“I didn’t know your mother was writing a book.” This from a good friend of my twin daughters’ in response to a picture I recently posted of my designed book pages.
The girls have been friends as long as I’ve been working on my book— since they were in kindergarten. Since the year the iPhone was invented and for those who want a real cultural touchstone, since Britney shaved her head. Back when Bush was still president and # still meant pound.
For over a decade now my kids have asked me at the end of most days, “What did you do today?”
And for over a decade, I’ve been answering, “I went to Starbucks and worked on my book.”
They’ve heard “I’m writing my book” so often and for so long, that the words bear no meaning. For all I know, they think that’s what all mothers answer when asked what they did with their days. It’s just that thing she does. Never in their minds was there going to be an actual physical material thing with pages associated with it.
Nor was there in mine. In the ten years it took me to write my book, I was not an aspiring Author. I was a stay-at-home Mother aspiring to get through the day. I was knee-deep in Harry Potter, in braiding hair, drying tears, managing fears and unloading backpacks. My end goal was not to put out into the world a book but two functioning human beings. In the few hours I had off each day, I’d take myself to the coffee shop to reenergize. Not just with caffeine but by losing myself in an imaginary world. The target audience was me. And, I wasn’t writing a romantic comedy (or maybe it’s a coming of age), I was just writing. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, the saying goes. For me, what happened was a book.
In her own book Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing, Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press, tells authors to not think of their book as their baby (apparently, a common tendency for new authors) but to think of it as a product. A notion that I, having raised two actual babies, am good with. I don’t want another baby. I’m too old. Babies are exhausting. Not to mention, who wants to promote their baby? If I think of my book as a product, no different than a bar of soap, then what do I care if it turns out to be a dud? The same cannot be said of a baby. The success of the baby far outweighs the success of the book.
Regardless, I see now that I haven’t thought of this book as a baby. I’ve never even conceptualized its existence. No wonder that my children—or their friends—didn’t, either.
But, alas, ten years and a stroke of luck at landing myself a spot at SheWrites Press later, and there it is. With a title—Chuckerman Makes a Movie—a cover, an ISBN and everything. Suddenly now, the emphasis is on the book, the selling of it as well, rather than the writing. And like a new born baby, I don’t know what the hell to do with it—aside from not thinking of it as my baby.
So, the same way you do in the months leading up to a child’s arrival into the world to prepare for Motherhood, I’ve been doing a lot of reading to prepare me for the role of Author. It turns out, there are a lot of What to Expect When You are Expecting-type books for books. I’m now, for example, knee-deep in Online Marketing for Busy Authors, from which I’ve learned that I need an online brand. I need to blog. I need to guest blog. I need to promote my book. I need to promote other authors’ books. I need a platform. I also just finished a Social Media Boot Camp where I got the low-down on things like Canva and bit.ly and boosts. And now I need a drink, to boot.
Forget not being able to conceptualize my book when I began, I could have never conceptualized the world. Had I known when my kids set out to school and I set out to write a book, that by the time we all finished, society would be overtaken by (among other frightening things) an alternate and very public universe called Social Media, I might have picked up knitting instead. So far, I feel the same way as I did when I was pregnant and on the couch with the baby books—nauseated. I’m not sure I have it in me.
Then again, I didn’t think I had it in me to raise twin daughters, either. And I managed that.
Thank God, too, because I just hired them to do my social media. In fact, my daughter was the one who snapped the picture of my designed pages that I recently posted. “What is this?” she said when I showed her the stack of pages I wanted featured. Not much different than her friend had said about the photo itself.
“They’re my designed pages,” I said, pointing to my name at the top of each.
“Of my book!”
“Oh, right.” she said. Then she pushed them this way and that. She added a pen. She rotated my mug. She futzed with the finish. Then as she headed to school, my picture headed out into the alternate universe. And just like that, I became an Author.