I always thought that being published was the be-all and end-all - that once my work was out there, critics would swoon, bookstores would line up to distribute it, and I would retire to a life of luxury where I could teach one or two days a week (purely for the fun of it), write novels, and hunt arrowheads whenever I darn well felt like it.
The truth of the matter is somewhat different! Getting published was a great feeling, don't get me wrong - the day that I first held a copy of THE TESTIMONIUM in my hands is one of the high points of my life, right up there with the day I got married, the day my daughters were born, seeing them graduate high school, and watching SUCKER PUNCH for the very first time. But, in the day and age of self-publishing and vanity presses, there are so many books out there chasing so few dollars, I've discovered it doesn't matter if your story is good or bad - unless you are so famous you can publish your laundry list and have legions of fans pay $22 each for it (I'm talking to you, Stephen King!!! LOL), once you write and publish, you have to hustle your book.
It means endless posts on Facebook and other social media, trying to get people interested in your work. It means driving three hours to sit in an uncomfortable chair at the front door of a book store and ask every single person who comes in: "Would you like to take a look at my new book?" It means sending pleading Emails to people you don't even know, hoping that they will review your book, or carry your book in their store, or give you a plug on their radio show. It means constantly strategizing with your publisher, trying to find new ways to get your book's reputation out there. It means joining every writer's group around, reading and reviewing their books in hopes that they will read and review yours in turn. In short, it's more work than writing the book was in the first place!
That being said, is it worth it?
OH YEAH!!! Every time I get an Email from an old friend or former student or co-worker telling me how much they enjoyed THE TESTIMONIUM, or garner another five star rating on Amazon, or some random person comes up to you at a book signing and says "Hey, can I get my picture taken with you?" You bet it's worth it.
I'm not rich or famous yet. But I'm a writer, doggone it! Every time I walk in my local Hastings and see THE TESTIMONIUM sitting there on the shelf (especially when there are fewer copies than there were last time!), and every time I have to order another box of books because I've sold out the last set, every time I set my table up for another book signing - I get one step closer. It's a marathon, not a sprint - but I'm still putting one foot in front of the other!
Now let's talk about writing. I am nine chapters into my current book (my fourth novel), and ready to start writing on the next one. It's a Monday evening, my spring semester of teaching starts tomorrow, I have two little goats to bottle feed, daughters (plus one boyfriend) loudly playing MINECRAFT in the next room, and I just heard my wife's car pull up bringing her home from work. There will be ten thousand distractions for the remainder of the evening - but, if I can manage it, I am going to open up that hole in the keyboard and fall through, leaving modern, rural Texas behind and emerging in the ancient Roman Empire, following Marcus Quintus Publius and his companions on a mad ride from ancient Galatia to Antioch, where they hope to find a mysterious healer named Paul of Tarsus, in order to save the life of their young companion . . .
Yup, it's time to write!