On the 31st of May, I will be making good on my threat to re-release my novel. It’s called Tender Underneath. It’s a pretty story I began writing after Sixth Form and finished in my first year at Poly. About a dozen people have read it for free so far and I’m pretty sure the people who bought it on Amazon were members of my family.
It sold so badly, I enrolled it in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program which is basically a subscription that lets readers “borrow” your book and then gives you a cut of a monthly fund. Still my baby was left ignored. I even made that bastard child of mine free and still no one got it. Behold the total earnings of my book!
Fuck my drag, right? The disappointment of not selling the masterpiece that was surely going to shame Shakespeare was made worse by knowing exactly why. First of all, I wasn’t doing any marketing. Why? A combination of crippling self-esteem and sort of being embarrassed by promoting myself. There was also the issue of not knowing how to do any of that shit.
Second, it was a poorly published book. Eventually, I got the sense to re-read my dumpster baby and cringed as I saw all the ways I’d spat on the art of writing. I promptly took it down in shame and then spent the next five years trying and failing to put it out again. And now, lovely, the time to actually share my book has come.
Nearly all the anxieties I had when I released Tender Underneath back then are still present. Despite all the shit I just chatted above, I’m your stereotypical insecure writer. No matter how well I spin a yarn, it still leaves something to desire; and that something can be a lot or a little, depending on how narcissistic I’m feeling that day. In any case, feeling “less than” goes hand in hand with being a creative so the self doubt isn’t weighing me down.
Worries about low sales, poor promotion and the (now very real) possibility of being ripped to shreds also still abound but impostor syndrome is so yesterday, and I’m getting too old for that shit. I can deal.
One anxious thought, however, that feels brand new is wondering if people will think the main character of my story, a high school senior who sort of dated her teacher, is actually an American version of me.
Figure that. Instead of worrying about fucking up and producing the same results as above, I’m more concerned about a misconception that hasn’t happened yet, if it will at all. Good problem to have, if you ask me. I’m taking it to mean I’m not as focused on possibly failing (again) as I am about people connecting with my work.
The girl I made up and the girl who wrote her were very different people. However, the girl I wrote and the woman I am today share superficial but noteworthy similarities; and that’s kind of a problem. How am I to convince anyone that my main character, a difficult atheist with depressive tendencies, is not me, a difficult atheist with depressive tendencies?
The similarities don’t end there but curiously the teenager who came up with Tender Underneath wasn’t really like us. She was agnostic at best, healthily optimistic and far too scared to own being difficult. That I became so much like my main character probably means I’m a prophet. I’m kidding. It probably just means Effie May (that’s her name) was partially a fantasy of who I could be if I wasn’t so timid. Most of us insert aspects of who we are or who we want to be in our characters. I did that with amazing accuracy and, for this alone, I demand a Pulitzer.
Going over my book makes me worry about what you’ll make of it. Not just of how you will judge the writing but of how you may take pieces of autobiography where I wrote fiction. Ultimately, though, I know I have to detach myself from what I wrote. When I hit publish, my child will have to fend for itself. I’ve taken care of it for long enough. There are things I can do to improve the way I self-published back in 2015 but there’s nothing I can add or take away from this story. There’s nothing I can do to sway you, the reader. The story won’t belong to me anymore, it will belong to you. And I can spend time defending the uniqueness of mine and Effie May’s character but, at the last, that’s up to you too.