In June of 2008, I had attended a writer’s conference, where a literary agent had expressed interest in reading the manuscript I was trying to publish. He had indicated he would read my manuscript quickly, before I completed the self publication process I was involved in as a backup plan to traditional publishing. When I got home from the conference, I quickly sent him a digital copy. He had seemed very interested, and I couldn’t wait to hear back from him.
After about three weeks, when I hadn’t heard back from him, I sent a followup email. I was puzzled – this didn’t feel very quick. I was in the final stages of self publication, and after a brief break to attend a high school reunion, I was coming closer to the point where I would need to either hold up on self publication, or move forward. I had to make a decision, so I continued forward with self publication, and it appeared my book would be published in early August.
Finally, the first week of August, I got a reply from the literary agent:
“Many thanks for sending me your manuscript Freedom’s Just Another Word. While there is much to admire here, I am not confident that it is something I could place with a publisher in today’s highly competitive market. I hope you find someone who disagrees and wish you the very best of luck with it.”
Honestly, looking back, I think I didn’t let myself feel how disappointed I was about receiving this rejection. I had such a positive feel when I met with the literary agent that this reply surprised me. I was glad that I had continued forward with my plan to self publish. I think the excitement of what happened next covered up any disappointment I might have felt. I got to say those magical words:
“I am a published author.”
Just saying the words almost rendered me speechless. It was just too amazing, too incredible, to realize that I had just been published. I went to Amazon on August 6th and found a listing for Freedom’s Just Another Word. I just sat there and looked at the entry. Then I would get up, go do something else for a while, then come back and look at the listing. It hadn’t changed, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it all the same.
After a while I realized that it was like the first time I had run a marathon. Everyone had talked about how sometimes you got very emotional when you crossed the finish line. It wasn’t like that for me. I was just numb. I walked through the “get your medal and get your picture taken” lines almost like a robot. I couldn’t absorb any more about the experience. It wasn’t like shock – quite. It was more like realizing that the last six months of training had just paid off. I guess part of me up until the very end wondered if I would actually run, and finish.
We had heard about all the obstacles – illness, injury, things like that which caused a lot of people not to finish. But I had finished! I had finished even with my right knee bothering me badly enough three days before the race that I had to go get acupuncture to heal it as best I could. I felt like I could run, but even during the race wasn’t sure if the knee problem would intrude. The knee was fine and never bothered me during the marathon.
With publishing my book, it was not a bothersome knee, but the deep messages by my Grandma that had held me back from publishing two previous book. She said they’ll call you crazy if you try to become an author. Then she told me “I can have you committed,” if I tried to write and went crazy. Finally she showed me what it would be like to be in an asylum – that really locked up my writing. I hadn’t been sure if those old messages would intrude and make me hold back from actually publishing the book. I wasn’t sure until I actually saw the Amazon listing – and then there was the reality of what I had done. I had broken past, I had moved beyond. No wonder I was stunned and numb! The enormity of what I had just accomplished would take a while to sink in.
When I finished the marathon, I became aware a couple of days later (when I could walk up a flight of stairs again) that it would take a while – possibly several months – for me to fully absorb what I had just done. Only after time had passed could I look back with a sense of detachment and take in what the event signified. I sensed it would prove to be the case with publishing my first book. “I am a published author.” That would take a long time to sink in, because of the added element of shaking off the Grandma weight.
This was a line of demarcation – one of the three significant transition points of my life. The first was working the wheat harvest to walk in my Dad’s shoes – to find his story. The second was running my first marathon. Now the third – publishing my first book. All three events had the flavor of a rite of passage. I had crossed a threshold – I returned from harvest a changed man in a very intense way. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon affected me deeply. Now I sensed the same phenomenon with publishing my first book – I was different in a way that might take me months to capture in words.
I intuitively sensed that it was too soon to begin publicity for the book – I needed to absorb first – let everything sink in. As well, I wanted to order a copy of my book from the publisher, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, to make sure that the distribution component was working correctly, before telling people how they could buy my book. I made no immediate plans to do anything else and spent the month of August letting it all sink in. Later in the month, I sent inscribed and signed copies to several people I wanted to thank for being part of the process. But other than that, I didn’t get active on the publicity phase. I did feel some fear releasing, and spent several nights with my legs shaking with fear. But I believe I was still in the stunned place, and that’s why not much fear released. Besides – I hadn’t publicized the book or told many people about it. It was possible that getting the word out about my book would stir up some old feelings to be released.
“I am a published author.” Wow!
Crossing The Finish Line © Dan Hays. All rights Reserved.