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On Book Covers and Panic Attacks

book panic

I usually share my blog posts on social media, but I’m going to make an exception and share a social media post on my blog today. The gist of what I say below I wrote on my Facebook this morning, along with the book cover teaser above.

Yesterday, I gave the final ok to the cover for THE BLUE BAR and instead of happy tears, I got a panic attack. The heavy-chest, can’t breathe, burny-eyes real deal.
This book will publish in the USA, a country I’ve never visited though I have friends and family there. There will be no physical book launch, because I’m not going. The pandemic may be receding but it won’t disappear, and I have too many other urgent life things on my plate.
My publisher and agent have been nothing but supportive, but I still have to find someone who would accept my author copies, and send them out as needed. I won’t be able to physically sign books–so I have to think book plates. So many other things, easy when you’re in the country where your book is, impossible when you’re thousands of miles away.
I keep telling myself that a book is a product, not a baby, and professionals will be in charge.
Friends can and have supported me before by buying the books, sharing on social media, and gifting them out.
(Some have been sweet enough to ALREADY pre-order The Blue Bar even without a cover. That made me tear up, because books are about sales, of course, but they are also about putting yourself out there for the world to judge. A friend buying your book says: I SEE YOU. And that’s an irreplaceable thing.)
With You Beneath Your Skin I had nothing to lose. Ignorance was a mighty bliss. This time feels terrifying, somehow. Everyone is happy for me, which includes most of the writing community.
(A few author friends have decided to cut off relations–and I get that, too. The publishing business is random and publishing is seen as a marker of ‘success’.)
I’m incredibly privileged. I practice gratitude every moment I can. I’m aware that this might just be a brat whining away. I should be ‘happy-posting and humble-bragging and dying of excitement’ delirious, but what looks like a good thing from the outside can be unnerving behind the scenes.
I should be okay, but really, I’m not.
Having a good agent, a solid book deal, and a book on the way to publication had seemed wonderful a while ago. It definitely IS, but not ALL of it.
You get judged for the way your book performs, but in trad pub, you can’t do jackshit to move the needle unless you have marketing savvy and incredible timing. You swing wildly between wanting to market and hiding under the table, because you’re a writer, not a marketer. The truth is that books are a gamble, a sink or swim, and TOTALLY outside the author’s control.
It all looks awesome from the outside, but I can’t help but say that a desi girl’s book left to fend for itself in the vast USA publishing scene is a lonely, terrifying thing.
Being vulnerable is hard, but I’ve never regretted it in the last fourteen years on this blog.
As I venture on to this new journey, more than the books and sales, which are good, it is the love of friends online and off that buoys me up. I may have sundry other panic attacks over the coming months, but when I went back to my Facebook after a long day of writing and calls, I was moved to find an outpouring of compassion and understanding.
The world might be devolving into nastiness, violence and geopolitical upheaval, but my friends are good people. And that’s what gives me hope and keeps me going. Our race will survive not because it is smart or strong, but due to the kindness for fellow mortals.
Have you ever been unexpectedly terrified about what should be a source of joy? Panic attacks? Been moved by the kindness of friends? For the authors among you, what advice do you have for me?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • mitchteemley says:

    Congrats on the upcoming book release, Damyanti (hold-ups notwithstanding)!

  • I’ve always seen you around and have only thought of you as an amazing writing personality. So your honesty here was also refreshing. That’s a snazzy cover if I may say so myself. All the best with your new book!

  • Damyanti, it takes courage to show vulnerability. You are wrapping in love and understanding from us all here. I may have stood in different circumstances, but I too have been filled with fear, instead of joy. I go outside as often as I can. Fresh air, breezes, birdsong and my bare feet on the grass, all help. You are moving forward and it will all work out. We’ve got your back. <3

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I so enjoyed ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ … so I’m sure your writing process will have adjusted somewhat and I am looking forward to reading The Blue Bar – you enticed me with your first one. Anxiety is there to push us onwards … and as you say – the bloggers of our world are so encouraging and helpful … all will be well – all the very best – cheers Hilary

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. I am sure your book will be a success and liked by all!.. new adventures can be a bit scary at the start but once on the journey it will be exciting and happy knowing your thoughts will be seen by many,… “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” (Frederick Buechner )… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

  • Pam says:

    The book 📕 is a product and a baby🤓

  • literarylad says:

    I think I can understand how it must be both wonderful, but also terrifying! Try to calm your nerves Damyanti – it will all turn out fine and you’ll wonder why you were worried!

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    The cover looks good, Damyanti. And I know that your book will be a success. Cheerio♡♡♡

  • soniadogra says:

    Best wishes once again Damyanti. To be able to put yourself out in the world requires courage and you inspire me. Someday I will have the courage to send my work out in the world like you. Thank you for talking about your vulnerability. You have no idea how it anchors us. My good wishes for the success of your second book. It will all be well.

  • A book is a “product” only to the publisher, not the writer. Wishing you the best with this one!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It is a product to me now that it is out of my hands, but the no-control over it situation freaks me out sometimes.

  • sandson1972 says:

    all the best….will surely be a bestseller ….

  • The second book is harder as you worry it won’t live up to the first.
    With few people doing physical events the past two years, don’t panic you aren’t here in the States for the launch. It will be all right.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Alex. I hope you’re right about the second part. About this book and You beneath Your Skin…they have nothing in common other than the author–I’m hoping this is a better novel, because it is very important to me to have improved as a writer.

  • Wishing you all the best , Damyanti . This is such a heartfelt post.

  • Wonderful, heart-felt post. That we do things for friends no matter the messy state of the world–the American military (maybe yours too) has long known that the soldier in the foxhole fights for the guy next to him. Above all else. Best of luck with this launch! I am looking forward to the cover.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Jacqui. We’re all in this together–you’re so right about the soldiers in the trenches. I really appreciate your support with my last book.

  • Wishing you all the best with this book and with everything, Damyanti! I do hope you can find moments where you can relax into the process of having your second “baby” out in the world. Because you’ve done a ton of hard work and, like you said, it’s out of your hands!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thank you Rebecca. Those are words of wisdom. I still recall and appreciate your help with You Beneath Your Skin, so thank you for that as well.

  • Terveen Gill says:

    Take it in your stride, Damyanti. I think it’s not the fear of joy, but the fear of joy dissolving at any minute. Like you say – There’s not much you can do about it, so just relax and hope for the very best. Wish you loads of luck with your second book. I dream of being at a similar place some day. Take care. 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks so much, Terveen–the joy part was great while writing–some days. The marketing is not joyful, but I don’t hate it. And I really appreciate your offer to help by reading the ARC.