10.27.2013

The Pumpkin that Became a Coach

My novel STRINGS released yesterday to much fanfare, most of which I was not prepared for and am still trying to wrap my mind around. Sales have been fantastic so far. The paperback, which released inexplicably about five days early, had been performing well all through the month with pre-sales and then it saw a nice surge near the end of the week. As of right now. the book is nearly sold out on Amazon.

The Kindle edition opened right on time just before midnight Saturday. And then people started buying them. And I guess they kept buying them, because it was around 1:00 when I'd cracked the Top 100 in horror suspense. And it kept climbing after that. At some point, people started informing me that I was at #64. Then #57. The party was hopping on Facebook where dozens of people had turned out to the "Official Virtual Release" event to participate in games and festivities and well-wishing. All during it, I was so busy and so engaged in the present moment (the virtual party really was about as lively and exhausting as a real life party) that the reality hadn't really sunken in that my book was out in the world and that people were buying it. This event I'd been waiting so long to actually happen had... happened.

It really hasn't sunken in, to be honest, but I'll get to that in a second.

After the Facebook party wrapped up, Ken and the kids and I headed over to celebrate my actual birthday with my mom and dad, something that, after all the fanfare of the day, was a very welcome time of quiet and relaxation. We enjoyed my mom's awesome pulled pork and a Strings-shaped cake and a ton of laughs.

Thanks to Ele Cake Company, who was so excited to make this cake!
Then I received word from several people (again, the fact that so many, not just my publisher but my amazing friends, were as excited to track the book's sales rankings as I was is so touching to me) that the book had hit #38 in the horror category, passing up Stephen King's 11/22/63. Then I started to feel a stirring that maybe something was happening. That it wasn't just nice friends and family buying my book, but maybe other people too. It was still muted, but it was there.

Thank you Jennifer Greene for making all the graphics look pretty!
Exhausted beyond all reckoning, I was in bed by 10 that night, but news continued to pour in. I peaked overnight at #35, I'd sold a few more print copies. I kept waiting for that coach to turn back into a pumpkin, but after a very restless night I woke up to find that it was still a coach. The book had moved up and down a few slots, and it's currently resting at #43. I also discovered the book had made the Hot New Releases category at #3 for horror suspense, sharing a row with Dean Koontz and Dan Simmons. In general horror, it was at #38 (I'll take it!).

So yeah, that happened.
I think that was when I finally started to recognize that maybe this was for real. People are visiting Amazon looking for something to read, and they are seeing my book in much same way that if they'd walked into Barnes & Noble, they might see one of my books on a table or an endcap. Yes, shoppers have seen my books before, or rather they have seen my short stories. But this is a whole different universe of exposure, and I am alternating regularly between excitement and denial and fright. My publisher tells me this is only the beginning. We have a lot of work to do to keep enthusiasm up and get people buying and reading (and most importantly, reviewing). Hell, I'll be doing this again in just a few months when The Last Supper releases, only I think by the time that happens, it will be at a level that dwarfs this.

It's hard to describe the insular landscape of a writer's brain. The most we ever feel alive is during the raw creation process. Everything else that happens afterward is like a rocket booster separating from its payload as we push that book further and further out into space and then fall back to earth. Up until now, I'd detach from my little literary satellites, my short stories, and only a few people and I would notice them. I could handle that. It was easy to control. Expectations were never going to be that high. Enthusiasm was at a manageable level, and if I sold 40 or 50 copies a month, I was happy with that.

Guess I should stop worrying and enjoy the bomb
Now the satellite feels so much bigger than me and I realize that I can't really control it. The only thing I can do is just gaze at its trajectory and accept that it could fall out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere (which is what I expect it to do, but that's all in managing my own disappointment so I can keep working). However, I also have to acknowledge it could go further than I ever dreamed. It's not likely, but it's possible. Other people believe in that latter outcome far more than I do. I'm not sure if it's wise for me to share it, at least yet. While a journey for Strings and my little writing career started yesterday, and I'm just staring up at the sky with my mouth hanging open, pretty soon I'm going to have to stop staring and stop guessing about where it's going to end up so I can get back to the work that brought me there. Maybe in a couple months, when I get my first royalty check, I can take a few minutes and really enjoy my accomplishment.

But I think the best part of the whole event yesterday was not about the book at all. It was about the rally. I have no earthly idea what I did to earn such an amazing group of supporters through all of this. From the wonderful people of Hobbes End, to my friends old and new, to people who discovered my work awhile ago, to people who only just discovered it yesterday at another friend's urging and came to the party and had a blast, I have an eternal sense of gratitude flowing through me right now. Even if you just stopped by to say hi, or if you shared a link, please know that I am so very thankful. Because I don't feel I deserve this. Because I feel like what's happening to me is a giant cosmic accident. Because while I have worked hard to get this far, a lot of it was just plain dumb luck. You do all these things, plant all these seeds either knowingly or unknowingly, write the words, edit the words, submit the words, polish the words, package the words...but you don't really expect that people are going to buy the words or LIKE them. At least that's how it feels to me. Yes, I have also experienced some negativity through this process. I have noticed people distancing themselves or expressing jealousy or bitterness, but that has been greatly outweighed by the good. And that's the way it always is, isn't it?

A small collage, but not the final one. There are more pictures to add still.
For the last 24 hours, the only words that have been shooting through my head are, "I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy." But also, and most importantly and most deeply and most profoundly, it has also been, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Now let's see where this thing goes, shall we?