Ah! There’s a reason why the day a book is published is called Release Day! It may mark the day that a book is released to the public but to the author it represents a great big exhale and release from the intensity of that final phase of a writing project.
Don’t get me wrong. Writing a novel is a long process that certainly doesn’t end when the book is published. Writing is one thing, editing another thing entirely, and marketing the book so that it finds its way into the hands of eager readers is a whole different can of worms. Every different writer has a different opinion about which phase of the process they love or hate more or the others, but any way you slice it, the sheer liberation of clicking publish and moving on is the biggest release of all.
I published two books—Saving Grace and Fallen from Grace, the first two books in my all-new Science Fiction series, Grace’s Moon—on Tuesday. The first drafts of the books were actually written as long as five years ago. I’ve tinkered with them over the last few years, but the serious work of revising them enough to show them to other people has absorbed me for the last three months. And believe me, it’s been an intense last few months! But Tuesday I clicked “publish” and sent those books out into the world.
And now here I am on the other side.
There’s an important lesson to be learned in the aftermath of publishing a book. After putting all that effort into producing a product that is presentable to an outside audience, we can be tempted to fall too far to one side or the other of the fence. On the one hand, it’s so easy to let out that last great breath and collapse back, completely spent…and to do nothing. I mean, at this stage of the game we’re so done with the damn book that we may very well want nothing to do with it ever again.
The problem is, though, books don’t sell themselves. Publishing is only the beginning. Unless we’ve already made a huge name for ourselves (and really, how many writers can say that? 5%?) we still need to work on finding promo opportunities, lining up guest posts, and seeking out places to talk about the book and sell it to new readers. If left on its own to find its way in the world, your book will die. And nobody wants that.
Of course, there is another side to this whole post-pub coin that can be equally as dangerous. This is the pit I fall into after every book. It’s important as a writer to stop and rest now and then. Yep, sometimes once you click “publish” you actually have to flop back, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. I tend to want to jump right into writing the next book in the series or to start a new series all together. It’s an admirable impulse and one that will keep any given writer brimming with possibility for years to come. But as Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says, you have to sharpen the saw for a while before you can go back to cutting down trees.
My weapon of choice when it comes to combating post-pub burn-out is to read. There’s nothing like a good (or even a bad) book to mellow you out after all those months of frantic work. It’s not just a method of relaxation, it’s a way to work on your craft through the art of observation. It can even be a way to get new ideas. I’m not talking about the kind of ideas that get you in trouble with readers later for imitating the masters, I’m talking about methods of showing backstory, character nuances, and even good old sentence structure. There’s a lot to be learned from reading, as we all well know.
So yay and congratulations to anyone who finishes a book and publishes it! Way to go! And I wish you all the best in navigating that treacherous balance between taking on too much work after you’ve clicked “publish” and not doing enough. It’s a fine balance, but listen to your writer’s heart. You’ll know when you’ve done enough and need a rest and you’ll know when it’s time to get back in the saddle and write again.
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