Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Having your first book published is, I’m realizing, akin to having your first child: You are elated, exhausted. You aren’t entirely sure what you’re doing, but if you use common sense, consult a lot of people, and just show up and do the best you can, everything will be ok.
Inevitably, though, you make mistakes. And hopefully, you learn from them.
Over the past week, I’ve realized that I’ve made two rookie mistakes. One is only likely to impact my ego. The other is more likely to impact sales.
Rookie Mistake 1: Reading Reviews
I don’t know a single writer who loves reading reviews of his or her work… even good reviews. There are critics who live to eviscerate, and even award-winning writers who garner mostly glowing reviews are always waiting for the other heavy shoe to drop. Plenty of writers have written “advice to new author” essays in which they caution us against reading reviews. Period.
But many admit they don’t follow their own advice.
And we don’t either.
My ego should be far less invested in reviews than it is, especially because Pope Francis in His Own Words is a book of quotes… it’s not my own “original” writing; it’s nothing I labored over for years. But when I read the one line in a positive review that criticizes the Pope’s quotes for being taken out of context, poor Francisco runs for cover because he knows what’s coming: an inevitable rant about the fact that quotes are not– can not be– entirely in context because that’s their very nature. They are words that have been excerpted from a larger body of text. In the selection and excision, they are inevitably decontextualized, even when you (as we did) take the greatest care with them.
Anyway, I will probably be just like any other published author: telling you not to read your reviews while I go on clicking the links on my Google Alerts and shaking my fist at the laptop.
Rookie Mistake 2: Letting My Last Name Lead
Co-editor Lisa Rogak was exceptionally kind to offer that I take “Author A” position on our co-authoring contract, which establishes whose name appears first on the published work. I thought that was gracious and generous and I accepted without giving the matter much thought.
After a quick recon mission to a few bookstores, however, I’m realizing that might have been a grievous error. The last name “Schwietert” would be tough enough for an employee to insert into its proper position on the shelf, but “Schwietert Collazo” presents an even greater dilemma: file under “Schwietert” or “Collazo” (and regardless of what’s chosen, it’s likely to get mis-shelved)? In every store I’ve visited so far (and with one report in from another state), the book hasn’t been alphabetized properly. Francisco didn’t seem to think that was a huge problem– “They’re looking for the book, not you,” he pointed out– but if you don’t even have a visual image of the book in your head, you can’t use that as your back-up method for scanning the shelves. (As an aside, I noticed that many books in the “Christian” section of the store have similar color schemes, so that’s another complicating factor; it’s hard for one particular book to stand out amidst its neighboring pastel-hued volumes.) Unless you really want the book, you’re likely to give up. And asking an employee for help? Well, hey, they mis-shelved the book in the first place.
It probably would have been smarter to have lead with “Rogak.”
Are you a published author? Have a rookie mistake to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.