AFTER THE SALE
The Perils of Zelda
Kristi Gold © 2002
Okay, so you've probably looked at the title and decided this is a guideline involving copy edits, revisions, promotions, etc., those things you have to deal with after you've sold your first book-and someone named Zelda. No on the first assumption, yes on the second. This article touches on other challenges-emotional challenges-that could be encountered after The Call.
Now, let's begin with that first step. Someone actually wants to buy your book. You've screamed like a banshee (hopefully not in the messenger's ear), called everyone you know, told the hamster, your lawn boy, anyone who will listen, that you're finally a Published Author after umpteen years of trying. The shock begins to subside after a day or two, after you've pinched yourself until the neighbors and family begin to assume you're a card-carrying masochist, and then you start asking yourself now what? Let's take a look at a few of those sometimes-creepy challenges that can plague an average writer like Zelda.
Self-Doubt Demons: Obviously someone has made a mistake. They must have meant to call that other Zelda Marvinia Hornswagger. Yes, this is the point where reality takes hold and Zelda begins to realize that she's faced with certain expectations, and maybe a few questions she hasn't considered until now. Am I a fraud? Will I be able to sell another book? Will I be able to handle the revisions? Omigosh, someone other than my sister is going to read my love scenes! Odd to think that anyone would actually wonder over their good fortune after reaching such an incredible goal, but this is human nature. The pesky self-doubts sometimes begin to creep in after crossing into the phenomenal, exciting world of publication. I've had them, I know other people have had them, and you know what? Zelda will survive them. This is the time Zelda needs to recall the hard work and time invested in her writing career. It's a must to remain focused, sometimes easier said than done. But Zelda has written a good, marketable book. Zelda should be mighty proud of her love scenes. Zelda should enjoy the moment even if the hamster has buried himself in his cage and the lawn boy has lost a good deal of his hearing.
Guilt Gargoyles: Yes, I said guilt. Why me? Why not my friend who's a much better writer, the one who's been around, paid her dues, yada, yada? If Zelda surrounds herself with writing colleagues and/or critique partners who have not yet sold that first book, she could find herself questioning why she deserves this opportunity. Well, this business is about timing as well as talent, and it is a business. Zelda should not feel guilty. Zelda told a good story, submitted it, made the cut and it was simply her time to cross over. Those writing colleagues should support Zelda and if they're smart, they'll revel in Zelda's success knowing that when their time comes, she will be there to cheer them on as well. They will learn from Zelda's experience. If not….
Envy Evils: Oops. I've just dropped a nasty word. No one wants to talk about envy. No one wants to acknowledge it even exists. But it does in varying degrees. And no one wants to admit they've ever felt it. Again, human nature. In fact, I'm betting anyone who's been in this business for any length of time has experienced its sting now and again, even Zelda. But what if Zelda becomes a target? Zelda wants to believe that everyone with whom she's had a solid, working relationship has her best interests at heart. This might be the time for Zelda to change her name to Pollyanna. The fact is not everyone can deal with his or her own feelings of envy. Sometimes it's less painful for individuals to remove themselves from the situation without dealing with it, or, heaven forbid, use whatever means they can to negate Zelda's success. Again, those who do genuinely support Zelda will learn to handle their own envy evils and continue to be a positive force in Zelda's life. Those who don't, won't. It's that simple, and that complicated. But life is about change, ups and downs, and as difficult as it might be to accept that change, Zelda needs to learn to avoid the negative forces. Zelda will also avoid rubbing her success in other people's faces, will continue to support those who have not retreated, will not go looking for trouble if it doesn't exist, but she should never have to apologize for her good fortune. Zelda is allowed to mourn the endings for a time but then she must concentrate on the positives. She is allowed to throw a celebration block party, too (if her neighbors don't fear her) but she must avoid a pity party at all costs.
Family Frights: Zelda's family may be absolutely thrilled that Zelda has sold her first book. Or they might even be afraid. Yes, afraid. A contract with a publishing house makes everything suddenly very real. Zelda knows she must assure her family that she will still be accessible even though her situation has changed. She will now be facing deadlines and contractual obligations. If she wants to build a career, there might come a time when she doesn't have the luxury of painting her teenage daughter's toenails daily (different shades, of course) instead of working on the next book. On the upside, she will be getting paid for keeping her eyeballs glued to the computer monitor for hours on end. Short of resorting to bribes (although that's Zelda's prerogative) she will endeavor to convince her family that she will be there for those all-important moments outside of her writing career. But Zelda recognizes she is not superwoman nor should she aspire to be, which means she should avoid wearing capes. Zelda will work hard to maintain a balance and keep a positive attitude. She will also learn the virtues of the microwave and get to know the pizza deliveryman.
Of course, we all know that Zelda isn't real, but we might all have some of Zelda in us. You personally might not encounter any of the above-mentioned challenges. You might not change at all, but others perception of you as a published author very well could, especially if you have continued success. This is sometimes a very bitter pill to swallow. But remember, nothing saps creativity like emotional upheaval. The key is to remain positive, cage the doubts, the guilt and the fears and cast them aside. After all, Zelda has work to do. After she runs to the Mega Market to pick up some toenail polish and orders a pizza, she has to finish another book. k.g.