What My First Time Was Like
Tomorrow the first episode of The Human Division is officially released into the world, which counts as the book release to me. It will also be either my seventeenth or twentieth published book, depending on whether one counts The Sagan Diary, The God Engines and Metatropolis to go along with the nine novels and eight non-fiction books (I do personally, as TSD and TGE were individual hardcovers and I edited Metatropolis as well as being a contributor). But no matter how you slice it, holy cow, that’s a lot of books, and I get excited every time a new one goes out into the world. It never gets old, or at least it never gets old to me.
For fun, I thought I would dig through the archive and fish out the Whatever entry I wrote when my very first book, The Rough Guide to Money Online, came out (yes, folks, my very first book was a book on online finance. Now you know why I’m always yelling at writers about taking care of their money; it’s not just an affectation). Here’s how I felt about it at the time, more than a dozen years ago now.
November 6, 2000
The book is out in stores today. Actually, the book was out in stores yesterday, too; I called up the local Barnes & Noble to check, and sure enough, they had it on the shelves. “Heck, we got a bunch of ’em,” the ever-helpful sales clerk said. We took a little family trip over there, just to see what it looked like to have one’s book on a book rack.
The answer: Well, just look at the picture. There it is, wedged between all the Dummies and Idiots books. In a nice touch, the book is “face out,” which means it’ll draw the eye of the reader more than other books on the shelf. No, I didn’t reach in and do it that way myself — it was like that when I got there (however, should you go to a book store and and see it “spine out,” feel free to shove other books out of the way and face it forward. You’ll feel my love from afar). As I was readying the picture, Athena grabbed a couple of copies and grinned up at her mom. Look, mama, she seems to be saying. If he sells enough of these, maybe I’ll get to go to college! Well, and maybe you will, Athena. Maybe you will.
I realize it’s just a little bit dorky to go to a book store just to stare at your book sitting there on the shelf, but quite obviously, I don’t really care. This only happens once: The only time I’ll ever see my book sitting in a book store for the very first time. It’s not at all unlike being present at the birth of your first child. Other children and other books will be special, too, but first is first.
Which is not to say I reacted to seeing my book on the shelf the same way I reacted to Athena being born — I didn’t sit there in a bawling daze, amazed at the small package I held in my hand. After all, I’ve had my copies of the book for about a month now. I’m used to it. I just looked at it, took a couple of pictures to memorialize the occasion, and then headed over to the kids books section, where Krissy was picking out new bedtime story material for Athena. Hopefully all those copies of the book will find nice new homes soon.
Won’t you adopt one? Heck, get two. They’re small.
I’ll note that Money Online (pictured here with Ghlaghghee, who looks understandably weary at yet another pig-related object pressed up against her) did rather poorly; Rough Guides had high hopes for it, based on the million-plus sales of their Internet book, but it ended up selling less than ten thousand copies overall. Being released as the first Internet bubble was collapsing and everyone with money was running away from the Web probably didn’t help. Fortunately the Rough Guides people didn’t hold it against me and signed me for two other books. Flop or not, it got my foot in the door and for that reason — and because it was my first book, after all — I still have very fond memories of it.
Now we’re sixteen (or nineteen) books on, and a book release is still a big thing for me. I like that it is. I like my job.