I’ll never forget those moments after the FedEx package arrived.
I’d taken the envelope to the breakfast bar in the kitchen. When I read the return address, I moved toward the living room as if I were on autopilot, my attention fixed on the packaging as I tore it open. I reached inside, drew out the contents, and turned around to sink onto an ottoman. Fresh from the printer, about a month before the official release date, it was a copy of Airwaves, sent with a note of congratulations from Julie, my editor.
I stared in disbelief then ran my fingers over the cover as if to feel it for myself. It was real. I was holding the proof. I opened the book and turned to the copyright page.
© 1998 Sherrie Lord
There it was — I was no longer an aspiring novelist. On contract with a royalty-paying publishing house, I was now a published author. I had the endorsement. I am a professional.
A few months later, my publisher hosted my attending the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) International Convention in Dallas, Texas, a massive week-long trade show for bookstore owners and purchasing agents who come to see new offerings for their book and gift-ware departments. It was amazing, three days of meeting other authors whose names I knew from the bookshelves and the speakers I’d seen on television. It was surreal, the people who wanted to meet me and my publicist taking care of every detail as she escorted me to the interviews she’d lined up. (Though, between you and me, the interviews themselves were no big deal; I’d already logged thousands of hours on the air with my own radio shows.)
The most memorable moment was when she stood beside me, taking copies of Airwaves from a shipping box and sliding them sideways on the table, the line of people on the other side of it stretching down the aisle as far as I could see; I autographed 240 copies in 30 minutes. The unknown population of readers interested in my work — now they had faces. I asked each person their name … and I thanked them.
Another memorable moment happened a year or so later. I was in Atlanta, Georgia, a stop-off on my way to visit family. I took a side trip to a local mall and happened upon a bookstore. I took a peak at the fiction section — and there it was. Actually, there they were, several copies of Airwaves. I took one from the shelf and stepped to the front desk. I loved visiting with the staff that day; I enjoy meeting people. And yes, I autographed those copies. I smiled as I left the store. I’m smiling now as I recall it.
So what’s it like? Am I rich? No, but money was never the goal. As long as I have my needs — and a few of my wants — met, I’m content.
Am I famous? Marginally. I do get a kick out of conducting a search of my name on Google; it’s interesting to see where I turn up. But it’s not as if I tell people who I am when I meet them. I let it come up in conversation, if it does. But it never ceases to boggle my mind that at this very moment, there are people reading my books. It makes me smile; maybe they love my characters — my friends — so much that they’ll be willing to lose a little sleep tonight in order to enjoy their company for another few pages.
“Just one more chapter, then I’ll turn out the light.“
Mainly, what I get out of the deal are three things:
Personal satisfaction. I had a goal — to advance my skill as a wordsmith to such a level that a literary agent and then a publisher would stake their time, resources, and professional reputation on me. I accomplished it. Nothing can ever take that away.
Self-confidence. It’s always a little intimidating, the volume of work that lies ahead of me when I begin typing words onto that first page of my next novel. There are going to be plot twists I write myself into that I’m going to have to figure out how to write myself out of. Ahh — no biggie; that’s what I tell myself. I know how to do this; I’m a pro.
Responsibility. Readers are waiting for my next book. And since readers read in order to experience and to feel, that makes me a conduit, one tasked with observing, analyzing, then interpreting. I observe the things people do, analyze their reasons and motivations, then take what I’ve discovered and interpret it back to those who care to listen. I escort readers to a window they haven’t looked out of before, then I explain to them what they’re seeing. It’s God who gave me this gift; it’s both my pleasure and my privilege to give it back. It’s my responsibility.