How will it feel to see your book on the shelf?

The test copy of my book arrived this week! When you publish your book as a printed book (as opposed to an ebook), you can order a test copy so you can see what your readers will get when they buy your book.

Before I get into how it feels to hold your book for the first time and put it on your shelf, I’ll briefly describe what you need to do when you get your test copy.

What do you do with a test copy?

Once you stop marvelling at the fact that you’re holding your book in your hand, you need to take a close look at it.

This is not at all the same as the proofreading stage – you’re not looking for sentence level errors now because they should have been sorted before your book was typeset.

So what are you looking for? When you examine your test copy, you’re looking at the overall layout and quality. Is the artwork arranged how and where you want it? Are the pages laid out correctly?

While at this stage you don’t need to read every word of your book, you do need to carefully look at each page. When you do this, you’re keeping your reader’s experience in mind. Is this the kind of book your reader will enjoy reading?

How did I feel?

I knew when the test copy was arriving and expected to feel excited the first time I held it.

It was exciting, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on over the last couple of days.

Thrilled

It’s thrilling to hold your book, to see that it’s real, to know that the hard work of writing and revising it is nearly finished!

I was happy, relieved and excited all at once. I wanted to show it to anyone who would look at it. I also loved putting it on the shelf and seeing that it looks like it belongs there amongst all the other books!

Sad

I was a little sad. I feel like I should have anticipated this because of how I felt when I finished my thesis. But I didn’t – it caught me by surprise.

On reflection, this response makes sense: this part of my journey is over. Endings, even ones we look forward to like finishing school, are inherently sad. We’re moving from what we’ve known into the unknown, or at least something we know less well than what came before.

Explaining this feeling to those closest to you is another matter. I’m pretty sure my husband is still confused by my response yesterday. He kept saying, ‘but it’s good that you have your book now’. He’s a published author (Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction), he’s been here, but he responded very differently.

This isn’t the first time I’ve perplexed him, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Scared

I was scared. This book is going to be out in the world very, very soon. While it was an idea, it was safe. No one could read it. No one could decide they don’t like it. No one could decide they think it’s brilliant and start referring people to me.

I knew this response was likely, and I address these feelings in my book in chapters 19 (Dealing with criticism) and 20 (Dealing with praise). I’m trying to take my own advice here and remember that judgements (good or bad) of my book are not judgements of me as a person.

This response is another one that perplexed my husband. I don’t like arguments that men are one way and women are another way (men are from Mars, women are from Venus). Humans are too wonderfully complex to be put into neat little categories like that. Nevertheless, historically, female authors have been more likely to have, or at least to give voice to, fearful responses to publication.

They range from Anne Bradstreet’s poetic response in ‘The Author to Her Book‘, in which she calls her book ‘Thou ill form’d offspring of my feeble brain’, to George Eliot’s (pen name for Marian Evans) avoidance of all reviews. She feared positive and negative reviews in equal measure. Eliot thought positive ones would make her feel she’d never write so well again (and therefore shouldn’t try), while negative ones would reinforce her self doubt which would cause her to stop writing.

If you respond to impending publication with fear, try to remember to sit with your feelings for a bit: counter any arguments your impostor syndrome throws at you and trust that this too shall pass.

What’s next?

I’ll have a publication date soon. That still seems weird. A year ago today, I hadn’t even started writing the first draft! I started writing it on 23 April 2019.

If you’re thinking of embarking on this weird and wonderful journey of becoming a published author, sign up for my free ecourse: How to get clear on your book and who it’s for in just 3 days!

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I help entrepreneurs get their books out of their heads and into print!

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