September 4th, 2011

Things that Don’t Happen When You Become a Published Author

I’m starting to get excited for my new book to come out. It’s not in stores for another couple weeks, but the ISBN and Amazon link are in place, and that makes me feel a little tingly.

There are so many amazing things that happened with my last book, it’s hard to describe. But there are also some cliches that everyone believes about book-publishing that it’s helpful to remind myself are *not true*. I’m sure there’s much more for me to learn, and many more illusions left to crush, but here’s what I’ve managed to debunk so far:

Everyone will think you are smart. I am not particularly stupid, but I do have some gaping holes in my knowledge–world history, current events, where certain countries are located, how microwaves work (not with nuclear energy, that’s for sure–what kind of moron would think that?). So sometimes people think I’m stupid in a more general sense and I find that very upsetting.

I thought having a book out might help–you can’t write a book and usually forget where Thailand is, is what I really hoped people would think (but they would be wrong). It didn’t work–people are impressed that I did manage the book *in spite* of certain obvious disadvantages like not being able to pronounce the word “origin.” But it doesn’t carry into other categories–they still raise their eyebrows as I stumble over a common 3-syllable word.

Pretty much the only time I can make people think I’m brilliant is when I don’t want to. Sometimes I meet people, usually younger than I am, whose lives strike me as interesting and whom I would like to get to know better, but they are so alarmed by this published-author thing that that’s all they want to talk about. I try to ask them questions about themselves but they insist they are boring and have nothing of value to say. I guess they think I’m trying to put them in a story.

People who didn’t think you were in cool in high school will now think so. Nope. I actually tried this out on a few girls who were basically nice but distant back in hs. We met at a party shortly after *Once* came out and I was pleased that they were being so friendly and even sort of remembered me. I waited patiently until they asked what I’d been up to in the last decade, and told them I had published a book and a bit about it. The silence was awkward; I don’t they either of them actually asked any questions. Later on, I realized a few things:
1) To someone who has never wanted to publish a book, it might not seem so particularly great to have done so.
2) I had not yet said I was had moved out of my parents’ house 10 years ago and since I was encountering them in the vicinity of said house, it might seem I had never done so. The conversation got a lot more lively after I said I had moved to Toronto and had a job–we talked about commutes.

Authors are famous. The above example pretty much illustrates how this one is wrong, too. To many people, writing a book–particularly a book of literary short fiction–is not very interesting or worthy of comment. This is, actually, fine. There are trappings of fame that come with small-press publication, but they aren’t the ones you think of–that doesn’t make them less lovely. Sometimes I get emails or Facebook notes from strangers telling me they liked my stories or asking questions about them (sometimes, they are students studying my work in a class, and wanting help with their homework; even that is strangely cool). And sometimes it’s weird too: I’ve been recognized on the street exactly twice, and both conversations were deeply baffling.

Being an author will encompass your whole life. Wrong again! I still have to do all of the things I did before, and sometimes I go for hours–nay, days!–without even thinking about writing fiction. This is not every author’s ideal, obviously, but it is also exactly like it was before. My work ethic was, perhaps, slightly bolstered by getting something into perfect binding, but it also added to the distractions like a higher volume of email, new writing friends, the occasional party invitation, etc. So it comes out a draw–I work about the same amount as I did before.

Writing success will make you more attractive to the people you want to be attractive to. This one actually sort of worked out for me, or at least, immediately following *Once*’s publication, I was flirted with more than I ever had been before. But I don’t think this was a strictly an authorial thing: I was also simply leaving the house more than I ever had before. Some people who aren’t writers may be familiar with the concept of attending parties where you don’t already know 75% of the guests, but I was not–it was kind of overwhelming just to keep introducing myself, not even bothering with the flirting. And I think the fact that a fellow author who liked my work recognized me at a reading from my author photo, and introduced himself, and two years later proposed, is probably a bit random and not typical.

So I’m counting on things staying more or less the same as they were before. They better–I don’t think I could handle any more change.

4 Responses to “Things that Don’t Happen When You Become a Published Author”

  • Jeff Bursey says:

    Okay, this may not fall under any of the categories, but… you don’t lose your ability to make cookies. Yours were delicious and enjoyed very much on my train ride from toronto to ottawa. Meant to say that earlier.


  • Rebecca says:

    Aw, thank you, Jeff–glad you enjoyed! Congrats on your tv trivia knowledge!!

  • AMT says:

    Once again, we are living the same life differently.

    I thought being a professor would make me seem smart even when I am being dumb. But no – it only impresses annoying people you don’t care about, but it doesn’t trick undergrads when you’re talking out your ass.

    I thought being a professor would mean I get to do research all the time. … Or research or teaching all the time. Or something. … It’s been a LOOOONG time since I was under that misapprehension, but I still remember it fondly.

    I maybe once thought being a linguistics professor would make you famous. Maybe? Maybe I thought I might secretly be Chomsky?

    However: *I* continue to believe that your being an author has made you famous. YOU ARE FAMOUS TO ME! I insist on acting like you are famous. Which, as far as I am concerned, makes you famous.

    Now point me in the direction of the people you went to high school with, so I can explain that you’re famous.

  • Rebecca says:

    AMT, thank you for protecting my virtue/fame! I would do the same for you, in a heartbeat!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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