First Year Retrospective By Susan Marshall

My First Year as a Published Author

By Susan Marshall, author of the hit young adult novel NemeSIS.

As a debut author, I’ve learned a lot over the past year, including that books have birthdays. NemeSIS turned one last month, April, 2018, and to celebrate this ‘book birthday’ occasion, I thought I would take the time to reflect on the past year and look to the future.

For someone who is generally happy at home, listening to the imaginary voices in my head, this entire year has been a huge period of getting outside my comfort zone, and my comfy indoor clothes.

I did not fully realize that being an author, indie or otherwise, means that a lot of the book promotion falls in your lap. On this point, during last spring and fall, I attended 17 bookstore events, in all over the place Ontario.

As an unknown quantity, I quickly realized that sitting at an Indigo table for four hours, waiting to sign books for ‘fans,’ was a waste of time. Instead, I channeled my inner-extrovert, reaching out to potential readers as they breezed by.

While I had many ‘I’m not interested’s, I did have many amazing conversations, met tons of great people, and found some new readers along the way. Even though my goal was ‘spreading the word’ and not book sales, I was fortunate enough to sell quite a few.

Over the past year, I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of students, in groups of sometimes larger than a hundred, forcing me to confront my insomnia-inducing public speaking phobia head-on. Since you can’t let fear win, I decided to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that was presented.

The first, and likely the most amazing one, was the chance to be on stage with incredible authors at the DigiWriting Stratford YA Writer’s Festival in May 2017. I also spoke at my alma mater with my favourite English professor in the audience. I tried my best to remain composed and made sure to include the part of NemeSIS where Nadine reads an excerpt from a Thomas Hardy poem.

Another ‘way out of my comfort zone’ experience was participating in The Fanshawe College Letters and Arts Society Reading Series this past March. At the pre-talk lunch, faculty members compared and contrasted previous participants, such as Laurence Hill and Elizabeth Renzetti, while I contemplated a way to escape unnoticed. Coming up empty handed, lunch was followed by a photo session where it was noted that my portrait would hang on a wall of past speakers, including Margaret Atwood (!). And while I’m sure my picture resides far, far away from hers, it’s pretty amazing to think we have that in common.

Over the course of the year, I adopted the old motto, ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes your stronger,’ and developed a personal relationship with melatonin. And in between the book related activities, I kept writing, completing a second YA novel (working title: Pond & Prejudice), and starting a third book (working title: Intersection), geared to younger readers.

One year later, I still feel humbled by the support of friends and family who purchased almost two hundred copies of NemeSIS at the book launch. I also feel incredibly grateful for the guidance and encouragement I received from Blue Moon Publishers. Heidi, Talia, and Allister have been wonderful to work with every step of the way, and also seem to be two steps ahead of me, opening every possible door.

Looking back, it’s been a wonderful, crazy, amazing year of learning and growth, and definitely one for the books. #corny #thankful

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