Career update, or the value of a photo of a stack of your own books
My proof copy of Kiss and Cry arrived this week, and I’ve made a little thing out of taking a photo of my updated book stack like the one above. Not only is it a list of print books I have in stock, but it’s also a reminder of what I’m doing, what I’ve done, what I’ve learned. Kiss and Cry is my 24th book. (Not counting short stories in anthologies; counting Scambitious as 4 books and Interim Goddess as 3 books.)
I started taking this kind of photo because, as a woman in pretty much any career, I too have experienced being invited as a practitioner or a resource, only to be talked down to or dismissed by someone much less knowledgeable. At the time I didn’t know where it came from, and what they sought to prove. (Today I just think it’s sexism + misplaced attempt at exercising superiority.) Still it did affect me and for a while, it was a source of anxiety and I would spend a lot of time preparing for That Person, knowing at least one would be there, anywhere. When they did do their expected thing, I felt challenged to learn more, because a part of me did believe that they knew more. When your work is in genre romance, the chances of experiencing this go up even more.
So I did more, worked more, and learned more. That book stack reminds me of all the experiments, documented on this site over the years–the publishers, the collaborations, the new editions, the trad pub R&R, the period I was agented, distribution experiments, marketing projects, genre hops. The failures as well as the successes. And you know what? It feels good. I can speak openly about what works and what doesn’t, and have wonderful conversations with people who get it.
Now if I’m speaking anywhere I lead with this photo (or a slide of covers), and perhaps not a coincidence, but the anxiety-inducing interactions have dropped down to nearly zero. It’s possible that I’ve improved my presentation and communication skills over the years, that I’ve gotten better at getting my message across.
Or maybe it has something to do with starting with a simple image that shows what years of work have taught me. That just maybe I did know a thing or two about the topic I was invited and often paid to speak about. I can’t believe I have to do this to be taken seriously, but it’s a tip for anyone in a similar position, and probably feeling a similar anxiety. (And my other tip is that no gathering should make you feel this way and definitely say no if you want to.)