*** Please join me in celebrating Heather Newton's debut day for her novel Under the Mercy Trees. Heather is an incredible woman, an incredible writer, and a dear dear heart. If you can afford it, I hope you'll support her by buying her novel. Or asking your local library to order a copy. Or anything else you can think of. I am brimming with happiness for Heather today. And clapping with true vigor and my whole heart! xoxox, everyone. ---Rebecca
Thoughts For Publication Day by Heather Newton
On the eve of the release of my own first novel, Under The Mercy Trees, I decided to ask my mom what she remembered about getting her first book published. In many ways her experience was similar to mine, but in others the Information Age has made my publication experience radically different from hers.
My mom wrote her first book on a manual Hermes typewriter, using carbon paper to make herself a copy. Back then writers could actually send their manuscripts directly to publishers without having an agent (gasp!) and that’s what my mom did. Over a two-year period she sent it out to one publisher at a time via snail mail (simultaneous submissions were a no-no) until finally she got back a thin envelope instead of the fat “we’re-not-interested-here’s-your-book-back” envelope. She told me that when the mailman delivered the thin envelope she went inside the house, locked the doors and took the phone off the hook so no one would interrupt her while she opened it. When she read the acceptance she was over the moon, just as I was when my agent called to tell me HarperCollins wanted to publish my novel.
You can imagine what the editing process was like before the age of the personal computer. My mom had to make revisions on her Hermes. The galleys arrived as long unwieldy reams of paper. Once the book came out, her publisher clipped copies of reviews and mailed them to her–her only indication of how readers were receiving her book.
In contrast, I had a computer to make the many revisions necessary to get my novel into publishable form. When my agent sent it out, most editors wanted an electronic file they could read on their e-readers. And during this past year, thanks to the Internet and Google Alerts, I have been able to read every review and reference to my book the minute any mention hits cyberspace.
One downside of the Internet is of course that it can rob you of writing time if you let it. It can also make a debut author horribly self-centered–the temptation to constantly see who is talking about you and your book is powerful. The benefits, however, far outweigh the negatives, and I don’t just mean the opportunity to get the word out about your work via blogging, Facebook and the many other social media sites now available to authors.
For me, the most wonderful aspect of coming of age as a writer in the Information Age has been getting to know other authors on line this past year. These writers–mostly women and mostly debut novelists like me–are wonderful, interesting, talented people whose support and encouragement has really changed how I view my writing life. I no longer see myself as standing alone waist-deep in surf as waves buffet me and I struggle to remain on my feet. The community of writers I’ve found has allowed me to change that metaphor. I now feel like I’m nearing the end of a marathon with a lovely crowd of supporters cheering me on as I approach the finish line. In turn, I get the privilege of cheering for them and celebrating their successes. I’m so grateful.