Do The Hustle!
It’s been a long week. My first novel, Shattered Illusions is due on in exactly two weeks from today, and there is much to be done before it hits the shelves. I’ve been running around like a chicken without a head for almost a year, and I am almost completely burned out. By midday yesterday, I was at the end of my fuse. I needed a break and I knew exactly what to do to calm my nerves: a date at Barnes and Noble. I walked to Park Slope from Crown Heights, letting the Spring air filled my lungs, taking my time, though I walked with a bit of a hurried step, anticipating the moment I would sit comfortably on the floor of the book store with a pile of books at my side and my worries somewhere off in the far distance. Ever since becoming an experienced ‘businessman’ in the world of publication, I look at books in a different light. I used to walk into Barnes and Noble and feel a sense of ease and lightness. Well, not anymore. These days, my arrival in the store pushes a sense of dread and weighted expectations on my spirit.
Most people cannot even begin to fathom the amount of strength that it takes to write and publish a novel. When I look at the endless amount of books that make their home among the bookshelves of the store, even I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of work and dedication that each other puts into their craft, and this is coming from someone who’s in the thick of it. Getting a book out in the world and onto the shelves of big bookstores is not easy, nor does it mean what people think it does. So, when I go into a bookstore these days, I feel the satisfaction of knowing that I am one of the many to accomplish such a goal, but it is also humbling to know that being one of the many does not entitle me to the best things in life.
Novel writing, like any art form, takes the author on a wild, wicked journey full of twists and turns that could leave a person reaching for a puke bucket. It means grueling nights and endless days of rewrites; rejections and tough criticism from others. Writing novel means taking your guts and putting them on paper, and hoping to G-d that the process is less painful than you’ve heard it can be. I believe it was George Orwell who was quoted saying “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Yet, those things are expected. Writing a novel is meant to be difficult. Yet, people, seasoned authors included, tend to leave out the most difficult and often, most important part of bringing a novel to the world: How to promote your book.
Let’s be completely honest: When I set out inquiry letters for an agent, (and when that didn’t work out, directly to the publishers, but that’s another story for another time), I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Young, naive and hopeful as I was, I didn’t really think about the fact that I was venturing down a long road of business strategies that no one told me about. I figured it would be easy. I figured that, with a bit of perseverance and strength, I could make my way to the top of the self promotion chart with ease. Truth be told, I didn’t even really think about how much work I had ahead of me. I laugh at the thought now, seeing how far I have come, yet how much more I have to achieve to claim success in my favor. I knew that I would have to do majority of the promotion on my own when I signed with my publisher, I just didn’t realize exactly what that meant. This is the kind of thing that most authors leave out when talking to hopefuls that are just starting off. It takes a lot of dedication to keep people interested in your craft.
Only this morning, an Op-Ed was featured in the Huffington Post titled You’ve Finished Your Novel: Now What? I happened to come across it during my hourly scan of the Huff’s book page (I’m addicted. Sue me), and the title jumped out at me. I am two weeks away from being a published author, yet I have much to learn about the ropes of what comes next. No one really tells you about the door to door sales pitches that come with publishing with a small publishing company. They don’t really tell you about how you have to nudge reviewers for attention. They tend to leave out the fact that promoting your work without the money or the time of say, someone like J.K. Rowling means spending a lot of time being your own (and at times, only) cheerleader. They definitely don’t tell you that you have to learn how to hustle if you want to make it ‘in this business.’
Back up a second. Business? Who said anything about business? Since when is writing, publishing and promoting a novel ‘business?’ Good morning sunshine. Writing a novel is a business venture. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of chocolate (or alcohol, pick your poison), to get through it all. Truth be told, there’s no guarantee. Like any business venture, there is no determination why one person may fail where someone else may succeed, and vise versa. Struggling for your art means more than just eating nothing but boxes of Ramen noodles for weeks on end. Suffering for what you love is about more than just bringing your creation to life with blood, sweat and tears. It’s about how well and how fast you hustle.
I’m only just now learning what it means to hustle. In two weeks, the real works begins. I’ll be setting up book signings, (shameless self promotion: LADIES! If you’re in NY on May 28th, please join us for the book’s launch party!) and traipsing around New York, meeting with small, local bookstores, hoping that perhaps, my sales pitch will work it’s magic and they’ll supply copies of Shattered Illusions. This is only the beginning. I don’t know what’s ahead of me after this. I have no idea what comes around the bend once all is said and done. But, at least I have a mini glimpse of what the rest of my life will look like. Hopefully, by the time the next book comes out, I’ll be hustling like a pro.