Why do I say that? Assumptions. When I said I’d published a book, I got a few variations of the same reaction. Everyone offered congratulations, but a fraction bought one of my books. Maybe it was foolish of me, but I admit to being surprised, sure that everyone who at least knew me a little would get a book. Until I started thinking…
Problem one: Not many people knew I had been writing a book or that I did any writing at all.
I kept the story secret. The idea had been with me for over six years. When I met people, and they asked the typical chit-chatty questions of “who are you and what do you do” I never said, “I’m Courtney and I love to write.” Nope, never. I didn’t tell my friends, family, no one, that I was struggling to write my first novel. I had confided the story with my honorary grandfather, Bert (to whom the novel is dedicated), and sort of shared a first draft of the first chapters (way back in 2004) with my mom, but other than that, no one saw the story.
Therefore it isn’t surprising that when I announced I’d published a book, people were surprised. She writes? Uh…is she any good?
Writing is fun. I know writing as a hobby is a strange concept to many people, but I’ve been writing fiction since graduating from high school way back in 2002. Even as a child I had my head filled with story ideas. So what did I write way back in the teenage days? It probably won’t bolster my credibility with anyone, but I wrote fan fiction, which is like writing with training wheels. It was through fan fiction that I discovered something mind-blowing: characters were totally outside of me. They became their own people and thought and said things that I would never have thought of on my own.
Problem Two: Tangibility
The “I’m a published author” announcement was made over the Internet. There was nothing wrong with doing that, but no one got to see the physical book. No one got to touch it, feel how heavy it was, flip through the pages. I’m assuming most people thought the book was a light-weight, a flimsy start, just a first novel, something around 150 pages size 14 font, Times New Roman (gasp!), not worth the $13 plus tax and shipping I was asking for it.
Nope. Jaden Baker is 189,000 words. What does that mean? Here’s a comparison:
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 168,923 words
- Jaden Baker: 189,000 words (rounded down)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 190,637 words
So GOF, that freaking huge brick of a novel, is a little longer than my brick. Not a Harry Potter fan? Maybe you’ve read one of these:
- The da Vinci Code: 175,000 words (approx)
- Twilight: 118,975 words
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: 144,000 words (approx)
That means that my first novel is longer than those above. The paperback of Jaden Baker weighs a pound. To keep the page count (and cost of printing) as low as possible, the font is 10pt Adobe Garamond Pro. The words are as tight as can be while maintaining legibility. The book clocks in at 448 printed pages, no header, just a footer with a page number. The Kindle e-Book weighs in at over 1095 KB (most Kindle e-Books hover around 300-500kb).
When people got their signed book, they all expressed surprise at how large it was. Who’s to blame them? It’s longer than most books, and really long for a first novel.
Problem Three: Unknown Quality
How good can a first novel be? Since I didn’t ever discuss a) the novel or b) the fact that writing was a hobby of mine, I’m going to assume most people think my first book…well…sucks. I don’t blame anyone for that. A first anything doesn’t usually have the highest quality as the second something or even the third something.
I posted the first chapter online months before the book was published to show people that I might actually know what I’m doing. When the book was ready for sale, I posted the first four chapters to further prove that I’m not an incompetent wannabe. From there it was up to you to take the chance and read the first four chapters.
Of course I can blabber all day long about how wonderful I think the book is, but that means diddly-squat. Jaden Baker is my brainchild. No one can possibly love the book or the character as much as I do. So other than posting the first four chapters, there is not a whole lot I can do or say to prove this book isn’t utter crap.
What I can say is this: after finishing the book I discovered a few literary gems. I’m not beating my own drum here, I’m saying this because I found things in my novel post-planning it and post-writing it.
Remember in high school or even college English classes, when you had to study stuff like symbolism, foreshadowing and the like? Maybe someone in your class raised their hand and asked: “Did the author do this intentionally?” My teacher at least said, “Oh yes, the author did all of this intentionally.” I can’t speak for all authors, but I certainly didn’t intend for any of it to happen.
It was as I was coming home from a long walk with Riley that I had an epiphany. My book mirrored itself. The incident that starts the whole story is mirrored in the same scene that ends it. I thought of that after I’d finished the book. I was stunned. That little factoid was really cool when I remembered that mirrors were a motif in my book. And that duality was a theme! Wow, suddenly I had themes, motifs, foreshadowing, foils and doubles, and…wow! As an English major I was so excited. I hadn’t intended for any of that to happen, and yet it did.
Jaden Baker has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And no, it doesn’t just end suddenly like many books out there. It has a plot, a protagonist, an evil antagonist (trust me), conflicts and tension. It has humor, wit, violence, misery, ups and downs. It’s a real novel.
Problem Five: Taking the risk
So you’ve stuck it out this far in the blog post. Maybe the novel is a decent length. Maybe Courtney’s been writing for about a decade. Maybe it has all that literary nonsense that English teachers and professors go on and on about. But what does that matter? To me, it matters a lot. This is my baby. It isn’t drivel. Do I think you should go out and order ten copies? That would be nice, but no. Read the first four chapters. Give it a chance. If you don’t like the story, oh well, at least you tried. But what if you do like it? Books depend on word-of-mouth marketing. They don’t get movie trailers or commercials or spots on the radio. They’re spread by readers…