Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, debut author of Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? (Viking), reveals all about the reality behind the dream of being published.
I’m back! Apologies that it’s been a while since my last column. A couple of things happened behind the scenes that were beyond my control. But no need to worry, all is well, my book is still coming out. Though it will now be released on the 31st March 2022 in the UK and Commonwealth, and 16th January in the US. (Put these dates in your diary!)
Now, with that out of the way, exciting news . . . my book proofs are out! For those unfamiliar with the lingo, and who might not react as excitedly as me, proofs are advance reading copies (ARCs), sent out to early readers for their review. From newspapers and magazine journalists, authors, booksellers and bloggers, they help to create a bit of a buzz ahead of its release.
So how do I feel? Excited. Nervous. Mostly excited... I’m nervous. My emotions are like a pendulum, they swing back and forth. My novel is going out into the world! (Insert screaming face emoji.) Aside from my agent, editors and a few dozen others at Penguin, no one else has read my book from cover to cover, not even my husband. Like many writers, I’m very protective about my work. My novel, as soppy as it sounds, is my baby.
So, when I received copies of my proofs in the post, and held one in my hands for the very first time, although I was ecstatic, I actually felt quite emotional seeing my own words in print, nearly 400 pages of them, bound together: a proper book.
Five years in the making, I kept thinking, as I flicked through it, hugged it, smelled it. (God, it smells so fresh.) And for a brief poignant moment, my husband and I just embraced each other, my book cradled between us, as though I had just given birth.
My novel is going to be read by people I don’t know, but also, by people I do know, not personally, but people I have a great amount of admiration for.
You see, ahead of my proofs going out, I was asked to think of any authors and influencers we could approach to receive an early copy and to - fingers crossed! - provide a blurb. (Another bit of publishing lingo for you: I’m talking about the short lines of praise that appear on a book cover.) So, I went away and put together a list, which later became a wish list, of all the people I admire, including some big names. (Hey, you won’t know, if you don’t ask.)
So far, we’re received a steady number of responses. Understandably, a few authors are too busy, but some have accepted our request. And as I scanned the list of names, it was such a heartening and surreal experience to know that these authors will be kindly giving up their time to read my novel. From my very infant experience of being an author, I’m discovering that this profession involves much more than just writing every single day – a challenge enough in itself. Part of it involves reading books, and not just for pleasure, but to support other authors, something that seems like a very easy thing to do, but, in reality, it can be challenging to find the time when you have an upcoming deadline, a million and one things that need doing, not to mention a personal life. So, to each and every person who’s taking the time to read my book and may later share a review: thank you so, so much. I’m extremely grateful! One day, I hope I’ll be able to do the same for another debut author.
So how am I feeling now? The pendulum has swung back to feeling excited again. I’m excited at the prospect of people finally meeting Yinka and following her journey. I’ve been banging on about her for years (and I also mean that in a literal sense – a ‘bashing my keyboard until midnight' type of way), it's time for my baby to take her first steps into the world.