[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Sarah Hogle to the site. She has some great tips for any new author. Take it away, Sarah!]
Hello, readers! I’m Sarah Hogle and my second novel Twice Shy is coming out on April 6, a year after the publication of my debut novel, You Deserve Each Other. My first book release was pretty rough for my anxiety, and I’ve learned how to possibly make my experience better the second time around, which I thought I’d share (and hopefully this will encourage me to take my own advice).
- YOU CAN SAY NO TO STUFF. Don’t feel obligated to accept every invitation to talk about your book. I know it feels like you’re carrying a million tons of pressure on your shoulders and that if you’re glued to social media 24-7, you can maintain control over your career. You can’t. Keeping up a constant online presence to the detriment of your mental health achieves absolutely nothing, and it doesn’t move the needle. I can only speak to the traditionally-pubbed experience, because I do imagine that those who self-pub feel more pressure (they have to do the work of an entire publishing house), but regardless of how your book is published, be kind to your brain. Let it rest. People will find your book.
- Eyes on your own book launch. Curate the experience that makes you, as an individual, happy. For example, I’m an introvert who gets easily overwhelmed by too much social interaction and promotion. I might look at an extroverted author’s launch week schedule and think, “Am I doing enough?” What works for somebody else might not work for you. If you want to pack the entire month with events, go for it! If you are like me and you would rather stare at the sun than socialize, then limit yourself to whatever feels comfortable. Your happiness matters. Your comfort level matters.
- Play to your strengths. I prefer written interviews to verbal ones, as I can take my time with communication this way. This book I’m currently promoting involves a hero who struggles to express himself verbally, like me. He gets tongue-tied and all of his words go out the window. He’s very socially anxious. It’s ironic that I’m going to be verbally promoting a book about someone who struggles to verbally express himself, as someone with social anxiety. It’s hard for me. I’m pushing myself to do as much as I can, but I’m also learning how to say “This doesn’t work for me” and thinking about what kind of boundaries I will draw after this pandemic is over and in-person events become an option. The litmus test is this: Does this make me happy? Would it make me actively miserable? If I’m not enjoying this job, then what is the point.
- DON’T READ THE REVIEWS, especially if you’re not tagged in them. Just don’t do it. If you find yourself being tagged in negative reviews on Instagram, where this behavior is pretty rampant, consider disabling tags from people you don’t follow. Do not go to Goodreads. Do not go to Amazon. Reviews are for readers, not authors. You don’t need to subject yourself to that kind of torture. SERIOUSLY, THOUGH. DON’T READ THE REVIEWS. Even if you’re tagged in a nice post about your book on Instagram, don’t read the comments underneath it because invariably you will find people who say “I hated this!” People are gonna hate. You don’t need to know.
- Don’t go looking for your own trade reviews, either. If you’re trad-pubbed and your publicist didn’t send you a link to the big trade review, there’s probably a reason for that. Have someone you trust look these over before you potentially expose yourself to words you can’t unread.
- Having your book featured in a big-name online magazine can be a double-edged sword, so prepare yourself for that. As a romance reader as well as writer, I’m in an irksome purgatory between gratitude when I see romance books being reviewed and boosted by large publications, and annoyance when these reviews have a condescending or dismissive “it’s just fluff” edge to them and clearly weren’t written by people who love and respect the genre. Romance authors deserve more than crumbs. The ugly truth is that many large publications who include romance in their listicles look down on the genre, and they haven’t read widely enough to know the difference between romance and fiction with romantic elements. This is why you’ll see Wuthering Heights in ten thousand Best Ever Romance Novel lists. Not always! But way too frequently.
- BE WORKING ON A NEW BOOK. I wasn’t working on anything new when my first novel came out, which I Do Not Recommend. Right now, I’m writing a book and it’s helping a lot. Being in the throes of a new project helps you to distance yourself from the book that’s releasing, and this distance is good. This distance means that the success (or success as you see it) of your book isn’t quite so all-consuming and all-important. Don’t give your debut too much power over your emotions, and don’t let it define you. There will be more books after this one.
- Once it’s out there, let it go. Some people are going to love your book and some people are going to hate it. The reasoning will vary wildly: some will write entire essays about everything they disliked and others will give you one star on Goodreads because they didn’t like the cover art. You can only control the content of the book, not how it is perceived by others. Every single person who reads your book will be reading a different version of your book, affected by their personal experiences and opinions. You cannot control your book’s reception. Don’t try to. Just let it go.
- Don’t let your book be everything to you, and remember that your book will not mean everything to everyone. There are other books coming out on the same day as yours, and as the weeks go on, you are going to watch more and more books coming out. Your book is not being buried, it is just getting new friends. Some people will love your first book, but your next won’t be their cup of tea. Some won’t like your first book but they’ll love your second, and every kind of reaction in between. Your fanbase won’t remain exactly the same from book to book: every consecutive novel you put out won’t necessarily be your existing readers’ new favorite. When I think of my favorite authors, I prefer some books to others. The same is true for you and your readers. All that this means is that as time goes on, your body of work will continue to reach more and more people. You won’t meet some of your biggest fans until you’ve produced the books that speak to them.
- Celebrate!!! In whatever way you want. Ideal celebrations vary from individual to individual. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate. If you’re already stressed, there is nothing wrong with hiding your phone and unwinding with a movie and comfort food. You don’t have to be online all day. You don’t have to throw a big party with specialized cookies that have your book cover on them. But if that makes you happy, go for it! Seriously, it’s up to you. Don’t go into your book launch with one set perception of what it should look like based on how you see your peers celebrating. And when you start to feel stressed out and overwhelmed, get off the internet. Go outside. Take a breath, then remind yourself this is only the first of many, many books. Whatever happens, you did it! You wrote a book and published it! THAT IS AMAZING. Well done, you. Surround yourself with loved ones (if you can).
Another author gave me a piece of advice before my first book went out into the world, which I think about often, and will paraphrase here: Be careful about what you’re holding close, what you prioritize. Focus on all of the things and the people that you love, dividing your attention healthily, and don’t let publishing swallow more than its fair share of that room. Your world is so much bigger than your book career. For me, this is a healthy reminder to spend more time with my family and relegate Book Stuff to a mental shelf whenever possible. My kids are only little once, so I’m going to be present for it.
About the Author:
A mom of three in southern Ohio, Sarah Hogle spends her free time planning weird pranks and hoping for a haunted castle to call her own. She is the author of You Deserve Each Other and Twice Shy.
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle, out now!
Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.