketplace. You didn’t. You’ve arrived. Three cheers for you!

And then the joy of this victory starts to sink in. As you gaze at YOUR BOOK with YOUR NAME on it sitting there, waiting to be picked up you realize that someone you’ve never met, and probably never will meet, will have the chance to learn from, or be entertained by, something you wrote. In a best case scenario, thousands of people will be able to. It’s a heady experience to contemplate for the first time. You have grasped a fundamental principle of the business you are now in: You become an author when a stranger pays cash money for your book.

Maybe before you started writing you dreamed about this happening. But now, it could. And you feel the surge of hopeful adrenaline, and the excitement of unrealistic expectations. Until this fairly frightening thought hits you: “My book looks so small, sitting there. Unless you were looking for it, you’d hardly notice it.”

Then your mind begins to be taken over by panic: “Look at all those thousands of books in the store! How is my little book going to compete against all of those? I’m only a few feet away from the shelf full of Stephen King’s books. How can I possibly go up against him? Everybody knows Stephen King, and apart from a few close friends and relatives, nobody knows me.”

This is when you have to employ whatever relaxation techniques you know. Take a deep breath. You’ve just reached Stage Two in an author’s life, when you realize getting your book published in only a fraction of the battle (even though getting this far may have completely worn out your nerves and storehouse of optimism). A long and treacherous road awaits, where you have to figure out how to inspire the busy, easily distracted, even jaded and sometimes numbed, consumer of information to make a trip to the store specifically to buy your book. Hoping someone will wander through the store and pick it up is a nice thing to wish for. But it doesn’t generally pay the rent (unless you have a teeny, tiny apartment). No, you have to figure out how to communicate the virtues of your book in the mass information marketplace: print media, radio, TV, the Internet. Hopefully, by the time your book hits the shelves you already have your comprehensive marketing plan in place and are actively promoting your book. You better be.

You have to make this book a success, or it may be the last opportunity you have to attract a publisher. The remainder bins of the publishing houses are littered with the works of talented first time authors whose books didn’t go anywhere. You have one shot, or at best two, to make your mark.

But let’s not let all these sobering considerations ruin the joy of the moment. Perhaps your dream of becoming an author started in this very bookstore, perhaps it was years earlier the dream took shape. In any case, your relationship to the bookstore, and every other one you visit for the rest of your life, has changed. You are different from the other individuals browsing the shelves, thumbing through magazines, or sipping their café latte. You possess elevated status. You have contributed to the body of human knowledge that has been accumulating down the centuries. It is very possible that after you are gone someone will pick up your book from a dusty library shelf and the words will seem as new and alive to this reader as when they first sprang into your mind all those years ago. You live on through the words you have set down on paper, for others to enjoy, forever.

Immortality is kinda nice.

And even if you are firmly grounded in the present day challenge of how to make your book a success, never forget the achievement represented by that day in the bookstore. You have earned a title no one can ever take away from you: Published Author.

Enjoy it!

Dee Power is the co-author with Brian Hill of The Making of a Bestseller: Sucess Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them, BusinessPlan-Basics, Attracting Capital From Angels, Inside Secrets To Venture Capital and the novel, Over Time .

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