7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Publishing Your First Book


1. The copyeditor will introduce technically correct mistakes.

Copyeditors don’t have a great deal of leeway. They have to stick to a script of publishing conventions, forcing uniformity at the cost of idiom or creativity. So forget God talking about His works and how great He is. Terms that are new to the vernacular must still follow old rules, which is why you will see “star fuckery” expressed as two words just like “web site.” Consider it a “Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street” (not 34th, like on the street signs) if this doesn’t happen to you.

2. There will be a typo that will haunt you for life.

You’ve gone over the manuscript several times before handing it over to the editor, then again after the editor’s comments, then again in the proofreading, copyediting, and galley stages. Congrats! Since those last few iterations were exclusively spent looking for mistakes, you’ve now trained your mind to regard your work as error-filled. It won’t be…except for that one typo that somehow makes it through all the edits. You will be so sick of looking at your work that you will dwell solely on that typo.

3. Most of your friends and family won’t care.

You’ve worked for this moment all your life. You might’ve even told yourself, “I can die happy, having written a book.” It’s a major personal milestone, just like having a baby. And in the same way that others’ baby pics on Facebook are a mildly pleasant thing for you to “like,” that’s how your book will seem to them. They will have no personal connection to the work other than a vague sense of support for you. The disinterest will be hurtful—crushingly so.

4. The ones that care won’t get it.

Most people don’t have the capacity to insightfully criticize a book—nor should they. Few of us would be able to examine, say, a building that looks “cool” and have anything useful to say or even be able to articulate why we appreciate it. So when the people whose opinion you respect most in life—your BFFAE, Mom, your roommate—simply tell you that “I liked it!” or “It was funny” or “I was really impressed, good job!”, don’t be surprised. Be disappointed—that’s inevitable—but don’t be surprised.

5. Everyone thinks you have an infinite supply of books.

People are so used to thinking of your li’l writing interest as a hobby that they can’t conceive of it as a professional endeavor. As such, they think that producing another copy of your book is simply a matter of hitting “Print” on your computer—it’s just like a zine!—and handing it over. They will also act as if they’re doing you a favor by reading your book. If you don’t see it that way, then you’re being obnoxious. (Protip: Consider yourself lucky if you get a case of 24 hardcover copies.)

6. You will no longer be able to enjoy yourself at parties.

This happens to me every time.

Partygoer: So what do you do?
Me: I’m an author.
Partygoer: Oh, what kind of books do you write?
Me: My last one was about North Korea.

No matter the subject, the partygoer will feel the need to both demonstrate a vague knowledge of it and an even vaguer interest in it. You, on the other hand, are at the party to meet people and avoid talking about work. Neither one of you wants the conversation to continue, yet the momentum is inevitable. Mood: killed.

7. It’ll change your life forever.

There is nothing as exciting as publishing a book. It’s not as big of a deal as you’d hoped it would be, but it’s still a very, very big deal. Go out to every bookstore near you and take a picture of it on the shelves that first day. Keep every review and mention. Whenever you’re down or anxious in the future, go back and look at those pics. You made something awesome happen once; you can do it again.