The Tidal Wave of a Learning Curve

There’s a learning curve to publication; it’s different for everyone. Mine amounts to years of ripples in the ocean followed by one ferocious wave. My first instinct was to yell, “Wait! I can’t swim!” I don’t know anything about being a published author. Is there a code of conduct, a manual, perhaps? Preferably one with pictures and step-by-step instructions? Which page do I sign, and in what color ink? Does Penguin know how horrid my penmanship is? Didn’t they see my signature on the contract?  Didn’t I?

(In March 2011, Laura will give away 2 signed copies of Beautiful Disaster via her site. Leave a comment on any Ticket to Write blog and you’ll be entered to win.)

Laura Spinella‘s debut novel is Beautiful Disaster
(Jan 2011), which the Las Vegas Review-Journal
called “a beautiful story,” and The Suffolk County
called “a page-turner.”Visit her website for
upcoming book signing events. You can also
read her blog where you’ll find
an excerpt from her novel.

The truth is I was good at possibility. I reveled in it. When agents’ assistants, gals who are half my age and dress size, e-mailed me to say they’d love to read more, I’d live off it. There was no need to rush a reply. When polite rejections did arrive, I knew how to throw a hell of a pity party. I’d honed these skills, and not only was I good at them, I was comfortable. I’d just gather the advice and keep plugging along. To my surprise, the advice eventually snowballed. Character conundrums became my own, landing me on the main thoroughfare of careful what you wish for … As I said, I thought I’d sink without knowing how to swim. But like a mutt diving off a pier, I’ve found that I do know how to dog paddle.

Eight hours into publication and Beautiful Disaster‘s first review was up on Amazon. Really? How is that even possible? Yet, there it was. Or at least that’s what I was told. The fact that it was a good review made no difference. I simply did not want to know. I made a rule that day, if I was to keep swimming there would be no Googling my name or anything remotely related.

I kept paddling, through my first book signing and onto a four-city stop down South. I had the privilege of signing the book on the campus of the University of Georgia, which is the novel’s setting. I don’t think I got it. Not until one of my biggest BFF’s showed up. Dr. Melisa Holmes is the author of the popular Girlology series (no-fiction) and my former college roommate. We had lunch beforehand in a little bistro that could have been plucked from the pages of Beautiful Disaster. Plucked had I been a savvy enough writer to include this vintage bistro in my book. God, it could have made all the difference … I digress.

Anyway, as I’m vexing over this clear faux pas and an oily spinach salad, Melisa, the BFF, says, “Think about it. A few years ago you called and said, ‘I have this idea about a guy—he’s edgy, provocative … And the girl, of course there’s a girl. I think it takes place in Athens…’ To be honest, I had no idea if it would be any good, but then I read the first draft … And, well, now look!”

Okay, she forced me to look. It wasn’t so bad, and I didn’t sink straight to the bottom. Actually, the whole picture is kind of cool. I can’t quote you the number of college roommates and lifelong friends who’ve gone on to become published authors, but I like to think it’s not your everyday occurrence. Feeling better about my foray into publication, we went on to the UGA signing where I was greeted by alumni and students. It was definitely a queen-for-a-day moment. Let me qualify that by telling you that I’ve gone on to other signings where the crowds were quite as steady. You live; you go on to the next one.

As for the magic bullet of a bound book making one comfortable with the title of published author, let me assure you otherwise. It’s not quite made to order or form-fitting. A glance in the mirror says it’s in need of alterations, a garment from which I’ve yet to cutout the tag. Yet, I find myself happily answering e-mails from people I don’t know, perched on the edge of my seat at book club meetings where my book is the topic of conversation. I’m still wrapping my mind around that one. I’ve done better than I imagined at these gatherings. Most people are kind enough to relay positive comments. I shrug at small criticisms, bothered far less than I thought possible.

So I guess this leaves me treading water. The book will do what it will do, and I get, for the most part, to return to the realm of possibility—a place that fits me perfectly. I’m comfortable, happy there, working with new characters that have no guarantee of an ISBN address but the benefit of my complete attention. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe in a year or so I’ll be doing my best Esther Williams impersonation, yelling to Aidan and Isabel, “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

(In March 2011, Laura will give away 2 signed copies of Beautiful Disaster via her site. Leave a comment on any Ticket to Write blog and you’ll be entered to win.)

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