Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I got my galleys (the almost-complete version of the book that is given to reviewers a few months early so their reviews can coincide with the publication date—basically the book's dress rehearsal) last week.

I was walking through the living room on Wednesday afternoon when I glanced out the window and saw the UPS truck parked across the street. I hadn't ordered anything. I did not consider that maybe one of the neighbors had ordered something. 

I said, "Barclay..." and drifted to the door just as the bell rang. I couldn't feel my fingers. The hair on my head was standing straight up in the air. I have very long hair. Just picture it.

By the time I opened the door, the UPS guy was already walking away, having done his job. I imagined yelling all kinds of bizarre things after him and worried that, in that moment, when I had so little control over my fingers and hair and feet, that I might.


Instead, I silently picked up the box and brought it into the house. And then I was very calm. Like everything inside me that was crashing waves was now a still pond with not one living thing in it. Like I was sleepwalking.

Sullivan wanted to know what was in the box. Of course he did.

"My books," I said calmly. I've seen many videos on Instagram of authors receiving their first book shipment. There's usually lots of squealing. Tears, often. I wondered vaguely if I should shriek a little. I thought that I should ask Barclay to take a picture of my face when I opened the box, but then I immediately forgot the thought. It just floated out of my head.

"You ordered books?!" Sullivan yelled. He loves when I order books because they usually come in bubble wrap (what's up with that, anyway? Books aren't breakable).

"No," I said, smiling. So calm. "These are my books. I wrote them. It."

I set the box on the floor and waited, as though I thought it might open itself. It failed to do so.

Sully ran to get scissors. (He did not run once he had the scissors. Don't worry.) He helped me open the box and dig through the paper, so it went faster than I wanted it to. I felt surprised, realizing that I wanted it to go slower, that even though I'd been eagerly anticipating this moment for months, I now didn't want it to happen yet.

That was unexpected.

But, I mean, props to my subconscious. After all, the anticipation of something good is almost always better than the actual good thing. The moment right before the fulfillment of a dream or longing is so rare and fleeting and beautiful. I knew, without knowing, that I should savor it.

So I peeled back the layers of paper slowly, taking little breaths, and then Sully pulled the first book up, like pulling a carrot out of the ground. He was so excited, and that was the next surprise: that seeing him holding the book and being so excited about it was better than me holding the book and being excited about it.

To both my amazement and his, he pulled another out, and then another, and another, handing them to me one by one. 

I stared at them in wonderment. "Well, isn't that something," I said. It was a dorky thing to say, but I said it.

Sullivan, still unearthing the last few books one by one, paused. "No, it's not. It's not anything," he said. Then, "Well. It is a book. Can I have this one?"

I told him that, no, I couldn't keep these; these were for giving away.

"You can give this one away to me, then," he said, unconcerned, and he ran off to his bedroom to add it to his bookshelf. (I snuck into his room later and stole it back. He came to me within fifteen minutes, looking very disappointed, and said, "Mo-om. Did you take my book? It's not on my shelf."
We've gone back and forth on this a few times; he is very observant. I am not winning.)

Physical ARCs are exciting for a lot of reasons, but the main ones for me have nothing to do with marketing or exposure or trade reviews: if your book gets ARCs, you get to hold it in your hands a few months earlier than you would've otherwise. You get to put it on your bookcase, see how it gets along with your other books. You get to carry it around in your purse for a few days—not to show people, just to have it there with you. You get to keep it by your computer while you write your next book, to remind you where you're going and how great it feels to get there. 

And then, you get to see how it looks in other people's hands.