Reflections III – Obstacles

What was the hardest part about publishing your book?

Publishing my first book has been a roller coaster ride. The emotional highs and lows have often caught me off guard. I typically have an even keel temperament, so the highs have felt very high and the lows have felt very low.

My first biggest obstacle was choosing what to write about. Since this was my first book, I had a million ideas floating around in my head. Should I write something practical? Something futuristic? Something fun?

The process of saying NO to all my ideas so that I could say YES to one idea was very difficult. I started writing snippets. Snippets are small chunks of text that can be a few sentences, a few paragraphs, or a few pages. My snippets were all over the map.

I surmounted this first obstacle with the help of a developmental editor (DE). My DE was much younger than me and at first I was unsure if she would be able to help me organize my thoughts. But I was wrong. She cut right to the chase. On one video call early in the process, she stopped me mid-sentence and said,

“Wait, stop there.” I stopped.

“Working from home is something that literally everyone can relate to right now.”, she said. [it was February 2020 and the pandemic was still raging].

After this conversation with my DE, I took a leap of faith. I put aside all my other ideas and started writing about the Future of Work, particularly how virtual and hybrid work could be optimized through an understanding of human brain and behavior.

Obstacle number two was citations. In the past, I wrote Scientific articles and an entire PhD dissertation, so I assumed that citations would be easy. Wrong. My editor and I had a massive communication meltdown about citations. The publisher wanted citations to be done a very specific way that did not conform to the standard formats. Therefore, each citation had to be done manually.

I was given a guide on how to do the citations which was not clear. I looked at the guide and pulled together my citations with confidence and turned them in. They came back to me. I was annoyed. I made the edits they asked and turned them back in. They came back to me again. Now I was angry.

I had to clarify what exactly they wanted with three different people and it required a major amount of back and forth which bordered on harassment. Citations took weeks rather than days. I was angry beyond words. Eventually, they accepted my citations. Now when I look at the book, I still get angry. I don’t like the way the citations look!

Another difficult thing about publishing the book has been the emotional lows. I would expect to feel down in the dumps when I got back critiques, or a negative review. I did not expect to feel low after good news. After a period of celebration or success, I immediately entered a low period.

For example, I spent a month doing a presale campaign in which I reached out for early supporters of the book. I built my audience and I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn and email to get the support I needed to move forward towards publication. For every supporter I found, I was rejected or ghosted by another ten people. I expected to feel low during this process, but it was surprisingly positive and exhilarating.

After the presale ended, I exceeded my goal. I should have been on top of the world, right? Nope. I plunged into a week of sadness and I didn’t know why.

The same thing happened after I sent off the actual paperback books to my group of early supporters. It was hard work and took me many days to get all the 250 books signed, packed up, and sent off in the mail. I felt good but tired. As I looked at the last box of padded envelopes awaiting mailing, I experienced a wave of sadness.

The best way to describe what happened was from the book Charlotte’s Web. At the end of the book, Charlotte the spider has died, and her eggs are hatching and taking wind away from Wilber the pig who is watching with excitement and sadness. I read this book at least 20 times, growing up, and then reading it to my kids as a bedtime story. Every time I got to this scene I teared up.

This is the way it felt when I was getting ready to say good-bye to that last box of books. My little book babies were heading off into the world and I wouldn’t know what happened to them. Would they be read? Would they be shared? Would they go in the trash? I have no way of knowing. I felt a very bittersweet emotion, and I got teary.

When I reflect on the process of writing and publishing the book, the difficult moments and obstacles were surprising at times. Emotions ran high because it was a creative process. The more I do creative work, the more I understand that it is a process and you are putting a piece of yourself out there to the world. It is vulnerable and you don’t have control about what happens next.

Dr Jennie Byrne © All Rights Reserved