One Year Ago

21 Apr

Today, exactly one year ago, my debut novel, Lost in Oaxaca was published. I’d been looking forward to 2020 for a very long time, knowing that it was going to be a time of great success for me. After years of hard work, I would finally experience my life’s crowning achievement.

Yes, indeed—I was destined to be the queen of Indy publishing. People would flock to bookstores to buy my novel; copies would sell out in days and the publisher would have to scramble to print more books. A mile-long line of fans would snake around our local bookstore at my book signing event. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the gory details. The truth is, you’d never be able to imagine the vividly narcissistic fantasies I’d compiled in my mind about my 2020 literary success.

It’s truly embarrassing. I’m just thankful you can’t get into my head.

Dreams are fun, but they can dissipate quickly, especially during a pandemic. I must reiterate—my disappointments are nothing compared to what some folks have experienced in 2020. But as it is required that writers write about their feelings, I’ll not let you down.

There was no selling out of Lost in Oaxaca. In fact, bookstores sent back the unsold copies to my publisher. There was no book signing event; no launch party. ZILCH.

The reality is that even without a pandemic, my extravagant fantasies of literary success would not have come to life. After all, I’m an inexperienced, first time novelist who has spent her adult life teaching piano lessons, running a household, and raising four children. Lost in Oaxaca was never going to be a worldwide bestseller.

My publisher made it clear from the beginning: YOU MUST WRITE AT LEAST 3 NOVELS before you can expect to gain a following. EVEN THEN, you will most likely only have moderate success.

“LALALALALALALA!” I shouted, stuffing my fingers into my ears. You’d think a piano teacher of over 30 years would understand the art of listening, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I was going to be the exception.

If this damn pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that who I am is not related to how many books I sell, and that my success is not dependent on an Amazon ranking. Sure, it feels good to sell a book. But the act of writing—putting words to a page—is what brings me the real joy, and this should be my focus. I am happy and fulfilled when I write, and that’s enough.

I’m so incredibly thankful that folks have bought my little book and told me they loved it. They’ve left me so many encouraging messages and positive reviews. I am deeply indebted to Chaucer’s, our local Santa Barbara Indy bookstore, who kept Lost in Oaxaca front and center this past year. They even acknowledged that I held best seller status—at least in the category of local authors. If that’s not a modicum of success, I don’t know what is.

Hey—I just remembered that my publisher also told me that the life of a novel is around three years. That means I’ve still got two more years left to promote Lost in Oaxaca.

And two more years to come up with additional elaborate fantasies of my incredible literary success!

And you thought I was done talking about my book. NEVER!

9 Responses to “One Year Ago”

  1. Bonnie Forman Gerstenfeld April 21, 2021 at 10:43 am #

    I see a book re-launch in  your future…!

    • Gretchen Cherington April 23, 2021 at 4:05 am #

      Thanks for this honest and real accounting. It is helpful and I admire you for understanding the real joy. I’ll with you on all of this, now at 8 months post pub. I do think our books have a far longer life than that fury of publicity for three months post pub and yet that’s the hype. Write on! Sell on! You’re living your dream! How many can say that? ❤️ PS I’ll go sign up for your blog and if so inclined you can sign up for my newsletter at website. So much opportunity for us as sisters.

      • Allegro non tanto April 23, 2021 at 8:47 am #

        Thank you Gretchen! I’ll sign up for your newsletter now! Here’s to the long lives of our books!! ❤️

    • Allegro non tanto April 23, 2021 at 9:12 am #

      We’ll see. At some point, I’m afraid I’ll need to let that idea go.

  2. Elisabeth April 22, 2021 at 1:03 pm #

    Time to get those next two books under belt, my dear! xxo

  3. debatterman April 22, 2021 at 3:03 pm #

    In the best of all possible worlds, good novels like yours would not require another two novels for you, the author, to find the following you’re so worthy of. Your words resonate very deeply in their humility and grace and, yes, gratitude for what this year (even with a pandemic) has brought you. xo

  4. Suzanne May 8, 2021 at 10:47 am #

    Jessica, still what an accomplishment, to bring a book concept to fruition! I’m still intending to buy some copies for friends who especially enjoy Mexico for vacations .. figured that’s an opening for them to like it, also! Secondly, as I read this blog post, it reminds me what we often teach to our music students, that it may be about the goal, but (for our sanity!) it also needs to very much be about the journey. And hopefully, your book writing efforts’ journey .. will take you to some additional place of satisfaction as a writer!

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