First Book Publication Blues

by Ellen Bedrosian

Unlike a lot of new mothers, I didn’t bond instantly with my premature son when he was born. It was a disconcerting reaction, yet it was very similar when the carton containing author copies of my first chapbook of poetry – See the Dragons ~ A Collection of Zen Haiku – was finally delivered to my door. I took the package from the UPS driver, set it down unopened on my coffee table, and continued watching a movie Netflix. The entire publishing process had been fraught with so much agony (much like my drug-free labor and delivery) that I felt no compelling reason to rush to open the source my discomfort.

I never expected to feel disconnected from my first published book, especially after my initial euphoria when I received the acceptance email. Nurturing a book from the idea in your head to a finished product is an arduous process, as writers have been warned many times in countless articles. Still, I wasn’t prepared because I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

I doubt there is an ideal publisher out there. Publishing houses are made up of humans. Humans are fallible. There’s bound to be some miscommunication, especially when dealing with a small publisher. Still, it was discouraging when my sales reports were constantly late, especially considering that I was required to pre-sell a certain number of copies during a limited time frame. How could I target a new marketing campaign if I didn’t know who had already ordered?

Generating pre-sales is when you find out who your true friends are. It’s also when you discover the incredible kindness of people who believe in you and are willing to fork over their hard-earned cash to prove it. I don’t know whether I was more surprised by the people who didn’t pre-order, or those who did. Some who pre-ordered, I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. Others, who decided not to support my artistic endeavor, I see every week.

After I reached my sales goal, the publisher informed me that printing was running three weeks behind schedule. OK, I can deal with that. But when five weeks passed and another poet whose publication date was two weeks after mine received her author copies, I started to get annoyed. After several emails to the publisher, they assured me my books would be printed the next week.

Two weeks later, I got an email from the publisher with the subject line: “Books Scheduled to Arrive Today.” Yet, the first paragraph of the email read: “Your books were just shipped and will soon be arriving at your shipping address on file with us.” I didn’t know which part of the email to believe.

When the movie was over, I finally slit open the carton and gazed at my newborn book. Still, I felt nothing. The final product seemed like such a let down. Surely, I should be feeling the same euphoria as when I first learned my book was going to be published.

It wasn’t until friends and family who had pre-ordered copies started calling, texting, emailing, and posting on social media that they received their copies and were thrilled to finally read it, that it became real. It felt much the same as when a nurse finally brought me my warmed-up baby to hold, and we looked into each other’s eyes for the first time.

One Reply to “First Book Publication Blues”

  1. Elizabeth Marchitti

    Yes. it did seem like a lot of work. Although I didn’t sell as many copies of my Finishing Line book as you did, my friends and relative were so kind, two friends and my youngest daughter pre-ordered two copies. I sold the copies Finishing Line sent me, and had to order more–at discount– Then I remembered to save a copy for myself, hoping to sell the rest.

    I love your book. Have you read Basho In America n (there’s supposed to be some kind of mark over the “o”) by Sander Zulauf? Wonderful, wonderful. And although Sander is a retired professor of creative writing, and has several books published, he chose to do this one through IUniverse.


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