Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scary stuff for authors

I got some great news last week that I’ll be included a September 2011 Writer’s Digest magazine feature on debut authors. 

I sat down yesterday to answer the questions and had a moment of panic. It’s one thing to amuse myself on this blog by telling jokes about hurking in my underwear or peeling a banana with my toes.

But for a major industry magazine, I suspect that’s not appropriate. They might even expect me to know something

And that’s when it hit me – all the interviews I’ve been doing, blog posts I’ve been writing, stickers I’ve been slapping on the butts of random strangers – they’re all aimed at getting people to eventually buy my book.

And if people buy my book, they might read it.

And then ohmygod, what if they hate it?

It’s weird to think that way. I’m not an insecure person, and I'm not prone to sentiments that smack of “what if the football captain laughs at my training bra?”

Still, I know I’m not the first author to have pangs of fear. 

Last summer, my book club not only had the divine pleasure of reading author Sean Ferrell’s fabulous debut novel Numb, but talking with him on the phone. In the months leading up to it, I swapped a few emails with Sean to coordinate details. At one point, he confessed something surprising (besides a fondness for not wearing pants in public).

“I’m terrified you guys won’t like it,” he wrote.

I’ll admit it, I thought it was false modesty. The book was getting all sorts of amazing reviews and publicity buzz. I wasn’t worried, and I didn’t think he would be, either.

Now I’m not so sure.

I’m not egotistical enough to think everyone will love my debut novel. I’m also not insecure enough to fear everyone will hate it. I’ll be happy to land somewhere in the middle, and I’m braced for anything from negative reviews to stalkers grabbing hunks of my hair. 

But those moments of sheer terror where you worry people whose opinions you value might be disappointed? Those are very real.

For now, all I can do is what I’ve been doing. I’ll keep using blog posts and interviews to establish the same offbeat, humorous tone I use in my books.

OK, maybe I’ll dial it back a notch from time to time. It’s possible Writer’s Digest subscribers won’t appreciate stories about hairy butts.

Are you skeptical when you hear authors worrying about people not liking their books? Do you have fears about how other people will react to your writing? Please share.

And please promise that when you do see those negative reviews rolling in, you’ll shred them up before I see them.


Claire Dawn said...

If your books are anythin like your blog, I'm sure people will love them. Heck, I'm buying them and I can't tell you the last time I read a non-YA romance. Not for at least a decade.

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

I have read some comments from authors that I greatly admire who seem to sincerely doubt each new books success.
I don't doubt your books success. Pirate Bitch, oops I mean Making Waves or whatever it's titled is going to be funny and received enthusiasically.
I can't wait to read it. And I'll try to not pull out a whole hunk of your hair, just one or two strands.

Anonymous said...

So now I'm a "random stranger," huh? That's it...I'm peeling this sticker off now.



Sarah W said...

Everyone has doubts. I find that comforting.

Moments of panic like this are why I squirrel away nice things people who are not my parents have said about my stuff.

If nothing else, go back over everyone's comments here, Tawna. You'll be fine.

Liz Reinhardt said...

I go on Goodreads and look up a book that it's hard to imagine ANYONE in the world not liking (maybe a classic like *To Kill a Mockingbird* or a romance standard like Kleypas's *Devil in Winter*), and I read the one-star reviews. Because it's a book I love and respect, the one stars piss me off a little, and I think, 'Well, this idiot has no idea what he/she is talking about!'

This insanity is actually practice for when I'm published, because one day people will give my books one star. And I will have built up a tolerance to the one-star abuse.

I hope.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

I think you have to prepare for the fact that not everyone will like it. That being said, getting through every hoop in the publishing journey is an strong indicator that your work is tested! Your blog is so fresh and funny, there's no way it won't be good.

Linda G. said...

As one of the few people around here who've actually read your book, let me reassure you -- you have nothing to worry about. Only a curmudgeonly, prudish idiot with no sense of humor could fail to love it. And who cares what somebody like that thinks? :)

But I do know what you mean. It finally occurred to me the other day that people other than my lovely circle of CPs would be reading my book in a little over a year. And my stomach contracted. I immediately started wondering if, perhaps, the decision to publish under my own name was hasty.

Yeah, it's scary. ;)

Unknown said...

How cool! The above comments are right - not everyone will like it but that's just life.

Not everyone likes Marmite but it still sells! :)

Shain Brown said...

Not only do you have the funniest blog, but you come off as a real person. I so enjoy your post and knowing that each day we will get a tidbit of your humor and a piece of personality. (you can snicker but I'm being serious)

I hope I didn't make anyone jealous, but even if i did, I'm sure they know how awesome you are.

Relax, I know your work is great and deep down so do you. Just do what you do.

Patty Blount said...

Gah! I had a nightmare about this, exactly this, last night that woke me up about 4 AM in a cold sweat. Dreamed my day job boss called me into her office to critique my book, telling me it didn't meet standards. Every where in the office I went, someone whipped out a copy of SEND and offered a snarky comment.

When I woke and got past the thank-God-it-was-only-a-dream relief, it occurred to me this is something I'd better get used to. I've also realized that no matter how good you are or think you are, there's always going to be someone out there who's better. That helps me keep my priorities straight.

It's about the story and telling my story the best way I know how. If that does not appeal to some people, well - that's why books come in so many wonderful sizes, genres, and shapes.

Sean is wonderful, isn't he? I've read NUMB three times now and each time, I come away with something new.

Danica Avet said...

I live in a constant state of fear and have since the moment my first book came out in February. I'm sure I have more grey hair now than ever. Then one day, I got an e-mail that someone had reviewed my book for a review site. Barf bag at the ready, I clicked on the link and read the review.

