The time I published my first book — & why it sucked
Making words count
Okay, suck is a strong word. In this case strong is appropriate. My first (and last) published book was pretty trashy, so much so that I’m not even gonna try to discreetly pedal it here. Not even a bit. So here’s the thing:
Lots of writers are out here, many are young and goggle-eyed — I feel for you. I still wear my goggles — The will to get your name on a cover can be exciting, exhilarating … but is your mind in the right place? Do you know what to keep in check while dancing through the whole publishing process nonsense? Please, let me share my sins.
For you to understand what I mean by “sucked,” I included a few prerequisites to help define that quality. (Obvious hint: do not do these things! 😆) The book was:
- A horde of disorganized short stories with no apparent connection (and by me! I mean, who am I, Dean Koontz?)
- Full of weird sentence structure and word choice
- Obviously rushed and hardly edited
- Stocked with terrible drawings by yours truly that were also rushed — and trash
That’s enough to get the gist of sucking, although there was surely a lot more. Now you might be wondering, “What on Earth’s face would incline him to think he should publish such foul suckery?” There’s an answer for that. It’s not a good one.
Look, that book — may it be buried forever and ever, Amen — was published for one reason and one only: my DESIRE to be published.
The desire to be known and to have my name on something. Sound familiar to someone? If not, please go back and talk sense to 17-year-old Neboh (won’t find that name in the school records, though).
But seriously, take heed into what I’m saying. I’m writing this because I needed someone to talk sense into me. Watch out for that greedy little voice inside that wants to be published for the sake of it. I put that desire over content and over quality.
At the time, I had the immature habit of writing a story and thinking it was perfect the way it was. Edit? Please! Move things around? Take stuff out? Ha! What you talkin’ ‘bout?
I know you want to just finish your work and zip it off to the publisher’s room. School taught you to be that way. Beyond that, pride and ego were two diseases I never even realized infected me so much. Publishing was so important that the prospect of a profit or even fame barely crossed my mind. So little so that I didn’t make a point to even market the book — main reason why the sales also sucked. But deep down I knew I didn’t want to promote something I’d put a poo-poo effort into.
Editing is one of the most important aspects of writing a good story, or writing anything. (Just to prove it, I’m going to edit this article!) As writers we need to get over ourselves, get over our pride, and edit that thing. The part about Granny flipping over the couch doesn’t need to be in there. Or, maybe it does, but it should be in the middle instead of the beginning. Maybe she does a backflip instead. Who knows? You know.
Anyway, if you’re publishing a book, well, don’t be like me. Definitely promote it. That should help. More importantly, write something that you’ll be proud to promote. Create something meaningful, that will touch others’ lives. Something that makes you happy to read it over and over again, because you’ll have to in the editor’s chair. Best of all, you’ll feel confident in what you’ve made, and readers will be all the more happy to support your meaningful masterpiece.
I’m still deciding how I want to do my next book. Maybe I’ll stick to articles for a while until more wisdom sets in. Whatever happens, my next will certainly be better than my last. I know what got in my way last time. Don’t get in your own.
Take it as advice or as a kind reminder. Break past small, selfish gains. Focus on how you can contribute. To art. To the lives of others. To a better community. To peace on Earth?
Peace, and thanks for coming to reminisce about the time …