In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Heir of Blood and Secrets.Something is wrong with me.
I published my book, you know, the one I’ve been dreaming about since 2014, and it’s still not enough.
I’ve made these little promises to myself throughout this entire process —once you finish your first draft, once you wrap up your pre-sale campaign, you’ll feel like a real author. Once you finish your revisions, once you finalize your cover, once you get your first review, once you finally hold your book in your hands, you’ll feel amazing.
But I don’t.
It’s not like I didn’t feel anything throughout this journey. I just can’t help but feel that those feelings were the wrong ones. All these moments — finishing my first draft, finalizing my cover, holding my book in my hands — were full of relief.
Every time I sent out my author newsletter, updating the 152 people who believed enough in my book to help fund its publication, I felt a weight lift off my chest. Every chapter I shared with my editor, letting her know it was ready for review, reassured me that I wasn’t a failure.
And that was okay, because I could rationalize it. I was busy, wasn’t I? Of course I’d feel relieved that I was getting sh*t done. Who wouldn’t?
But it went deeper than that.
The moment I really, really thought it would all come together, was the moment I would finally hold my book in my hands. So after my books arrived, after I did my unboxing video, after I’d had a chance to process everything, I looked at my book, the one I’d sweated over and cried over, nearly ruined relationships over, and all I could think was that ISBN is really, freaking big — does it need to be that big?
And the entire time I was filming my unboxing video, I was oscillating between happiness, because omg, this is my book and being totally stressed out, which infuriated me, which only stressed me out more, because why am I not happier? Why am I not jumping up and down, screaming with joy, sending pictures to everyone I know?
I didn’t tell anyone about the fact that my books had arrived, other than my mom and sister, who’d been home when they’d come. We did the obligatory photos, like the one at the top of this article. And if you look at that photo, you’d probably see what I wanted you to see — a really happy person.
But I wasn’t happy, not completely. I was 20% happy and 80% stressed. And there were easy excuses for that. I had to sign, package, and ship over 100 books in the next few days. I had to make address labels, measure envelopes, double check every package to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Of course it was stressful.
Yet, if that was all it was, why do I still not feel amazing and accomplished and really, truly happy? I’ve sent out all my books. I’ve uploaded my files to Amazon and IngramSpark and Kobo. I’ve been congratulated by what has to be over a thousand people, made sales, gotten my first five star review. My ebook has a shiny orange badge next to it that say #1 New Release, not for one category, but three.
And all I can think is, why am I not happy?
I made this post on LinkedIn last week:
I published my debut novel a few days ago — since then it’s ranked on Amazon bestseller lists in four different countries, even hitting #1 in it’s category in Australia yesterday, which has been truly amazing.
On launch day, I posted a picture of myself with all my author copies in a writing Facebook group, sharing that this book had been seven years in the making, and that I was so happy to finally get to hold my book in my hands.
And admist all the congratulations and supportive comments, one lovely individual chose to post this comment: “7 years? I wrote 11 in less time. Some were 110,000 words.”
I really wanted to laugh it off — so what if they had written 11 books in 7 years? What did that have to do with me and my book?
But my first reaction was to respond defensively — “I took an almost six year hiatus,” I wanted to say, “so technically it didn’t take me 7 years and I wrote my first draft in a month. I was doing other things, graduating from high school, travelling the world, growing up.”
I wanted to point out that quantity didn’t mean quality, that anyone could generate a hundred thousand words, call it a book, and publish it. That it was hardly fair to compare his experiences as a grown man to mine as a university student with multiple jobs.
I had to force myself to stop and really think about why this random comment from someone I didn’t even know bothered me so much.
And it’s because I’m a little embarassed that it did take me 7 years to get Heir of Blood and Secrets out there.
I have this internalized definition of success that says it’s more impressive to do things when you’re younger, to do them quickly rather than slowly.
But — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — success isn’t a straight line. Maybe it would have been more impressive had I published at 14 instead of 21.
Why should that matter?
I grew up comparing myself to others and finding myself wanting — it’s only been in recent years that I’ve been actively trying to stop. Because it doesn’t do me any good to put myself down, to shame myself for not being able to publish sooner. For not being ready.
At the end of the day, I really do think that getting to grow up, taking those 7 years, has made Heir of Blood and Secrets a much better book than it would have been otherwise.
I would never have been able to successfully run my pre-sale campaign as a shy, insecure 14 year old. I would have never had the guts to write a book with non-white characters because I hadn’t yet come to terms with my heritage.
I would never have written this post and shared it with the world.
I’ve changed so much in the past 7 years. I’ve grown to be confident in who I am, to stand by the choices I’ve made and learn from my mistakes, to be comfortable with uncertainty and to ask for help when I need it.
One random Facebook comment isn’t going to take that from me.
I meant every word in that post. And as I watched the supportive comments roll in, I thought I was having that breakthrough. I was owning my journey, being proud of what I’d accomplished. But as I sit in front of my laptop now and I look at my book, I want to cry.
I named this article series 2014 to 2021 because I wanted to own that journey, be open about how long it had taken me.
But it goes beyond embarassment. What I feel as I look back on the past seven years is far more than a little embarassment about taking so long. What I see is the many, many times I’ve moved the goalposts of success and refused to acknowledge my achievements.
Because there was always something more I needed to do. Writing a book wasn’t enough if it was riddled with plot holes. Revising a book wasn’t enough if no one was ever going to read it.
Publishing a book isn’t enough if no one knows about it.
There will always be something else I need to accomplish. I will never reach my goal if my goal is constantly changing.
So I’m taking it one step at a time now. If one person finds my book today that didn’t yesterday, I’m going to count that as a win.
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Heir of Blood and Secrets is now available on Amazon — buy it here!