I was pretty quiet about wanting to publish until I got my first contract. In a small town, announcing that you've written a book is an invitation to "Who does she think she is?" comments behind your back. Once I got that contract, however, it became necessary to come out of the book closet and start down the endless road of marketing and promotion.

The most surprising thing is how many phone calls I've gotten from people who have also written a book. They want to know how I got published and (usually) whether my agent would like to also be their agent. But mostly they want to talk about the book. Now the fact that I was for years an English teacher at the local high school may contribute to that, and there are often strong hints that I might like to "take a look" at their work and "see what I think." I always make the same suggestion: leave the book in a drawer for six months, read it again, and then if you still like it, join an online group and see what people who don't have to see you in the post office every week say about it.

It's both heartwarming and distressing when, after five years of beating on publishers' doors, I see someone so certain they've got a bestseller ready to go because "My mom read it and she says it's really good." Was I ever so naive? Not quite, but almost. Despite what we read about the difficulty of getting (and staying) published, we like to think we'll be different. The first time we send that MS off, there's an expectation of a phone call next week with a six-figure advance offered. It's only after the hundredth mailing that realism sets in and our dreams become more modest. In fact, these days I'm satisfied if the rejection letter is signed by a real person and not machine generated.

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