First, I’d like to thank Alice Osborn for hosting me on her blog. It’s a privilege to be here.
It took me from 1991 to 2007 to get my first book published. At Home in the Land Of Oz: Autism, My Sister and Me tells the story of what it was like to grow up with an autistic sister back in the days before anyone, including many psychiatrists, had heard the term. When Jessica Kingsley Publishers of London took the book, I was beyond thrilled.
My second book, What You Long For, is a short story collection published by Main Street Rag, right here in North Carolina. This publication in 2009 was also a joy, especially since it represented about fifteen years of work. And the cover is painted by my son, Adam, so I have lots of reasons to be happy with that one.
Finally, in 2012, At The Mercy Of The Queen, my first novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s been quite a ride and here are a few things I’ve learned about publishing a first novel:
1) Not everyone is going to love your work. Even some of your friends may not like it. And they may tell you about their disappointment. You have to grow a thick skin when your baby is made into a public commodity.
2) A lot of people WILL love your work. Some will email kind messages while others will post positive remarks on Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon. When this happens, I am always so humbled and happy to have been able to bring pleasure to a reader. An email or message can make my week! So you have to learn to take the good along with the not-so-good.
3) Most people expect writers to make mega-bucks. This is so far from my own personal truth as to be quite laughable. Perhaps a handful of writers make big bucks right out of the gate, but most of us have to work and work and work, and there is no guarantee it will ever happen. Most writers write for love, not money. I was surprised to discover this misconception—I figured everyone knew writers had to have a day job to support their habit.
4) It doesn’t matter whether you are with a small press or one of the Big Six, you still have to do a lot of marketing yourself. You need to be out there, pounding the pavement, making contacts, thinking ahead. This is the part of the business of which I am least fond. But I do it and I can only hope I don’t drive people crazy with promotion, promotion, promotion.
5) Writing the second novel is often more difficult than writing the first. There is more pressure. The bar is set higher. And sometimes, it’s harder to find the story. But after the second one, which you hope will be better than the first, writing novels begins to feel like a habit—a glorious habit you don’t want to break. So, when little problems come up, as they always do, it’s nice to remember these are happy problems. Ten years ago, there were no copy edits to complete on schedule, there was no demanding editor or an agent who is slow getting back to you. I try to remember that when things get edgy.
All in all, I consider myself extremely lucky to be writing, able to carve out the time from a busy life. There are plenty of wonderful writers out there still struggling for their voices to be heard. I, for one, wish them all the best.
Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance. Find out more about Anne at http://anneclinardbarnhill.com
Anne’s new book, QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DAUGHTER, will be released from St. Martin’s Press in March, 2014. Anne has once again shaken her family tree and this time, Mary Shelton appeared, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. A royal ward, Mary is like a daughter to the Virgin Queen, and, like any mother, Elizabeth wants to make a fine match for her girl. The Earl of Oxford seems to be exactly what the queen has in mind, but Mary knows him to be villainous and cruel. Instead, she finds the charms of a lowly courtier, Sir John Skydemore, more to her liking. But he’s poor and he’s a Catholic at a time when the Old Religion is banned. Indeed, because of traitorous plots against Elizabeth sanctioned by the Pope himself, being a Catholic has become dangerous. Will Mary risk the queen’s wrath and marry her love? If so, what will become of them?