And nearly cried my eyes out. She liked it. She really, really liked it! And I was so amazed and happy and sniffly.

I think what gets most writers through that fear (or at least did it for me) is knowing that no, not everyone will like your book, but someone people will love it. It's the positive that I cling to and help me get through every single moment of fear I have. And considering my 3rd book comes out tomorrow...yeah, it's a lot of fear.

I feel a bit sick now. Excuse me.

Ricky Bush said...

Do the "hairy butt" tales. Who could possibly resist? Bottom line is that you've taken the step to get your story out there. There are way too many strokes for different folks. Kick back and enjoy it.

Matthew MacNish said...

I wrote about this recently, and the sad fact is that there will always be someone who doesn't like our books. Hell, there are people who don't like Tolkien. I don't know what's wrong with them, but they do exist.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

It's called, "being human" baby! We've all got egotistical quirks; fear, arrogance, doubt, jealousy, etc... You'll be fine. Your writing is brilliant and it makes no difference if some aren't wise enough to see that.

And, If anyone dares give you a bad review, they're probably the same folks who think Sarah Palin is a genius. Pour yourself a glass of wine and make a toast to their ignorance!

Delia said...

I have no idea what you're talking about. That's not a real fear for me at all.

I think I'm going to go vomit now. Because, holy hell, if Tawna's nervous...

Alice said...

Dear Tawna:

I wrote this exact post when I finished writing a chapter this morning.

Stop stealing my ideas.


P.S. ilu <3 <3 <3

Rick said...

Any publication that doesn't appreciate the humor behind hairy butts was founded, maintained and paid for by absolute cretins.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

When it comes to writing, or any other creative venture, I think a touch of insecurity is in the nature of the beast. We pour so much of ourselves into our work that any negative review of IT is perceived as a personal rejection of US. And that's terribly painful, isn't it? Because at heart, we're all like Sally Field when she received her Academy Award. Remember? She was all teary-eyed, and dumbfounded, and gasped, "You LIKE me! You really like me!" That's the validation we all seek, and that's what you're gonna find, Tawna. Your readers will love your book.

Anonymous said...

Don't dial it back, Tawna. You rock!

You're right, not everybody will like what you write, but lots of people will absolutely love it. Those are the people that you want to keep, and they're the ones that laugh their heads off over hairy butt posts.

Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

I understand about the whole "what if people don't like it?" I have trouble asking my sister and husband to read my drafts. Asking anyone else to read it is terrifying and intimidating.

Intellectually, I want them to read it. I want feedback and really want to share my stories with others, but every time I think about hitting that send button, my gut clenches and panic surges through my chest. I have to work through it each and every time. Ugh.

That said, I can't wait to read your books! I love your tone and offbeat quirky humor.

Unknown said...

I am, simply put, terrified of what people will think of my writing. To the point where I've gone from flapping the stories in front of everyone, to barely writing anymore.

I'm so petrified about all the should-dos and not-good-enoughs I can no longer write without anxiety.

therese patrick, author said...

Of course I am concerned people will not like my book. I've read plenty of books, written by friends, and have struggled to find something nice to say about those books.

I try to look at reviews and opinions as a new haircut. Sometimes I love it, other times I just wait for it to grow out.

~ M said...

It's pretty damn awesome that you'll be in Writer's Digest. Since I subscribed in undergrad, I've been fantasizing about my witty responses to WD questions and how I'd pose for my cover. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there will be people who don't like it. It's inevitable. We can't please everyone. But you know what? Don't worry about it. Don't let those worries steal the excitement of your first novel coming out.

It's so vulnerable to put out a book that you've labored hours, days, weeks, years over. Just hang on and enjoy the journey. Let those negative comments roll off your shoulders and keep your head held high. :)

Christina Auret said...

I always want to ask people who worry about whether something they did was good enough, if they did the best they could. Worrying when you have done everything you possibly can is a waste of energy. And people who judge the worth of a person by the quality of one product that person produced? They are so not worth the effort.

Then again, I am one of those sunny, optimistic egomaniacs who think every word they write is golden, even when the sentence starts in one tense and ends in another.

I realize that my future holds a large likelihood for massive reality checks, but that happy glow of (deluded) excellence I feel whenever I start typing? Totally worth it.

Candyland said...

I'm not yet at the point of needing that fear but WHEN it happens (!), I'm sure I'll cringe at the thought of negative reviews. It's your work, you worked hard on it. Of course you want others to love it. It's your soul.

Lindsay said...

Dude. It's gonna be awesome, people are going to love it (and them) and you're going to be catapulted into a state of fame where I will have to make an appointment with your assistant's assistant to have lunch. While I love your drinks/lunch/dog park availability, I'm so looking forward to you having such success!

Jen J. Danna said...

Those kind of fears sound pretty darned normal to me and, let me assure you, we all have them. You'll never write something that everyone will like; you simply can't please all the people all the time, so don't spend time or energy worrying about that one. Those of us that have found your blog and love your sense of humour will love it. Guaranteed!

And congratulations on being included in the Writer's Digest feature. That's fantastic!

Harley May said...

Congrats on being featured in WD and there will be no need to shred bad reviews, Tawna.

People will swoon and LOVE IT.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Congrats on being included in WD; the section that features debut authors is one of my favorites because I like how they describe what they did to get published. I'm not skeptical about authors worrying about people liking their books; I think it's totally natural. I used to think that those kinds of feelings went away as soon as a writer got published, but I've heard of people like David Sedaris who don't even like to reread their books because they keep finding stuff they want to change.