02/14/2013 10:12 am ET Updated Apr 16, 2013

Are Authors Ever Happy?

Not long ago, I ran into a friend at a local restaurant who was excited to tell me that her husband had sold a first novel to a major publisher, along with foreign rights to many countries. My friend was thrilled.

I congratulated her, sent her husband my best wishes, and waited.

This week we crossed paths again and I asked how things were going. She gave me a wry smile. "Let me guess," I said. "Your husband thought everything would be great once he signed a contract, and now he's pissed off because things aren't going exactly the way he wants them to."

My friend sighed and related a story about a screw-up with the book cover that seemed minor to my friend, but enormous to her husband. But "worse" than that, her husband got a great blurb from a best-selling author whose praise included the term "paranormal." It was meant admiringly, but her husband was angry: "That's bullshit. I wrote a thriller!"

The fact that the blurb was from a well-known author and that labeling is an important part of marketing didn't matter. All her husband saw was the down side.

I've been there -- and so has my spouse. When I couldn't get a book published in the 1980s, I used to say, "I'll stop complaining forever if I can sell a book -- just one book, to anyone." I did, but I didn't stop complaining. I learned that starting your career opens you up to a whole new set of possible disappointments, and that even small ones can work your last nerve. As the epigraph from my mystery The Edith Wharton Murders reads, "The only thing worse than not being published is being published."