Recently an elderly writer friend—for her 80th birthday—was given the news that her children were going to arrange to self-publish her novel. She’s been working on this novel for years and has dutifully kept her nose to the word processor while the world around her has changed dramatically. She’s not online, has no clue about Facebook or Twitter and has no idea that the publishing industry has been re-inventing itself almost weekly over the past 10 years.
Enter … me.
I’ve been asked to help escort the novel through the self-publishing process, which I’m fully willing and happy to do. I’ve already formatted the latest version of the novel (currently awaiting editing updates), uploaded it to Create Space so we can figure the retail pricing, and I’ve done some mock-up covers in the Cover Creator. These are all processes I’ve completed several times for my own books, so it’s easy and almost automatic. But while I was doing these very ordinary and mundane things, I realized there was a thread of excitement behind them.
Because this will be her first book published.
Thinking about it took me back to the day I unpacked and held my very first book in my hand. I’m not sure that anyone but a writer can relate to that moment. After all, it’s not like an artist that puts the last dab of color on the canvas and says, “Done!” It’s not like the playwright that puts the last period and then types The End. The trick with a book is that we toil over it for months or years, we package it up in whatever way is the current process of the time, send it off, and then have it returned to us in its glorious finished state. It’s breath-stealing to open that box and pick up that book for the first time, to see how it’s all come together in its final manifestation, complete with cover, title, chapters, pages, back cover blurb. I can compare it to nothing else except the sheer joy of a 5-year-old child being given a freshly-minted, shiny new penny. It’s so bright! So clean! So pretty! Yes, we writers can actually feel that giddy over the first book.
I envy my friend. I envy her that experience which she has yet to encounter. It is such a defining moment for a writer, it’s like Christmas and New Year’s and birthday all rolled into one. It’s that moment when we say, “YES! I did it!” It’s the culmination of years of work, but it’s also the open door to everything else we have imagined. For in that pivotal moment, the world has changed.
It’s a bright, shiny new moment, never to be forgotten.
I envy her.