NOW WHAT?–How to conquer post publication depression (PPD)
On July 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Syndrome

In his satirical article, Timothy Hurley describes a syndrome he calls Post Publication Depression (PPD). I love this kind of tongue-in-cheek “report, ” but in fact Post Publication Depression does exist. I give a small but not over-serious nod to its passing resemblance to Postpartum Depression (i.e. publication is the birth of the author’s “baby, “) which takes the same acronym.

Post Publication Depression sets up like this:

  • Months or years of working on the book (let’s assume nonfiction.)
  • The author’s eager anticipation and that of his/her friends, family and associates.
  • Palpable excitement as the pub date draws near.
  • Tremendous buildup to the date with social media notifications and announcements, sometimes even pre-pub radio, TV, online or podcast interviews.
  • Euphoria on the release date with more social media buzz, resounding congratulations from friends, family, indie bookstores, and so on.

What follows is a feverish period of two to several weeks (the “incubation period,” as Hurley describes it), during which the author may enjoy good reviews, awesome sales, and well-attended appearances. Then, with time (this varies by author), congratulations begin to thin out and it seems the rest of the world has moved on and left the author behind. All that happiness is replaced with letdown, which can vary from mild despondency to wretched gloom. A period of self-doubt and second guessing of oneself may ensue. Post publication exhilaration and depression are both particularly pronounced with first novels.

In his Guide to Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, Jeff Herman writes, “No one directly discusses or recognizes this genuine condition [PPD] because newly published authors are expected to be overjoyed and grateful . . . In reality, people who reach the pinnacle of success in any field of endeavor will often feel an emotional letdown in the wake of their accomplishment . . . Writers are especially prone to wallowing alone, as theirs is a solitary process by design . . .”

What to do about PPD

This advice is not intended to get anyone down. Its purpose is to prevent or at least soften a potential crash landing:

  • By all means enjoy the experience of your book release (especially the first), but keep it in perspective–unless you’re James Patterson or JK, in which case you can think or do whatever the hell you please.
  • Expect much of the attention from your editor/publisher to shift away from you after four to six weeks or so. You’re not their only author and they really do have to move on.
  • Remember that “I can’t wait to read it” doesn’t necessarily mean that exactly. It’s just something people say.
  • At book fairs and book panels, high attendance doesn’t necessarily translate to book sales, unless you’re . . . well, you get the picture.
  • Some authors read all or most of their reviews, while others don’t. My advice is, read the ones that matter and forget about the rest. IMHO, dissecting every Amazon.com review is not healthy.

Now, here’s the best part:

  • Before you are close to wrapping up the current novel, begin to think about the next one, and start writing it as soon as you can. When the current novel is released, you should be working on the next. This is your best defense against a void being created as the present excitement dies down. Sure, carry on the necessary appearances and interviews for the just-published novel, but partially detaching yourself from it and projecting yourself into the future and onto the next work is healthy.