This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately, particularly since I got a nice check yesterday. At what point does one become a published author?
My first publication, “The Stains of the Past”, came out on Valentine’s Day 2006 in The Sword Review in both an on-line version and a physical one. (The last time I saw a hard copy of it available on Amazon, it was selling for some obscene amount like $120–although yes, I do own a few copies). The story’s still available on-line.
But did I feel like a ‘published author’? Um, No.
I did squeek when I got the e-mail telling me that I’d made my second sale, a pro sale. My sophomore slump was safely past. But I had to turn around and get back to work immediately. I got an e-mail telling me I was going to be in Writers of the Future, I got a call telling me I was a Nebula finalist….and both times I wondered if it was a bizarre practical joke. I got an agent, a contract, an advance check. And it still doesn’t feel ‘real.’
A lot of this comes down to personality. I’m rather cynical about any form of success. Anything can be taken away overnight (almost every writer can tell a tale of a collapsing publication), so I’m cautious about celebration.
Most people in my ‘real’ life have no idea what I do. I am occasionally asked if I’m still doing “that little writing thing”. When you tell them you’re a writer, they don’t usually know what that means. Those who do know that I’m published mostly believe that it’s the same as their Cousin Judy who published her cookbook on her own web-site. My book contract? How is that any different from their Uncle Olaf publishing his memoirs over at PublishAmerica? Anyone can put a book up on Amazon nowadays!
In real life terms, publication often ends up being a secret one hugs to oneself, typing away at midnight while the cat paws helpfully at the keyboard. You know what it means, and your family does, but beyond that, it’s just an amusing pasttime.
But we all hang in there, because our stories are more important to us than the glory of having our next door neighbor congratulating us, because the only way we’d be willing to put up with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is that we LOVE WHAT WE’RE DOING. It’s part of our heart and soul, and to stop would be like cutting away a limb.
So hold each tiny victory close to your heart, writers. We know what it means.