Anyone who's ever dreamed of writing a novel knows that the ultimate goal is not really getting an agent, or even getting a publisher. It's seeing your book on the shelf; that final moment of glorious validation, satisfaction and triumph that all the days/months/years/printer cartridges you have spent creating your masterwork have finally proved worth it.
For me, publication day felt like my 21st, wedding day and graduation rolled into one. I ate croissants listening to excerpts from the audio book, took delivery of a gorgeous bunch of flowers from my family and then spent the day running around delivering glasses and wine to the two locations we were using for the book launch. It was, quite simply, the best night of my life. I didn't come down for days.
But like every great moment in life, it's what happens afterwards that's really interesting. Now, almost a year on, with the paperback edition due out this week, I am older, wiser and a whole lot more realistic about the industry I have been plunged into. Here are my Five Top Tips for anyone about to be published.
1. Make as much noise as you can...around publication
Don't rely on your publishers to do it for you - although there are books that get a massive PR push, publicity departments don't have the resources or budget to extend that privilege to more than a few titles. Get in touch with local newspapers, radio stations; ask friends with good social media presence to get tweeting and Facebooking. And discover the world of Book Bloggers; be prepared to write as many blog posts as you can place on different aspects of the book. Word of mouth is where it's at for all but the biggest titles.
2. Don't expect it to last
For a short time you will feel like the eye of the storm (hopefully); with social media chatter about the book, and articles flowing out of you. Gradually it will begin to peter out. New books will have been published. You're old news. Get used to it.
3. Say yes to everything
If a friend invites you to her book group, go along. If you're asked to be on a panel at a literary festival, do it. If there's a book festival near you - however small - get involved. If you want writing novels to be a longterm thing, rather than a one-off, you need people to buy the book. Every appearance/interview/feature can help with this. Just don't expect to get paid for any of them.
4. Be realistic about the next one
If you're lucky enough to have got a two-book deal, think about the submission date before you sign. Many standard contacts offer a year for a second book to be written. If you only got a small advance, this may not be viable. Don't be afraid to negotiate on the date; trying to combine paying work with doing PR for your first book while trying to write the second is the fastest way to spending most of your weekends lying in a darkened room, jibbering like a loon.
5. Enjoy it
Nothing in life is ever quite as you expect. For most people, successfully publishing a novel really is a dream come true, and in some ways it's inevitable that aspects of the process will feel disappointing. The important thing is not to let go of one central fact; you did it. Your book is out there, people are reading it, discussing it, lying on sunloungers, sitting on trains, drawn into a world that you have created. It really is a marvelous thing. It's just not perfect. Go figure.
The People We Were Before is published in paperback on February 23rd (Quercus, £7.99)