03/03/2014 09:47 am ET Updated May 03, 2014

How Launching a Book Is Like Sending Your Kid to College

This month, as I gear up to launch my new novel, BEACH PLUM ISLAND, on April 1, it occurs to me that there are lots of similarities between sending your kid out into the world and offering your book to readers.

The Month Before the Launch Is Exhausting. With your child, you've been to the mall three times to find the right size fitted sheets, a dorm fridge, and shower clogs. Then there is the agony of cleaning out the childhood bedroom (who knew bagels looked like that when left untended for a year?) and the pretend college experience of orientation. By the time your child actually leaves home, you're so wrung out that all you can do is flop down on the couch and binge watch House of Cards. The month before a book launch is equally exhausting. There are the advance copies to send out, bookstores to contact, guest posts to write for book bloggers, and lots of calendar synching as you figure out your events. You're excited. At the same time, you can't wait for it to be over so you can just go back to writing.

You've Never Been So Anxious. As you abandon your child on that college campus, you envision the worst: a psychopath for a roommate, listless professors, alcohol poisoning, and fraternity hazing. You know from experience that bad things happen even to college kids who claim to have great college experiences. Now, as you launch a novel, you feel the same nail-biting anxiety. You keep imagining snarky negative reviews on Kirkus or Booklist, and wonder how you'll cope when--because this is a guarantee--certain readers will post two- or even one-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon with titles like "meh." How will your book stand up to so much scrutiny? How will you?

You Cry for No Reason. For nearly a week after sending my oldest son to college, I was so bereft that I had to keep his bedroom door closed. I couldn't even change the sheets because every reminder of him made me weep. I am always surprised by the depth of the grief I feel when I finish a novel and the rest of the process is out of my hands: these characters have been living in my head for so long that the silence is deafening when I can't hear them anymore. The only cure is to start another book.

Eventually, You Have to Let Your Baby Go. As I was leaving my son's college dorm, one RA told me about a set of parents that actually bought an RV and stayed in one of the college campus parking lots overnight to make sure their freshman would survive that first brutal night away from home. "Can you believe that?" she said. "I mean, can you?" Um, yes. I could. I had toyed with the idea of staying in a hotel just seconds away from campus--so I could be at my son's dorm in a flash if he needed something. My husband finally convinced me that it was time to cut the apron springs and head home. The same, I know, will be true with this book launch. As with our children, writers do everything in our power to prepare our books to meet the world. We can continue to support them with blogging and speaking at events, but for the most part, our books must stand on their own merits with readers. We have to let them go, so we can write the next books.