Stop. Panel time | Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love & Consulting Editor for The Bookseller, and Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist, joined the Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity conference to chat through the author experience.
Authoring in the modern world has changed. Instead of occasional reports on how things are going from a publicist, you have your phone, and the news is delivered often. Publicists can be in the front line looking after authors.
Earlier this year Jessie Burton wrote an article on anxiety. Your book is your baby, you hope it goes well. This piece was an important part of a conversation on mental health. You don’t expect to be anxious about a sense of achievement, Jessie notes. You start to feel fraudulent. She didn’t expect to feel so alienated, but she’s used all her confidence to get to the published point. She admits it can feel like complaining, “My diamond shoes are too tight.”
It’s all relative. She did hundreds of events and talked herself out. Writing is solitary work – you’re alone then surrounded by all these new people and responsibilities. She wishes she had learned you don’t have to fill the silences with journalists, as she often found herself babbling and telling ironic jokes that were often missed by them. As a first timer, you feel so grateful that you think you need to do everything.
You have to keep remembering what it’s all for. It can be a shock: you’re not ready to be a product. You’re a name, a commodity to be graded or swapped – a Top Trump card. This isn’t always the case, but certainly not everyone sees you as a person.
It’s easy to be the Boris Johnson of publishing, to dive in and not be sure what happens next.
The article came because she wasn’t sure she could go through what she went through again. She couldn’t keep pretending. Now she can weigh up decisions by considering how much mental energy things are going to take.
Never read reviews, she adds. There’s so much to and fro with an editor before it’s published, so what’s the point? Bad reviews stick in your head; they understand curiosity, but ultimately that’s not why you write. The key is to remember at all times why you write.