5 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book

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.

5 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book-1
Blackbirch out in the world!

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 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book-2
Blackbirch out in the world!

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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40 thoughts on “5 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book

  1. Your experience seems to be pretty typical for most authors.
    I read and review a book almost every week of the year, on average I find one book a year that doesn’t have spelling errors in it. I am particularly sensitive to spelling errors.
    Are you planning on an audio book?
    I hope you seek wide distribution, English is an official language in so many countries around the world. I wish you the best.
    I will share this widely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mark. Makes me feel better that all books have errors 🤣. No plans for an audio book right now, but I’m not ruling it out for the future. My book is available via wide distribution 😊.

      Like

  2. Pingback: 5 Lessons Learned After Releasing My First Book | wordrefiner

  3. Thanks for your insights into the nitty gritty business side of writing. Your right, it’s a long game and patience is a must. Interesting point about everyone having the time to read now, but not the money. At least ebooks are a cheaper option in these cash strapped times.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Congratulations on releasing your book! I released my first book this month too.
    Your cover is stunning. I absolutely love it.
    One thing that might help with reviews is reframing your perspective on negative reviews. Works of art are supposed to be critiqued. Reaction is the flipside of creation. People detesting your book is what is supposed to happen. If you view it as not just inevitable, but vital to all creative pursuits, then negative reactions may not sting as much.
    If everybody loved your book, it would be one bland ass book 😛 lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great points! I love your attitude toward negative reviews. I agree everything can be learned from too, but I’m still working in separating my emotions enough to not let the sting get to me. Congrats on your book release 🎉 😊.

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  5. Pretty similar to my experience in 2017. I think what has helped me with critical feedback is remembering that you can’t please everyone, and that even the best, most successful, most beloved authors in history have negative reviews on their books. That always makes me feel better! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved reading, such an honest insight into the world of a newly published author. Congrats on all your successes, and here’s to more sales, more amazing reviews and more books going forward. You go, girl!!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. the only lesson I learnt, and that I am ignoring and urge you to is : do not release a book, do not publish one, it will suck you into a dark hole of despair LOL I’ve so far put out over ten books between myself and an alias, and still haven’t made any sort of sales worth talking about. It’s like it’s just the same five or six people buying my books whenever one gets out there, and I can’t reach new readers. I found that giving my books away has afforded me a couple of reviews more than sales do, so I’ve considered pulling them off and offering them on Instagram, but haven’t yet come round to the huge hassle that might be. Still, my unsuccessful story is hardly a mirror for what most authors get from their releases, it is probably either me doing it all wrong or my books being – reading preferences’ wise – utter crap 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your story about the typos made me think of a book by a well-established author that came out about ten years ago. It had so many typos and errors in it that barely a page went by without one standing out. And that was after a whole bunch of people had looked through it!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I do hope your book continues to do well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful insights, I can imagine how frustrating it is to find those little mini errors even after you know it’s been checked a million times.

    When From Ashes came out, I couldn’t read the reviews, I had to get my partner to read them. It was different as it was an anthology but since several of the reviews mentioned my story specifically I found I was not brave enough to read the reviews! lol

    Congratulations on your book – I just got my copy! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I mentioned to you a while back that my first book was my classroom. An author learns a lot with their first book. There’s so many little things we did not see coming. All the good and the bad things are a learning experience.

    But most of all – Cut Dash some slack. I totally get walking on keyboards.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reading your posts these last few weeks has made me realize another reason I switched from fiction to nonfiction. Writing articles and essays doesn’t require the need for all the steps you’ve been through after you wrote your book. Nonfiction is such an easier process.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Excellent post. This is what we as writers’ must expect, to lower our expectations and be pleasantly surprised when we sell and get good reviews. I’d rather be surprised than disappointed, though I’ve no doubt I’ll have my share of disappointing reviews and sales.
    I’m planning on releasing a novel this summer. Hopefully, the virus will be gone or dramatically slowed so people can return to their almost normal lives. What I miss the most during this quarantine are bookstores and libraries. I love bookstores. Being in one is like waking up to Christmas morning…
    Take heart, KM, your wonderful novel will gain a following. I’m sure of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nothing’s immediate (especially when you want physical copies in your hand to give to family for Christmas and you didn’t get around to that ‘final’ upload till December) but compared to querying agents and waiting for a publisher to bite… it’s pretty damned instant. At 70, I don’t have all those years to spend querying.
    And it’s addictive. Time to get writing again.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: That’s a wrap! March 2020 – Rebecca Alasdair

  15. Great piece here! These past few weeks have been a HUGE struggle in trying to find that balance with teaching my own kids, teaching my own students, and maybe, just maybe, time to write AND time to market. It’s…uffdah, it’s a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Firstly, many congratulations on releasing that Book 1. Is been following your journey up until I shelved my blog, and then saw snippets on Instagram but now I’m back, I can see I’ve got plenty of catching up to do. But I’d like very much to see how your first few months as a published author have been, so read I will!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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