Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wedded Bliss

Hello, old beans! I hope you've had a pleasant and restful weekend. I have had a rainy, quietish weekend of attending the wedding of a good friend and hanging out with my church family and a couple of friends (literally...they are a couple) whom I haven't seen much since their marriage. It has been a lovely weekend and despite being stressed over an interview I have at the start of the week for a part-time nannying job, I feel quite relaxed. I am sorry for the lack of truly interesting posts on this blog. Editing a mystery means I have to keep pretty mum about my actual writing--even quieter than while I was writing the actual thing...sorry! I will let you know, though, that my first two beta-readers loved the first draft and I even made one of them cry. So. Now you know. But while I am not allowed to say much about Anon, Sir, Anon, I can talk all I want about Fly Away Home! First off on that subject: I made a decision to lower the price of the Kindle edition to $2.99, so now it costs far less than a complicated Starbucks drink and will certainly afford you more pleasure. I've begun to think about books that way--once upon a time, I never would buy books, thinking them too expensive. Now I think of them in terms of how many coffees they cost, and it's really not all that horrible. This may or may not be some odd form of psychology. I don't know. I don't inspect it. It allows me to buy myself books without feeling guilty for spending the money. I approve this method. ;)

At this wedding of which I spoke, I was faced with the odd position of chatting about Fly Away Home with a ton of people. The complete stranger at the end of my pew asked what I did. I told her I'm a writer. What do I write? I write novels. What sort of novels have you published? Just one, Fly Away Home. What is it about? Insert my very unpolished blurb I hate here. This conversation turned into the woman scribbling down the title and my name on the wedding program right under the bridal-party announcements. While I felt a stab of compunction at seeing my sales pitch actually kind of work and adorn the program of a friend's wedding, I had to laugh. It is so funny how people react to meeting a real live author. Most of them don't even look disappointed when I tell them I independently published and therefore am not likely to become famous. At the reception, several acquaintances I haven't seen since the last out-of-town social occasion bobbed up and congratulated me on my book, told me they were planning to buy it, and asked about sales. Others told me they had just finished reading it and thought it wonderful. Another told me she had only just started but couldn't stop feeling excessively pleased that she was reading a real book written by her own dear friend. I felt my face growing red with pleasure and embarrassment mingled. I mean, what do you say to these well-meaning, lovely people? It's certainly gratifying to be recognized as an author by people who have read and enjoyed your work/blog/stuff, but I found myself automatically discounting that praise and deflecting it. "It was independently published," I'd repeat, as if that made any difference to them.

The point is, people don't care. I think those of us who have finished and independently published a novel feel a bit wary over accepting praise because a big fat editor in a bit fat publishing house hasn't reached down to help us set our "beetle-crusher on the ladder of fame" (to borrow Wodehouse cant). I love the fact that I self-published Fly Away Home, but I admit to feeling that people wouldn't be quite so excited if they knew they could publish just as easily as I did...and they might not have a lick of talent. But the thing I've had to realize is this: it really is a thing worthy of commendation to have finished a novel and to have people like it. How many people have really done that? Let people love you. Let people become fans and laud your talent and get excited. It is their privilege as readers to appreciate what they want to appreciate. If they like what you write, haven't you succeeded? Constantly correcting people with, "It was independently published" is the literary equivalent of having your outfit complimented and feeling compelled to say, "Oh thanks. It's a hand-me-down". People don't want to know that. They want to give you the gift of kind words. Discounting those kind words is neither polite, nor generous. It's like unwrapping a present, looking at it and saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The thing that ground this concept in for me was when Michelle, the bride, came through into the reception room. After the initial "hug each other and bounce up and down squealing" thing that is her trademark, she pulled away and stared me in the eye. "Did you bring me my book?" she asked. Now, Michelle had told me a couple months ago to give her a copy of Fly Away Home as her wedding present. If I had come up with that idea on my own, it would have been gouache, but Michelle doesn't say things she doesn't mean. So when I was hugging my wedding-gown-clad friend and celebrating this monumental moment in her life and she asked me that, I just laughed.
"Yeah, I brought it," I said.
"YES! I was so hoping you wouldn't think I was kidding!" she said, and hugged me tight. "I wanted it so badly!"
Michelle is having the hugest day of her life to date and she is just as giddy about my silly little book as she is about her new husband. I didn't bring it up; she did. She genuinely wanted my book as a wedding gift and wanted it badly enough to ask me right in the first moments of her Mrs. Karl Hertzler-ness if I'd remembered to bring it. Honestly, I felt a tad ridiculous but a little giddy too. This is the perfect example of being able to take a compliment graciously. Who am I to tell her that's no kind of wedding gift? If she is going to be delighted with a signed copy of Fly Away Home, just let her be.

This is the sort of thing we authors dreamed of. Let's start letting ourselves enjoy being loved.

6 comments:

Kendra E. Ardnek said...

Having been a self-published author for two and a half years with four books under my belt, I agree with every word here. When I tell people that I write, and especially when I pull out my books (I carry a full representation on me at all times, because I'm vain like that), they're so honored to meet a real-life author, they don't care that there's a self in that authorship. Even when I was only running around with a proof copy and it wasn't actually published, they still were all sorts of ecstatic.

I'm glad to hear that people have been giving your book such attention, because it deserves it. I bought the kindle version a few days after it came out, and finally finished reading it a few weeks ago, and it was really good. I'm not usually drawn to its genre, being more attracted to medieval or ancient HiFi, but yours had a wonderful charm that was delicious.

Good luck with your continued writing journey!

Emily Chapman said...

All I can say is YES. And THANK YOU. I really needed this. Thank you a hundred times over.

Meghan Gorecki said...

Now that I've finally read through this as I've been meaning to all darn day ... all I can say is thank you. If you think of it in a month & a half--remind me to reread this post, would you? <3 Thank you for this & all you are, luv. ;)

Abigail Cossette said...

Excellent thoughts and reminders on how to take compliments! I'd never thought of them as presents, before, and that makes it much easier to take them seriously. (Not sure that I've commented before, we've run into each other a couple times at GenJ, and I've traveled some with your brother)

Rachel Heffington said...

Kendra: well thank you very much! I haven't yet had a chance to read yours--that stack of indie books I won is so much larger than it seemed!--but I look forward to it!
Emily and Meghan, I am glad you find it helpful--it is a lesson I am still learning. :)
Abigail: I am please to "meet" you! I know we have met briefly, and Joel has told me much of your story! (That was the subject of an hour-long drive in Colorado during iGovern West. :D)

Rachel said...

Hey, remember me? ;) Haha, sorry I've not been around - I dont' know how long ago you changed your header, but wanted to tell you how ADORABLEY sweet I think it is! :D So proud of you for getting your book out there...I find that so interesting from a reader perspective what other's think about the whole traditional/self-publishing thing. Fun that she liked the sound of your book enough to scribble it down during a wedding! :D #youhaveallthefun ;)

Love ya!
~The Other Rachel~