Last week, the paperback version of my book was released into the world with a new title and a new cover—both of which I love, by the way. It is a strange phenomenon for a little writer who has never published much besides some blog entries and a few journal articles to suddenly have her work out there, where people can read it and judge it and use it to prop up their uneven tables, if they so choose.
In many ways, the countdown to the release date is anticlimactic. You have this giant star recorded in all of your calendars- BOOK RELEASE!!! it says. You use way too many exclamation points, like you never do, because it feels like that. You know the date like you knew your baby’s due date. When the day finally comes, you announce it from the rooftops and from your Facebook page. Your mom and your friends—some of them, at least—buy the book right away. You are still #219,657 in Amazon’s ranking of books. (That still feels a little awesome because, hey, you are RANKED. By Amazon! Amazon cares enough about you to RANK you.) You Google yourself a thousand times. You visit a bookstore and, if you are really lucky, your book is on the shelf. And then, there is quiet. This enormous day is just another day.
I am not playing my tiny violin because I feel overlooked or ignored. In fact, I am not playing my tiny violin at all, because I have published a book—something I dreamed about but never actually thought would happen. I have an agent and a publisher and an actual paperback book that I can hold in my hands. I have had some good reviews and some bad reviews and I have been included on a list of ten great late-summer reads. I have received encouraging little notes from friends and from people I have never met telling me that they loved the book and were encouraged by it, that they saw God in the pages, and that they laughed and enjoyed themselves. So, far from whining about anything, I am more just describing this funny little lull that happens in the days and weeks that follow a release.
Last week, I got to be in the company of people who are as passionate about my book as I am; I got to meet my publishers. In this digital age of email and Skype, face-to-face meetings are becoming more and more scarce. Howard Books is centered in Nashville, and I’m centered in Kansas City, so I hadn’t met anybody—not my editor, not the guy who designed the cover, not my publicity gal. But when I went in for what I thought was a low-key chat, I got to meet everyone in the office.
In fact, right as I walked in the door, the receptionist smiled and asked, “Are you Katie?” This was awesome because, ever since I was a child, talking to people has not been my favorite thing. I hate ordering at restaurants. I don’t know how to approach bookstore managers about possible signings. I don’t know the right way to tell a receptionist that I’m there because I wrote a book. She took all the guess work out for me, which makes her my favorite. I want to hire her to be my own personal receptionist, although I don’t know if she’d appreciate working for smiles and very appreciative “thank yous.” So I said “Yes” because at least I am that proficient and am certain of the veracity of that statement. She went on to tell me that she’d read and loved my book, then she escorted me back to the conference room.
Now. When I say conference room, I mean it. There were, like, leather (or at least pleather) chairs. Those types of chairs make me nervous, but man are they comfortable. I shook a lot of hands and heard people saying a lot of names. The people saying the names also told me their titles. I remember none of it, really, except that one of the guys told me he worked with the CBA (the association of Christian retail), and I thought he said CPA, so I made a dumb accounting joke and everybody looked at me with cocked heads, like dogs who had heard a siren or something. It was great.
I got to give my editor a hug. I got to sign a guitar. I got to listen to the president of Howard Books tell me the story of the first time they saw my manuscript. All in all, a fun trip. There were opportunities for me to say things. Out loud. In front of a room full of people. I don’t think I made too big a fool of myself, stumbling over how to thank everyone for the work they did for my crazy little book of stories. I said “Wow” a lot. I smiled a lot. It was all very first-timer of me.
But I’ll tell you: you always remember your first time.