The S.O. and I drove up to Calumet yesterday for an author's talk and book signing sponsored by the Friends of the Calumet Public Library. The S.O.'s cousin, Mel Laurila, had mentioned in June that his first novel, Mine Games, had been accepted for publication. At that time, he thought it would be rolling off the presses by late summer. Nope. Actual publication (as in hard copies ready for sale to the reading public) happened about a week ago.
Mel's talk was interesting, and not just for the specific insights into the book. It's a murder mystery set in Michigan's Copper Country that uses the possible reopening of a historic copper mine as a motivation for murder. Mel knows the area and the subject matter quite well, having graduated from Michigan Tech and spent the past 30 or so years working in the mining industry. The plot revolves around what happens when the mine changes ownership and someone dies. I look forward to reading it and seeing how I do with his challenge to see how early in the book I can figure out who's responsible for what.
His talk also served as a major reality check for any aspiring novelists in the audience. It really made it clear just how much work is involved in getting published, both before and after acceptance by a publisher. You hear stories about rejection -- Stephenie Meyer, for example, likes to tell interviewers that her first novel was rejected something like14 times before being picked up by a publisher. Well, it appears 14 rejection letters are nothing, a mere blip, they barely qualify as painful. Mel did 153 submissions to potential agents and publishers before hitting pay dirt. One hundred fifty-three. Now, that's persistence.
After publication, of course, you have to leap on to the promotion bandwagon -- hustle for book signings, arrange for talk show appearances, agree to anything and everything you can do to get the public to notice Your Book. If that hustling includes doing things like keeping cases of books in your car, seeking out every independent bookstore you can find on your own and persuading the managers to sell your book, you do it. -- because if some magic minimum number of sold copies isn't achieved, your first novel published could very well be your last.
Bottom line: if you believe in your work, you never give up.