The Moment We First Felt Like a Legit Author

Sometimes it’s hard for us authors to believe we are really, truly…well, authors. What an honor and thrill that the words we tap onto our keyboards magically–or not so magically–become books that other people may read. We Chicks still pinch ourselves sometimes, but here are the moments we realized, Hey, this is real!

Lisa Q. Mathews

I think I’ve always felt like an author–maybe ever since I signed my name to the construction-paper cover of a story I’d written in second grade. We were told to pick a pseudonym–mine was Amy Maxwell. (Amy for the youngest Miss March in Little Women, and Maxwell snagged from…the ever-present coffee can in our pantry.) Our town held a lot of kid author/artist contests, with “publication” and “exhibitions” (we won’t talk about my oil painting efforts, lol, but it was fun). Later, through my jobs in publishing, I ended up writing a lot of books for hire, under pseudonyms again (mostly not of my choice). But the first time I really considered myself a legit, grown-up author was when a nice woman at our tiny hardware store, noticing the name on my credit card, asked if I was the same Lisa Q. Mathews who wrote mysteries set in FL with a detective named Dorothy.

 Ellen Byron

The moment I felt like a real author was the moment the box of my first book, Plantation Shudders, arrived. I remember box cutting that box open and staring at the books inside in awe. I’m a published playwright. I have written who knows how many magazine articles for national publications. And my writing credit is slapped on the same “who knows how many” episodes of television shows. But I don’t think anything will ever beat that first time I held a copy of that first book in my hands.

Vickie Fee

I had seen my byline on newspaper stories for more than 20 years (and always enjoyed seeing my name in print). But I think it got real for me that I was a legit author when I had to sign on the dotted line. I cried happy tears when I signed the contract with my literary agency. After sending queries to so many agents — and getting so many rejections — it was a rush to have it in writing that I finally had a literary agent! A few months later I signed a three-book deal with a publisher for the Liv & Di series. The acquisitions editor had only read the manuscript for the first book, but was trusting me, a newbie author, to write TWO MORE books! And realizing I was contractually obligated to come through was exciting — and a little scary.

Leslie Karst

My feelings of authenticity as an author came in stages. First, it was simply finishing the draft of my first book. And then the BIG one: the phone call from the agent saying she wanted to represent me. But of course it still needed a publisher, so THAT call was yet another step in the ladder. But like Ellen, perhaps the true feeling of being a real, legit MYSTERY AUTHOR didn’t arrive until that first box of books did as well: Opening them up to see my name on twenty copies of Dying for a Taste? Priceless.

Kathleen Valenti

I remember the moment that I realized that people other than family or friends were reading my books. An acquaintance texted me a picture of PROTOCOL on the “hot titles” table of our library. At the time I hadn’t had contact with the library (other than checking out books for my kids), so my first thought was, “How did they get my book?” followed by, “Why is it on that table? That’s for books people read.” Then it dawned on me that people who don’t come to Thanksgiving dinner are flipping through pages I wrote. Of course I ran down to the library to prove to myself that my book was there (and to take the requisite photo). That’s when I felt like a legit author. (I also checked out a bunch of books and got a fancy coffee. All in all, a great day.)

Becky Clark

Two things spring to mind for me. I quit my job and stayed home with my kids when they were young, while also providing home daycare for other kids. At naptime I’d go up to my desk and spend an hour or two writing personal essay a la Erma Bombeck to save my sanity. Once, I got a bee in my bonnet and sent one off to a magazine. Lo and behold, they turned around and sent me a check for $50! That was the first time I felt like I was a real writer. The second time was when a kid—I started out in the publishing biz writing for middle readers—sent me a letter telling me “I didn’t like to read until I read your book.” That made me realize the power my words could have on people. Very heady stuff!

Jennifer Chow

I first dipped my toes in the waters of publishing by writing short stories. It was exciting to see my story get printed in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine in 2013. A little later, the staff selected it as one of the best stories of the year and placed it in a special anthology, which was even more thrilling. The other big milestones that validated me as an author was my book launch for my debut—you know you’ve made it when an old high school classmate shows up unannounced. I also delighted in seeing my novel on the shelf of a local bookstore for the first time.  

