Thursday, July 12, 2007

Michelle Moran on What to Expect When You're Expecting...

For my third and last guest blog on The Written World, I’m going to share a few of the experiences that happen to most novelists once they’ve been published. So future writers who are reading this blog – take note!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Book Published)

I Want To Be A Novelist Too!

Once your book is accepted for publication, beware of tooting your own horn. Not because you’re modest (please), but because at least one person at every dinner function will want to tell you their idea for a novel. Initially, it will be unclear which of these aspiring novelists actually write, which want to go 50/50 (you get half for writing the story, they get half for coming up with the idea), and which are simply giving you a storyline so that they can take credit when you go on to write something set in the same century. Later, as you become more adept at recognizing real writers from lip servers, you will learn how to steer the conversation either to its quick end or to available resources for beginning authors.

Until then, however, expect to be accosted at dinner parties by your cousin Olga who has a brilliant idea for a science fiction story and will ask if you want to hear it. And because you’re not a rude jerk you’ll say yes, and she’ll launch into a tale of saucers and androids, then ask if you think it’s marketable and whether she should make it into a five book series or three stand-alone books. Except by now your eyes have that glazed-over look and you’re not sure whether she said saucers or sauce (because let’s face it, you’re really hungry), so you smile and nod politely, which she takes as a sign that she can call your agent and him them that you’ve endorsed her story.


If you type into the word obsessive, a small photo will be there of you at your computer looking up your Amazon rank. Thankfully, this photo has been taken from over your shoulder, because this way the viewer can’t see the hysterical look on your face when you realize that your five hundred page novel is doing worse than the children’s book Everybody Poos. From the time your publishing house places your novel on Amazon, expect a radical change in your daily routine. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a lawyer, you’ll find a way of getting online to check your ranking at least once every few hours. Of course, since Amazon only accounts for approximately 5% of your book’s sales, this is an extremely foolish thing to do. But you’ll do it anyway.

Free Copies

As soon as the words, “I’m going to be published,” come out of your mouth, everyone from your dentist to your best friend will want a copy. Not a copy that they pay for, mind you, but a free copy. “Be sure to get me a book!” they’ll say, as if they’re not sure where books might be obtained if not from you. Sometimes the request will vary, like, “Make sure I get a copy,” which puts the onus on you, or, “You know I want to be the first to read it.” This last announcement is the sneakiest of all, because even though it’s not technically a request, the meaning is clear: When the book fairy drops off those 1000 copies of your novel at your house, be sure to come over and I’ll do you the pleasure of accepting the first one.

But to be fair, friends and family and co-workers say these things to be polite. Of the three dozen people who make these requests, only half a dozen actually plan to read your book, and this shouldn’t make you upset. Family and friends don’t suddenly turn into avid readers of your particular genre because they know you, yet they’ve still asked for a copy. This is because they want to be kind and they want to be supportive. So when someone says, “You’re going to get me a copy, right?” simply reply, “I wish I could! But I don’t even get free copies.” Which is pretty much true. And this way, the people who were going to actually read your book will buy it, and the people who were never going to read it don’t have another useless item to sell at next year’s garage sale.

Publication Day

After a year of grueling work – editing , marketing, publicizing, writing your next book – the day of your novel’s publication will arrive and word that your book is on sale will spread like wildfire. It will spread from your mother, to your cousin Olga, to her mother who doesn’t like historical fiction but will buy it anyway because, after all, you’re her sister’s kid. And that’s about it for the average writer. Unless you’re prepared for the lack of fanfare surrounding your first publication, it can be a real let-down. No one will call, only a few friends will remember that this is day your book is coming out, and all of your letters to Oprah will have gone unnoticed.

But if you’ve put in the hard work of doing your own marketing as well as publicity (to compliment what your publishing house has done), you will recognize that even though your publication day seems a lot like every other day – it’s really not. Because for the first time people can hold your book in their hands. They can read it, review it, and hopefully pass along the word that what you’ve written is fabulous. So even if none of your friends have called, on the day of your publication hundreds of readers will be transported by your words to a different place and time. And that’s something incredibly special, even if Oprah doesn’t notice.

Thank you for having me as a guest with The Written World. It has been an absolute pleasure and I hope to be back again someday!

(If you have any questions, Michelle is available to answer them. Just put them in the comment section and she will answer them. She's been checking comments all week.)

Michelle Moran
Author of Nefertiti: A Novel


  1. And just so everyone knows, this is, of course, all tongue in cheek. Publication day is actually a wonderful experience. I interviewed with local papers, had dozens of people call - some I hadn't heard from in years (although still no Oprah) - and wined and dined in celebration that night!

    To all of the writers out there, keep writing! Publication day really is worth all of the hard work and tears and sweat and toil!

  2. you made me laugh!very inspiring :)


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