It has been two years since I self-published my first book. Since then I’ve published a second book, and I’m working on manuscripts no. 3 and 4. It has been on my heart to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been a self-published author. Maybe you can relate.
1. Writing a book is the easy part – When I started writing, I never intended to self-publish it. Then as I got closer to the finish, I wondered whether other people would enjoy what I had written. So I decided to self-publish. What I didn’t realise when I put my book ‘out there’ was how much of an emotional toll it would take on me. It was my ‘baby’ and every review posted would either fill me with exhilaration or despair. It was a roller-coaster ride that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be on. But it did get easier. After a while, I actually found myself agreeing with some of the negative reviews, and learning from them.
2. If you think you can edit a book yourself, think again – Even if you are a professional editor, I would highly recommend getting an independent person to edit your book. There are two kinds of editing: A general edit will help you with things such as passive voice and awkward sentence structures, plus find things in the plot that just don’t fit in with the rest of the book. Once you have incorporated these changes, a copy-edit will make sure your punctuation, spelling, and grammar is immaculate. I used to think I was good at picking up grammatical errors, until I got someone to edit my book and realised how many track-changes came back in my document! I was too close to my manuscript, but fortunately there are editors out there who are brilliant at what they do.
3. Talking to family and friends about your book is uncomfortable – Maybe this is just unique to me, but my most feared question at a family gathering is, ‘Tell me about your book?’. Maybe it is because of the genre that I write, ‘Christian romance,’ but there is something very personal about my stories and it is much easier to share them with strangers than with those who know and love me. Then, there is the matter of when you know that family and friends have read your book and they say NOTHING about it, and you’re left wondering whether the reason they are silent is because they can’t think of encouraging to say about it (see no. 10 for more on this). Awkward.
4. Building an author platform takes time and effort – The first day that I listed my book on a self-publishing website, I sold four copies overnight. I was thrilled. I started mentally calculating the royalties that I would accumulate over the year. And then, for weeks there were hardly any downloads of my book. Maybe one a week if I was lucky. I had thought that there would be readers out there who be itching to buy my book, but what could I really expect? They didn’t even know who I was. I have slowly built my author platform through this blog, Facebook, and more recently, Twitter. The more time I spend interacting with my readers, the more support they give me. It is a very rewarding relationship, and it is exciting to know there are actually people out there waiting for me to finish my next book.
5. A brilliant cover will sell more books than social media ever will – There is nothing that turns me off buying a book more than a terrible cover. I figure, if they didn’t care about the cover, how much effort did they put into polishing their story. I designed the cover of my first book in one evening. I thought it was kind of cute, but it didn’t sell my book. A great cover is a synopsis in itself, hinting to the reader of what they can expect to see inside. And, great covers are not that expensive in the scheme of things, considering they are your greatest marketing tool – I have put together a list of high quality cover designers [click here]. It is worth the investment.
6. Write the kind of books you want to read (and re-read over and over again) – because this is the kind of book your target readers will want to read too (plus you will be reading it over and over again as you edit it – so you may as well make it an enjoyable experience).
7. The writing community is a great source of support (most of the time) – I have been blessed to make some wonderful friends through this blog and by interviewing different authors. In general, they are friendly people who care about their readers. But, unfortunately, not every author has had this experience.
8. Every time you write, you get a little bit better at it – True story. As with anything in life, the more you practice, the more you improve.
9. It’s okay to take a break and get a new perspective – If you are stuck in a story and it isn’t going anywhere, chances are you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and need to stop and reflect. I was writing a book last year and got to a point where I just felt like I was writing drivel. I saved and backed up my document, wondering whether I’d ever finish it. I mean, if I didn’t care about what happened, why would my readers. I recently opened up the document and started writing the book from the perspective of another character (a male), and guess what? It worked. It is a little harder to take a break if you are under contract and have a deadline, but it is good practice to have a few writing projects on the go at once so you can keep your creative juices flowing.
10. Self-doubt never disappears, no matter how many books you publish – There are some famous musicians who still feel nervous every time they get on stage, afraid of stuffing up. I believe it is the same for writers. I expected that publishing my second, and subsequent books, would get easier because I knew there were people out there who enjoyed my writing, but I actually think it is worse. I now worry about disappointing my readers. I’ve seen acclaimed authors release books that ended up being ‘flops’. Maybe my next book will the ‘flop’ that everyone remembers. However, I can choose to listen to my self-doubt, or I can choose to ignore it and strive to make every book even better than the last. Plus, even if my book touches just one heart, I know it will be worth it.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
If you are an author, is there anything else you would add to this list?
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and adamr