Dear Debut Author Me

From: Kurtis Scaletta, April 19, 2013

To: Kurtis Scaletta, April 25, 2007

Dear Debut Author Me! I know it’ll be a surprise getting an email from the future, but you have no idea what the new iPhones can do.

So you got “the call” you’ve dreamed about since you were six years old. You now know that your first book has been acquired and will be in print, and in bookstores and libraries, and will justify all those hours of work and all those brazen dreams. You learned that Knopf is pronounced with the K, and are thrilled that such a prestigious logo will grace your book. It is awesome, so you should take a moment to congratulate yourself. You do deserve it. And although it’s hard to sooth anxious nerves, trust me–everything will be fine. The book won’t be canceled, and it will actually earn out its advance. Take a deep breath, and take it easy.

Here are a few things you should know, that none of the writing books tell you:

1. You have not arrived. You’ve spent the better part of your life thinking that publication is the promised land. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t. Publication is a milestone, of course, but it’s a means, not an end. It’s one important stop on a long trip that keeps on going. In a lot of ways it is just beginning. You will continue to learn and grow as a writer, and your books will keep getting better.

2. Soon you will be  joining groups and reading up on launching a book that’s not going to be published for two years. You will spend months near panic that you aren’t doing enough, and there are plenty of people ready to enable you with thirty-item lists about what you have to do and hour-long webinars on publicity. You will wring your hands about everything from social networking to distributing galleys to famous authors for blurbs to writing press releases to finding niche marketing opportunities. You don’t need to do all of it and you have plenty of time to do what you should do, so relax and enjoy what you’ve accomplished.

3.  The industry is volatile, and the next few years will bring a lot of scary changes to publishing and bookselling. But you will soldier on, writing the way you always have (mostly in the living room, on a laptop). You will keep working with the same agent and editor while everything else is chaos. Congratulations. You’ve somehow found a rock to hold on to while the sea rages around you.

4. I know I’m wasting my breath, but please don’t worry about lists and awards and sales ranks and reviews. Well, OK. Worry about them a little, but try to have some perspective. You set out to write and publish kids books, and now you’ve got your foot in the door. You will have ten books out in less than seven years, and you can be proud of them all.

5.  The biggest and most positive change publishing brings will be the people in your life. You will soon be surrounded by so many new friends and colleagues– many of them writers, but also teachers, librarians, booksellers, kids, parents, kid lit enthusiasts and advocates — that you will barely remember a time when they weren’t there.

6. You think this is the biggest moment of your life, but in six years you won’t even remember the exact date (April 25, 2007). You’ll have to comb through old files to find it. The date that will stick in your head is August 28, 2010. Why? I don’t want to spoil anything, but you might want to order some slipcovers for the couch and chairs and take a nap.

6 thoughts on “Dear Debut Author Me

  1. You make April twenty fifth two thousand and seven sound like a day that shall live in infamy, Kurtis.
    It’s all part of a continuum known as Life’s Rewards & Challenges. In the case of life in the arts, think mostly worldly challenges and inward rewards. That’s what I would have written to debut Author Me had it occurred to me then.

  2. Thanks for this post! The things you’ve mentioned have been plaguing me (okay, not to the point where I’ve actually joined any groups yet, but I’ve got a new kiddo to attend to. I suspect I’ll be using the children as an excuse for the next 18 years or so), but I worry about things like Twitter followers and the fact that I’m not active on Facebook. My book doesn’t come out until next summer and your post has inspired me to relax a little about social media needs and to-do lists🙂

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