Authors, when did you first feel like a legit author? And Readers, when did you first realize that you’d be a bookworm for life?

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35 thoughts on “The Moment We First Felt Like a Legit Author

  1. The moment when I knew I was an author was when my first Natalie McMasters Mystery, Stripper!, went live on Amazon on April 16, 2018. I had been writing queries for a year, and at 66, I realized that I simply did not have the time to go the traditional publishing route if I wanted to get my work to the public. So I designed a cover (since updated), went through a round of beta and proofreads, and published the book myself. I had done my homework on how to do a book launch, so I was extremely gratified by the number of downloads that Stripper! attained, and the many positive comments I got when the reviews started rolling in. I knew the Natalie McMasters books, dark, sexy and violent in places, were not for everyone, but most people who left a review seemed to like what they read.
    One more Stripper! story. A while after publishing, I received a reply from a well-known agent that she’d like to see a full copy of Stripper!, moths after I had sent her a query. I felt a sense of pride when I wrote back saying that because I believed strongly in myself and my work, that I had published Stripper! on Amazon and that it was doing well.
    In 2021, the Natalie McMasters series is up to five volumes and I’m currently working on the sixth. There is no way I would have had a publication schedule like that if the series had been traditionally published. Stripper! is still my bestselling book and I getting good read through on the series because of it.
    BTW I became a traditionally published author along the way, when a British publisher, MX books, agreed to publish one of my Sherlock Holmes stories. Then the American publisher Belanger Books got into the act too. Now I have five published Holmes stories and a Sherlock Holmes/Solar Pons crossover story coming out in a month or so.
    Not too shabby for an old man in his underwear, huh?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Tom, so happy for all of your success, and well-deserved! A little confidence goes a long way, right? That may be the secret. And also, for the record, I suspect that you have quite a few years of writing and accolades left up your sleeve. Looking forward to Natalie 6, woohoo!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I “sold” three short stories in 2016 (to anthologies, so I didn’t get paid for them, but the stories were accepted). The first time a contract arrived that I had to sign – that’s when it started to be “real.”

    Liked by 7 people

  3. And here’s to all of your success as well, Liz! You’re really cooking with gas now. Many congrats, and we look forward to oodles more wonderful books and stories from you. (Author, Author!!)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I sold a children’s nature article to Cricket magazine many years ago. When I received my author copies and realized kids all over the world would be reading my story, it finally dawned on me that I was an author. I went on to sell 7 more children’s articles to other magazines before I turned to writing mysteries for adults.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. They’re all nature related articles and I even had one published on the Pacific Golden Plover after learning about them during one of our trips to Hawaii!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you all for the inspiration and fun posts! As a soon to be published author (hopefully this year if the stars align at my publisher), I tell people about my writing journey, but unless you have been down that road, I don’t think you grasp how challenging it is. When I actually hold a copy of my book in my hands (like Ellen wrote) with my name on the cover, I will feel like an “author!” Whoop Whoop! And I hope there will be cake!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I love hearing all these stories. So much fun, talent, and perseverance in our Chickie playground. Kudos to everyone who puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards. And big thanks to everyone who reads any of it!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Great stories, all. They brought a smile to my face on this Friday morning.

    When was the first time I knew I was going to be a bookworm for life? I honestly don’t know. I’ve been reading as long as I can remember.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Me too! I have a tiny scar on my forehead from where I once walking into a tree while I was reading. I was in my twenties then, but I’ve been reading since I could form sentences. I remember in the sleepaway camp newsletter (I only went one summer), the jokey thing they wrote about me is that I was the campe who always had her nose in a book.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As a reader, I knew I would be a life-long bookworm when I spent my weekly allowance on books from the dime store…the Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Donna Parker, the Hardy Boys…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks for telling us about the first time you felt like an author. I knew I was a bookworm when at the age of five, took out 10 books from the library and returned them for more three days later.


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