My latest book, MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND, lands in stores today. In the book industry, it’s known as pub day, and it could not be more thrilling. I was recently asked in an interview if pub day begins to lose its luster after experiencing three of them.
I assure you that this is not the case.
With the publication of this book, a new journey begins, and so much of it continues to surprise me. People around the country will begin reading my story, and a shocking number of them will begin communicating with me, via email, Facebook and Twitter, leaving me feeling like a stinker for not reaching out to enough authors myself after finishing a book that I loved.
Some of these people will write to tell me how much they enjoyed my story. They may begin following me on Twitter and friending me on Facebook. Some will become regular readers of this blog. Some may begin reading my backlist.
Reviews of the book will continue to trickle in. Some will be negative, but I’ve have been fortunate so far in that the majority of the reviews have been positive. When they arrive, I will smile and breathe a not-so-small sigh of relief, as I expect that many authors do when told that their book has been reviewed.
Then the amazing things will begin to happen.
Some of these readers will begin communicating with me often enough that I will begin to think of them as friends. I will meet some of these readers in person, at literary festivals, book signings, live storytelling events and other public appearances, and I will discover that they are even more interesting and delightful in person.
Readers will begin sending me links to stories, hoping that I might share my opinions on an issue or take a stand on their behalf. They will share secrets with me that they have never shared with anyone before. They will reach out to libraries and bookstores and convince the people who run these establishments to stock my books or invite me for an appearance. They will begin championing my books through social media and old fashioned word of mouth and will send me tallies on how many sales they have generated on my behalf.
Some will write to me to tell me that my books or blog have inspired them to take action in their lives. They will begin writing books of their own and making honest-to-goodness life changes that I could’ve never expected, and while they will credit me for some of these changes, I will know that almost all of the impetus for these changes already resided within them.
They might even reunite me with long, lost family members.
I know. It sounds crazy. Doesn’t it? But it happens all the time. I receive the most amazing communication from readers about how my words have touched and changed their lives, and it happens more often than you could ever imagine.
More often than I could ever imagine.
New opportunities will arise. Film producers, show runners and screen writers will reach out to me. Options will be signed, scripts will be written, talent will be cast, and the slow, meandering, uncertain, unlikely process of bringing a story to the big or small screen will begin.
Teachers will ask me to visit their classrooms. Book clubs will invite me to their meetings. Authors will ask me to blurb their books.
It’s a glorious journey that begins today, but the most important part to remember is that it does not happen alone. The act of placing words upon the page is a solitary process, but it is the only solitary part of this journey.
There is my literary agent, Taryn Fagerness, who plucked my first manuscript from the slush pile and launched my career. She changed my life, and I would not be standing here today without her. I know many authors who do not like or do not have a relationship with their agents that extends beyond business. They are envious over the relationship that I have with Taryn. They sometimes don’t believe me when I describe it. I think of Taryn as my friend first, my hero second and my agent third.
There is my film agent, Shari Smiley, who works hard to bring my stories to to life in the mysterious and impenetrable world of film and television. I think of her as my own version of Lewis and Clark, off on a journey in an uncharted country, with hopes that she might return someday with riches.
There is Melissa Danaczko, the editor for my first two books, who was the first person willing to pay money for stuff I made up in my head. Then she made that stuff better through her skill and expertise. Melissa took the first financial gamble on me, and that is something no author ever forgets. She taught me that the rumors about editors are not true. They are not hackers and slashers who tear your books apart without thought or concern for an author’s feelings. They are partners and surgeons who make books better through precision and collaboration, and in the process, they become your friends.
There is Brenda Copeland, the editor who I sometimes think believes in Budo more than I do. Changing editors and publishing houses was a scary and sad process for me, but this talented, funny, quirky, brilliant, loving person took me by the hand and made St. Martins Press feel like a second home to me. I thought I was getting an editor when I signed on with Saint Martins, but Brenda has become my mentor, my boss, my confidant and my friend.
There is my friend, Lindsay Heyer, who first gave me the idea for MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY friend after listening to the story of my own imaginary friend and insisting that it would make a great book. And there are the dozen or so readers who followed my story, chapter by chapter, offering words of encouragement and advice along the way, Lindsay included.
There are the editorial assistants, copy editors, publicists, marketers, art departments, sales people, sound engineers, narrators, foreign editors, foreign publicists, translators, book store owners and a hundred other people whose titles and importance are being left out of this paragraph because I am too stupid to remember them.
Beginning today, this new books will launch a new and amazing journey, but the person deserving the most praise will often go unnoticed. Standing beside me will by my wife, Elysha, the love of my life. MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND has as much to do with her as it does with me.
I still cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found this woman and bamboozled her into marrying me. She is the best mother I know, the best wife I could imagine, and my biggest fan. She reads the reviews, hears the praise and listens to the stories from readers about how my words have changed their lives, and at every moment and every turn, she feels nothing by excitement and pride for me. She is the pillar that supports me, the iron that defends me, the rock that steadies me and the clarion that trumpets my accomplishments. She has blessed me with an an embarrassment of riches that I will never be able to repay. When I look at this book, sitting beside me as I write this, I see Elysha and all that she have given to me to make this possible.
When writers ask me for advice about finishing a novel or finding an agent or getting published, my first piece of advice is my most sincere and least helpful:
If you don't already have one, find the perfect spouse. Not the good spouse or even a great spouse, but the perfect spouse. It is remarkable how quickly your life can change when you have right person standing beside you. Novels get written, agents are found and books land in bookstores much faster when you have the love of your life supporting you. Defending you.