Surprisingly, I was not prepared for this question when a friend asked me how it felt to finally publish Book II. The last couple of months prior to publication had been nonstop work and stress with very little sleep. Even after the official release, my mind was still going a mile a minute.
I had to pause and think about my answer. How did I feel now that Book II was out in the world?
I definitely felt more confident in the publication process. With the first book, I was learning step by step but felt like I was stumbling blindly through the process. This time, I knew what I was doing. I knew how to register the ISBNs through Bowker and set up the title and retail pricing with IngramSpark. I had a trusted line editor and ebook formatter on call. I had a better understanding of how to create the cover and dust jacket to the correct dimensions and format the interior pages.
That’s not to say it ended up being a completely smooth ride. I still made some mistakes to learn from for next time, although they were minor in comparison to errors I’d made during the first round. COVID-19 also threw several curveballs that caused delays and resulted in my last-minute scramble to the finish line even though I’d previously been on schedule to hit my target release date.
Book I’s phenomenal but unexpected success after being critically acclaimed by fans and book reviewers and receiving the Literary Titan Gold Book Award in May 2020 put a lot more pressure on me to deliver with the sequel.
When A Fallen Hero was published at the end of 2018, I was an unknown author. Only friends, family, and co-workers even knew the book was coming, and nobody really knew what to expect since I’d kept it mostly under wraps. Since then, it’s been an uphill battle to get the book out into the world, and I’ve connected with an ever-growing fan base. From bookstagrammers, reviewers, and fans I met during my book signing tour, author fairs, and other events, people I didn’t even know were eagerly waiting for the next novel. I never had those high expectations to meet with Book I. I’m so thrilled that A Fallen Hero has been such a success, but with each accomplishment, the weight on my shoulders for Book II to be amazing grew a little heavier. That pressure wasn’t there back in 2018.
Having a following on the edge of its seat and counting the days to publication made this experience very different from the first book. Even though I love the story (remember, I wrote most of the series all at the same time, so Book II was designed to be an almost seamless continuation of Book I), I still had no idea how fans were going to react to the direction I’d taken the characters. A Fallen Hero had cast a much bigger shadow than I’d expected. I sincerely hope Phantom’s Mask is able to do justice to its predecessor. So far, it’s been well received by early readers and The Prairies Book Review, so that’s encouraging!
I knew the first time I held A Fallen Hero that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience I should hold onto and treasure. And I was right. Seeing the second book in print is certainly a cause for celebration, but it’s not a novel feeling anymore. I’m used to holding my own books now, opening them up, signing them, arranging them in displays, talking about them. It’s always going to be exciting to see the newest book for the first time, but I doubt there can ever be that same emotional rush as the very first time.
I think there’s this expectation that once a book is released, the author is able to sit back, sigh in relief, and relax. But that’s not the case. Even when the book is out in the world, the marketing is only just beginning, not to mention all the work that will begin soon to write, edit, format, publish, and market the third installment in the series, all working around a full-time day job. And of course, there’s the stress about how the new book will be received and whether or not it will garner positive reviews from readers. It’s not that easy to settle the mind after it’s been going and going and going without pause for so long. You can’t just slam the brakes; you have to slowly ease your foot off the gas.
The first weekend after the release, I spent the afternoon in the garden to unplug from the computer for a while. To my surprise, it took over an hour for me to settle down, stop mentally reviewing my to-do list and stressing about whether fans would love or hate the book, and truly focus on the task of pulling weeds. Even then, I never had that moment when I could let out a long sigh and say, Okay, I’m done. Now I can relax.
The work certainly doesn’t end on publication day. That being said, I still love what I do! Yes, it’s a ton of hustle, time, and stress, but it’s something I’m truly passionate about. These characters have been demanding that I tell their story for over a decade, and that’s what I’m going to do.