What Now? Am I Done?

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

First up, shameless self-plug: the latest editions of Tea in Pajamas and its sequel Tea in Pajamas: Beyond Belzerac, are out at all major bookstores including Kinokuniya, Popular and Times, as well as online, via publisher Marshall Cavendish, or e-tailers LocalBooks.sg and Amazon. Both are also available for borrowing across all NLB libraries. More general info and the latest reviews can be found at the books tab of this site.

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I’m sorry I’ve taken a longer-than-expected break from updating this site.  Believe this, life does not magically transform the minute one becomes a published author of a book sequel. The sun still comes up and goes down, work days need to be clocked, deadlines continue to loom, bills have to be paid, relationships require nurturing, Donald Trump is still the biggest bully on Twitter… and from the time it takes for a book to be approved for press until it his a physical bookshelf, the world may well have moved on.

I’ll be honest: the weight of expectations that came with getting a new book out has dulled much of the joy and relief I thought it would bring. I’m also learning strange new lessons, such as the uncanny similarities between pregnancy and publishing. You think just because you’ve been through it once that you’ve got this entire thing down pat—easy peasy, no problemo. Yes?

Well, no.

In my first pregnancy, I contended with irritatingly persistent eczema until the (natural) birth of my son, while in my next, eczema and asthma came as a pair until my daughter arrived via the unplanned intervention of a C-section. What I’m saying is: whether it’s pregnancy or publishing, the end result of a new “product” may be the same, but that’s really where the similarity ends. A new book, like a new child, is a completely new journey that comes with its own set of ups and downs. And as any parent can tell you, the real work begins after your bun’s out of the oven. Come to think of it, it’s never going to stop feeling like the first time, since no matter how many books you previously published, your nth book will always be the first time you publish your nth book.

That said, based solely on my own experiences, here’s what I can tell you about how it feels to publish a second book for the first time.

The past is past. Media that featured you, schools that supported you, friends who came and bought your book the first round—they’re done, and they don’t owe you their continued support. Be grateful for these past opportunities, but brace yourself for the hard work ahead. Some of your existing contacts may give you the time of the day, but for most the novelty has worn off. Accept this.

Success markers are fluid. Some authors measure success according to the number of units sold, others by press coverage and public appearances, and there are those who feel validated by a vast following on social media. After my debut in self-publishing, I wanted to transition into traditional publishing, so that became my success marker. It was a big deal to be able to have my books readily available in the major stores and borrowable from libraries across the island. But now that those milestones have been checked off the list, does it mean I’ve succeeded? See next point.

The playing field is different. Ever heard someone ask if you’d rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fry in a vast ocean? When you’re self-publishing, you’re competing only with…well, yourself. Back in the day, I took for granted the ease with which family and friends, and friends of their friends, could purchase copies directly from me. These days, however, I encourage anyone considering purchasing my book at a store to first approach the information counter or look up the shelf number online. Fact is, not many authors enjoy prime real estate in the bookstores—most of us are fortunate to even occupy a tiny niche at eye level. [On the other hand, if you savor a good treasure hunt, then attempting to locate my books can indeed be a fun activity.]

It was and is worth it. I grew tremendously as a writer in the process of writing my sequel. This is a fact. I put ten times the heart and dedication into the second book than I did my first, and I know it may still be early days but, whatever the outcome, I value my growth in this never-ending journey of becoming a better writer. My effort won’t be diminished even if fewer people are excited about it all. At the end of the day, I’m still prouder to say I did it than if I didn’t.

Get used to uncertainty and vulnerability. Whether it’s an autobiography or work of fiction, being an author means you’re essentially offering a part of yourself to the world. That’s never going to feel comfortable or safe, knowing you will be judged or wondering if anyone would even care to judge you in the first place. If, like me, you’re sensitive and thin-skinned, and have proclivities for inventing negative narratives in your head, you may want to reconsider becoming a published writer—it can really mess you up. On the other hand, if, like me, you love writing to that point that only the loss of mental or physical faculties could keep you from it, then do it anyway. You’ll simply have to condition yourself to always feeling a little scared and queasy.

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“So are you done?” a few people have asked me, just stopping short of clarifying if they mean writing another instalment to make Tea in Pajamas a trilogy, or if—as with Singapore’s infamous “Stop at Two” family-planning campaign—I’m calling it a day as a writer.

On the latter, I can honestly say it’s a definite “no” (sorry, haters). I suppose sooner rather than later I’m going to jump right back into it—whether it’s a third-parter or a brand new piece. With these things, you never know till you know.

Until then, you’ll be hearing from me. I hope to make some exciting announcements about upcoming events once confirmed.

Peace and ❤ ,

Rachel

 

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