So, my book has been out for a month now. It’s the first and only book I’ve ever published, so I figured that made me perfectly qualified to give out advice… just kidding.
I am in no way at all a book publisher extraordinaire after one release. I doubt I’d be one after twenty, but I did publish a book and I did learn from the experience.
Am I an expert? No. Do I know what I’m doing now? Hard no. Am I ready to release another book? More ready than I was before the first book came out, but it’s still very much a learning curve, as these 5 lessons prove.
5 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book
1) Expectations Are Surprising
Whether you try to temper them, not to have them or are blown away by them, your expectations will be met, fall short, and surprise you.
I expected to put out a book and have some sales. My evil twin had pre-ordered a copy, so I already knew I’d sell at least one paperback. What I didn’t expect was to sell enough that I knew it wasn’t just my friends and family buying their obligatory copy.
And while I got more sales in the first month than I expected, I—like every author and human on the planet—did not expect that Coronavirus would rise up and force much of the world into quarantine. This has interrupted book releases and launch events, and while more people are at home and being encouraged to #SelfIsolateWithABook, many more are losing their only source of income and can’t afford them.
The lesson: have expectations. Have no expectations. In either case, they probably won’t go how you expect, in both good and bad ways.
2) Reviews Are A Double-Edged Sword
You want book reviews, but you don’t want to read them. The bad ones will knock you around and mess with your head, the good ones will make your day, but then be forgotten in the wake of bad ones.
I’m very thankful to anyone who takes the time to leave a review, whether they loved the book or hated it. At the same time, as much as I want to separate myself from author-me and not take any criticism personally, I am human.
The lesson: if you can handle checking your reviews they can be a great source of marketing quotes and feedback. If you mentally can’t (which you might not know until you get a bad review), ask someone else to monitor your reviews.
3) Marketing Will Take Over Everything
I knew I had to incorporate some marketing into my writing life; it is, after all, a business for me now.
I prepared myself to up the ante on my author-preneurship, made graphics, and started slotting them into my social media posts. I even began posting Instagram stories, something I’d never done, even though I’ve been active on Instagram since 2015.
Adding marketing to your writing life is both necessary and a huge time suck. You’re also worried you’ll alienate followers who don’t give a crap about your book, so the key is to keep it balanced.
I’ve kept my usual #MondayMotivation and #WednesdayWisdom posts while adding in a #MarketingMonday and #TeaserTuesday. It’s more work for me, but I’m not taking away posts that I know others (and myself) enjoy.
The lesson: you need to engage in marketing once you have a book to sell, but it’s very easy to procrastinate making graphics and checking posts instead of writing. Create a balance that allows you to market, keep on track with your usual content, and write new things.
4) Uploading Your Final Files Is Not Final
You guys know I checked my files multiple times before I uploaded them. I even had to upload them again just a few days before release because ARC readers picked up on issues that needed to be fixed. These changes resulted in my page numbers growing, which threw off my book cover specs and made for a weekend of stress, tears, and the exhausted crash I’d been expecting since I started working toward publishing on a tight deadline.
I was done after that, and more sick of looking at my book pages than I’d been across years of multiple drafts. I uploaded the files one more time and prayed I’d never have to again.
Fast-forward three weeks and my older sister was reading the paperback for the first time and spotted two random apostrophes in the middle of a character name (let’s just say don’t edit important files around a kitten who loves to walk across your keyboard).
Turned out the ebook was fine and it was just the paperback, but it’s still frustrating to know whoever bought a physical copy of my book in the first few weeks of release has that error (which I’m hoping we can all agree to call the “special error edition” and act like it’s awesome, yeah?). It’s fixed now and that should be the last time I have to mess with those files again—for a couple of months at least.
The lesson: give yourself plenty of time to double-check everything and forgive yourself if there are one or two errors. Big 5 books have the same issues too. You aren’t the first, and won’t be the last, writer to have typos in a published book.
5) Nothing Is Instant
There are no instant sales. There are no instant reviews. Even shipping isn’t instant. Paperbacks were slow to ship for some people I know, which delayed them reading the book, leaving reviews, and me being made directly aware of errors. It takes weeks to get a total number of sales, and even longer to get royalties (I won’t know the ebook sales until April or see any payments until August—from a Feb release).
There’s a big rush up to a release. You’ve been waiting longer than anyone to get this book out, to see how it’ll do, to find out if people not related to you like it, and for your family and friends to see their names in your acknowledgments. Those things don’t happen the day of release, the week of release, even the month after release.
The lesson: have patience. Don’t waste precious writing time stressing about shipping that you have no control over, or checking for reviews, sales, and if your latest marketing post has likes even though you just published it. You’re in the long game now. Just because your book isn’t an instant success doesn’t mean it won’t ever be. You’ve got to build on what you’ve worked hard to put out there and keep writing to get the next release ready.
How about you? Were there any lessons you learned after releasing a book? Be sure to share your wisdom in the comments, and I hope my lessons can be helpful to anyone else about to head down the publishing path.
— K.M. Allan
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