When I finally published my first book, I wondered when was the moment it became a real book, and I became a real fiction author.
I got my proof copies of my book, The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, in the mail yesterday. I don’t know why I ordered 5 of them, the max Amazon allowed, when I can get author copies for the same price in a few days. I was excited, I guess, to hold it in my hands, and I’m more likely to walk into bookstores with a real product to pitch than an ephemeral web link.
I keep picking the book up. Stroking the cover. Flipping it over to confirm the presence of my photo on the back. Feeling its weight. Opening to a random page and reading till something makes me laugh. There are so many little jokes in it that I have forgotten.
I want to sleep with it under my pillow. I want to wear it inside my shirt over my heart.
Every time I got through a new gate, over a new hurdle, in this publishing journey, I would say to myself, “It’s starting to look like a real book.” The cover. The pre-sale listing. The author web page. “It’s almost like a real book.”
So today as I hold the book, I think, “Is it a real book yet? When is the moment it becomes a real book? When I get the final print? When I see it on a shelf in a store? When a stranger buys and reads it? Is there one moment?”
I am Pinocchio. I am the Velveteen Rabbit. I am waiting to be loved enough to become real.
It feels oddly similar to how I felt before giving birth. I remember being 5 or 6 months pregnant with my first child when I got my first gift of baby clothes. I held up the onesie, sized for a 7-pound newborn human. Tiny for clothes, but huge it seemed to me, with the baby still part of my body. I also had certain, specific expectations of how I would feel when giving birth, and was disappointed when the experience delivered something else. Something more complicated than those glossy narratives of new motherhood.
So I’m trying not to manage my expectations too much. I want to feel however I feel about publishing my first book without telling myself a story of how I should be feeling at this or that milestone. I don’t want to create a story of what my experience will be, because I know now that can set up its own kind of disappointment. I’ve loved this book a long time and it is so scary to think of people possibly hating it. Not getting it. Thinking it doesn’t work or isn’t worth the effort. If there is a point where it becomes a “real” book, does that armor me against the opinions of people who don’t think it should be?
I don’t know. I think it was a real book long ago. I’ve just been waiting to finally put it into newborn clothes.