Pre-publication Paranoia

As a soon-to-be-published writer, people often ask me: what’s it like waiting for your book to come out?

Actually, that’s not true at all. No one often asks me anything, and never this. But people do ask, ‘When’s the book coming out?’, and when I say February, they say, ‘Oh, you must be excited’. To this I usually smile and reply, ‘Oh yes, very excited.’ But recently, if you look closely, my smile has been more of a rictus of terror. Put simply, I have pre-publication paranoia.

I could never have imagined what this was like before I had a deal. I’d have thought every day waiting to be published was just one step closer to nirvana. But as I’ve said before, you can get used to anything, and during the waiting time, doubts do creep in.

Pre-publication paranoia can take the following forms:

It’s too late to fix anything that’s wrong with the book. Any mistakes or errors are there for good. What is someone writes in to tell me I’ve got something wrong?

What if no one likes the book? Soon, people who haven’t given birth to me are going to be reading it – what if it gets bad reviews?

What if it gets no reviews at all? What if literally no one buys it? I can get my head round people who know me taking a punt, but I still find it very hard to imagine a complete stranger picking the book up in a shop.

OK, so what if it does well and everything’s fine but no one likes my next book? What if I never get another deal? What if I have to get a job in Starbucks? I’d smell of coffee all the time, and I really hate coffee. Maybe I should get a job in Tesco’s instead….(this stream of worry can go on for a while).

Other people have books coming out next year too (I know, how rude of them). They have nice covers and fun blurbs and things. What if their books are way more successful than mine? What if they win prizes and get film deals? What if it’s made into a film starring Ryan Gosling and it gets nominated for an Oscar and they get to go to the Oscars with Ryan Gosling? Obviously, it would be nice to be a big enough person to feel nothing but serene well-wishes towards all the bestselling Oscar-nominated Ryan Gosling-meeting authors out there. But screw it, I’m only human.

In short, it’s easy to slip into a swirling mass of paranoia and doubt. If you’re not careful you may find yourself clutching the bottle of washing-up liquid and shouting, ‘The Oscar should have been mine; damn you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences!’ I don’t know if it’s always like this, if even the most famous authors suffer from worry, or if it’s just the peculiar state of the first-time writer – working as a professional author but not yet with any public profile to bolster you in times of doubt. Hopefully I’ll find out soon. In the meantime I have nothing but admiration for all the other writers coping with the worry and doubt and new people getting deals every year – they are nothing but kind and welcoming. I think perhaps I still don’t fully believe it’s going to happen – maybe I won’t until I see my book in a shop, or until someone I don’t know reads it and gets in touch. Less than three months to go now. Perhaps then I’ll feel like a real writer, and approach publication day with nothing but a casual shrug. ‘Oh, yes, I have another book out. I’d get excited if only I could look up from my champagne and caviar. Ryan, please fetch the ice-bucket.’

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Mari says:

    You said it. You’re only human!

  2. I am so on the page with this. Does it help you to know, that yes, all writers feel like this pre-pub but it will be brilliant. You’ll see. Not everyone’s going to like your book, some people are going to love it. And lots in between but you will learn and keep on learning and I for one, can’t wait to read “The Fall.”

  3. And people are definitely going to buy it!!!! You are just at the beginning and we writers at CWA are right behind you. You are not alone – remember that at any point you feel overwhelmed by it all, cos you will. Just send me or Tom or whoever makes you smile, a tweet, honey! dx

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