My debut novel won’t be out for two years (ugh), so as of right now I don’t have any surprising insight into the book publishing process. I did, however, experience some personal surprises when I got “The Call” from my agent.
1) I reacted with strange coolness. Whenever imagining the phone call saying my beloved manuscript had been sold, I’d picture myself screaming into the receiver, jumping up and down, and being unable to put a coherent sentence together. What did I do instead? I remember saying a very lame “That’s awesome” about ten times, and feeling a weird calmness come over me. As soon as I hung up the phone, I walked into the other room where my two little girls were playing and just scooped them up and started to cry. Good tears, people, good tears. But that really surprised me.
2) I worried I’d hallucinated. After the initial shock wore off, and the giddy hopping and shouting I’d expected slowly set in, I froze with worry. What if this was some mistake? What if my agent called back in an hour to say the offer had been retracted? I had called people to tell them (OK, scream to them!) the news, and I broke into a cold sweat at the idea of all my happiness being tugged out from under me. The fear of rejection was deeper than I knew.
3) The support of my family, friends, and community. This was probably the best part. The sheer magnitude of congratulatory emails and cards and phone calls was overwhelming—people I never thought would care actually went out of their way to contact me with gushing praise and excitement. I underestimated just how much a lot of people cared about me. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.
4) The weirdest feeling of all. Everyone kept asking me, but I couldn’t put into words how I “felt” almost immediately after hearing about the offer. Happy, accomplished, like I’d achieved my dream. But I also felt like my main character—any main character, really—after the climax of the book’s story arc. I was on the resolution slope, and couldn’t put the anticlimactic feeling into words. Then, one of my critique group partners voiced it for me, without a single second of thought it seemed. “It already felt like the past,” she said. Duh. That was it exactly, and it kind of depressed me.
5) I still made dinner that night. OK, so this one might seem a bit trivial, but after my lifelong dream of selling a novel to a Big Time Publisher came true, making dinner brought me right back into the real world. I still had so many other responsibilities to tend to, that I couldn’t just wrap myself up in my freshly printed-out offer and marketing plan and cuddle with it for hours like a pet cat. (But don’t think I didn’t want to!)