If you snoop through my medical chart (and you are skilled at reading a doctor’s handwriting) you’ll see the words “unexplained infertility.” It’s basically a bullshit term that means “Um, I dunno.”

So I never got to read this book:

ExpectYou know the one. It appears at every baby shower (and almost every yard sale). I’m glad this wasn’t the cover when I was in my twenties and thirties, because I don’t think I could have handled the model’s cocked head and smile that suggest she’s thinking, “Aw, how sad that you’ll never have a baby bump like mine.”

For the woman going through her first pregnancy, this is THE BIBLE, and I’m glad it’s there for them. I only wish I’d had something similar to help me through the birth of my own child. Oh yes, I had a baby. My brain gave birth to it on February 11, 2015, after years of intense labor. I named it SCENT OF THE SOUL and presented it to the world. I really could have used a book called WHAT TO EXPECT at that moment. It was a terrifying time.

Will people buy it? Will people like it? What do I do now? Oh, no, there’s a review. THERE’S A REVIEW! I can’t look, I just can’t.

The reality is that life presents us with the unexpected no matter how many how-to books we devour. My parents always said raising children requires “on-the-job training.” It’s the same with publishing books, really. You just sort of learn what works—and what doesn’t—and by the time your third child (or book) arrives, things aren’t as scary. Of course, society changes, rules change, and (oh, dear God) the market changes . . . and you’re left frantically trying to keep up with trends and learn the latest new thing. All while continuing to hold your day job and write, of course.

Welcome to parenthood. Say goodbye to sleep. Isn’t it wonderful?

There’s a popular game played at baby showers in which attendees write their best advice on a large piece of paper. I always felt awkward when that paper landed on my lap (Hellooooooo, broken tubes!), but everyone expected me to take part in it, and I did, because they fed me potato salad, and I’ll do just about anything for potato salad. Besides, my participation was justified by my having been a child. Once. A million years ago. Anyway, the comments framing my horrendous contributions (don’t let the baby mow) were always sound and encouraging, stuff you’d never find in any book.

So I was thinking. Why don’t we use this post to offer advice for new authors. Not the stuff written a billion times in the how-to books, but things we’ve personally learned along the way. Let’s be grannies and sage, old aunties.

I’m no expert, but I’m willing to go first. Picture me, passing the paper around. I’ve just written:

Include a bit of yourself in your promotion. We’ll read it, because . . . well, basically, we’re all nosy, aren’t we? I scored my highest number of blog hits on the day I posted a picture of myself with my high school prom date on This Page. As the cat says: “Think outside the box. I shit in there.”

What would you write on the paper?

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