Rebecca Skloot’s book The Immortal Life of #HenriettaLacks (soon to be released as a movie by Oprah Winfrey & HBO) has a complex yet satisfying structure and the author is breaking it all down for #SheWritesUniversity next week! Save…See More
On a sunny February afternoon in 2013, a big brown UPS truck pulled up in front of my house. My husband and I spied it from our open garage, where I was admiring the custom stain he’d applied to the oak mantel he was building. Tom is always ordering one or another widget or gadget from obscure websites that provide replacement parts or new attachments for his other widgets and gadgets. Deliveries are a near daily occurrence at the Fasbinder house. But when the UPS driver, Dave (I learned his name later) pulled out the second of what would be eight identical boxes addressed to me, my heart hammered against my ribs.
It’s my book. The words rang in my ears.
I know that the singular noun form is grammatically incorrect, and that eight boxes contain plural books, not a single book. But in my mind these were not eight boxes, each containing twenty-eight books. This was my book. Writers understand in their bones the distinction I make here. While Dave continued to unload boxes and Tom assisted, I snatched a utility knife from the garage.
Buzzing in the background, Tom and Dave chatted--I suppose about the weather, or the Giants, or how many stops Dave had that day. I heard none of it. I had been deafened by the contents of the box.
There it was, my book, cloned and stacked with its littermates, birthed by their mother press. I held my breath. There before me sat a thing previously held only in my imagination, a real and actual noun—a touchable thing that had dimension and weight, color and texture. I picked up one copy and stroked its felt-finished cover. Smelled its inky pages. Eyed the cover image that seemed to emit its own light.
“That’s a lot of books,” Dave said to Tom.
“Yeah, my wife’s a writer.” I’d never before heard Tom use this description of me. I’ve always written, but it hasn’t been my day job. My heart rate must’ve launched me to diagnosable cardiac distress levels at that point.
“Congratulations,” Dave said to me. “What’s it about?”
This would be my first presentation as a published author. Author…another new noun had entered my life with this delivery. “It’s set in San Francisco,” I stammered, “and it’s about the perils of passion and the seemingly inextricable link between artistic genius and madness.” (Full disclosure: that’s not how I described the book that day. It’s more likely that I blubbered unintelligible nonsense about it being a dark love story…but not a romance romance...I mean…you know, something that men would like too and all…and on and on. My babbling wouldn’t be so great in the re-telling and I’ve worked on my elevator pitch since then, so I’ve taken poetic license with my own dialogue here.)
“Sounds good,” Dave said.
On impulse I asked, “Would you like a copy? As my thanks for being the one that delivered it?” Suddenly my ears got hot. I mean really, what could the man say? Maybe he didn’t even read books. Perhaps he was wishing he’d just delivered eight boxes of the newest version Grand Theft Auto, or cases of Jim Beam, or a gross of banana hammocks.
“Wow, that would be great!” he said with genuine enthusiasm. Then a sheepish expression crossed his rugged face. “But is it okay if I ask you to sign it? When you get famous, I’ll be able to brag that I got the first copy.”
My cheeks throbbed as I penned my first inscription on the title page of Fire & Water. Childish glee tickled the entire surface of my skin as I handed Dave the book.
To be truthful, by this point my publishing path had taken a detour from my original dream. About the time I was ready to submit my book for publication, the usually narrow openings in the doors of traditional publishers—my Plan A—had been closed even more tightly by the recession and the continuing consolidation of the big houses into fewer, bigger publishing houses. This was especially true for the unpublished and unknown. Light barely shone through the cracks in those doors by this point. I got an agent, tried to stick my little pinky newbie toe in the door’s hairline crack, but eventually decided I’d like to have a book—maybe even two or three books—before I become eligible for Social Security. When Plan B, an alternative publishing path appeared before me, I struggled with the idea at first, but then it just felt right.
In hindsight, I know a big part of why this dream-come-true moment occurred is because Plan A didn’t happen. I chose to publish my book with an indie, partnership publisher, in my case She Writes Press. SWP’s acceptance of my book gave me the external validation that the book was “good enough to be published,” a validation I’ll admit I’m shallow enough to need and that purely self-publishing didn’t quite provide for me. And it is no accident that the book is exactly as I hoped; I was included by the press in every stage of its design. This is rare, if not unheard of for newbies at big houses. With my indie, my input was valued and balanced with the skill and knowledge of professionals whose suggestions kept me from making at least a dozen rookie mistakes while staying true to my vision of the story and the finished book. Plan B can sometimes work out better than Plan A…if you’re open to it.
The commercial side of publishing and promoting a book can get overwhelming, discouraging, and just plain tedious. It’s easy fall into the trap of cynicism about “the book business” or to get jaded about yet another novel arriving in the world. But I’m dedicated to celebrating every one of these little dream-come-true moments. I’m doing all I can to imagine new stories and books into reality. I’ll choose silly excitement, girlish glee, and gratitude over cynicism and discouragement every time.
And I’ll always remember Dave the UPS driver as the first guy who got a signed copy of my first book, on the day my husband first called me a writer.
Don't miss a chance to get a FREE download of Fire & Water, available July 26, 27, and 28th. You can order directly to your Kindle, iPad, or Android reader as well as you PC. This is a great way to support indie and self-published authors.