Lessons I Learned from My First Indie-Published Novel

A couple months had passed since I self-published my first novel. After four or five years of sleepless nights, up and downhill battle with writer’s block, adventures and misadventures with editors and designers, the culmination or the actual birth held some promise. Yet even that, required way so much more planning or pre-conceived strategy, and most importantly – execution! These are things I overlooked and didn’t do. I was tired, exhausted. Hungry – to get the product out. I could have delayed the release to one more year. But I couldn’t wait any longer. I didn’t know what the hunger was about. It was stupid. This is the gist, you see, but here are the details:

  1. Decide that you really want to have a successful book release. It’s so easy to overlook this. But deciding this and committing to this is a gigantic step. Because it is a lot of work, and I mean A LOT OF WORK. Especially if you also have a full-time job and a family, the road ahead will be very tough and draining. But I really believe that once you fully commit yourself, then you need to think really hard, then create a plan and you stick to the plan to a T.
  2. I should have built a strong base of readers, reviewers and influencers six months or a year ahead of the release date. I could’ve planned to reach out more to at least 1 or 2 of them everyday. I could’ve dedicated at least 30 minutes of my time twice a week to responding to forums or engaging in social media to get my name out there. I have realized that it just wasn’t about the book. It’s about your brand. I never wanted to ingest this statement. But as the days trickled by, the more that it is truly getting lodged in. You need to be building your brand – your platform. You can write and release your book and say to hell with it. Or you can work for the right readers to know it and take it in. As far as the plan I mentioned, doing this when your book is already released is coming more outrightly as a marketing ploy. Like it’s an afterthought and it’s not well-meaning. I should’ve put this into practice or habit way ahead of time, so it wouldn’t feel like a task any longer – which leads to point 3…
  3. I could have had better discipline. In these times, as a writer, you not only need the discipline to put your thoughts into words every single week. You need to execute your pre-release plans religiously. Make it a part of your daily. What I mentioned could have been a good plan – reach out to 1 or 2 media person/influencer every day and engage online at least twice a week – and you should start doing this a year ahead of your planned release date! Which leads me to point 4…
  4. Be patient!!! There is no big rush to put a book out there. So get a grip. Don’t over-promise to your readers. Keep them engaged but you don’t have to give a specific date until you know you are fully ready. This also gives you time to write your second book, thus keeping your momentum going.
  5. Don’t settle on the cover design. If you feel there is something you’re not sure about, voice it out to your designer. Once it’s out in Amazon or anywhere else, Good Reads will absorb it and retain it in their database. They will have the all the versions of the cover designs inside the Editions tab, but the very first edition is what will show up in the landing page, and it will be a pain to get it changed. (I’m actually still not sure how to get it changed.) You need to have the cover design at least 6 to 12 months from release date – the same time that you are building your base of readers and reviewers.
  6. Pay attention to the size of the physical book, especially if you’re using a different cover designer and interior designer/formatter. If they offer both service, it’s easier if you use just one for both. They might even give you a discount! Know all the actual book sizes down to the last centimeter. Look up books in the library or bookstores and choose one to your liking – bring a ruler if you need to! Then let both your designers know. I actually overlooked this and this delayed my book by several days. This also messed up the first edition design.
  7. Make sure you have printed books a month or a few weeks ahead of your book release party. This meant having BOTH the cover design and the interior formatting in the chosen book size two or three months prior to the event. All these could be done much sooner to avoid any added anxiety in case there might be delays in shipping.
  8. Participate in critique clubs. I should’ve joined critique clubs from the get-go, but I only found out about one nearby when I was fully done with my work. You need to be careful though on which critique or advice you will heed, but at the least, they often give you indication if your material is on point, or going sideways. Plus, you get extra exposure on your work.
  9. Have marketing materials with you in book signings or book festivals. A book mark or business card should do. Most potential readers don’t buy right away and they tend to scan all the books first. Giving something away with your book details lends you a chance for them to buy later.
  10. Remember to bring a good pen on book signing day! Need I say more? I still can’t believe I overlooked this, and still laugh at myself from time to time. Bring three or four for extra measure.
  11. Know that you’ll be signing books and so practice signing and think of nice things to say when you sign.
  12. Give yourself some credit. And let go of the imposter syndrome. I think most new writers are like this. I’m easily one of them. I’ve told some of my friends, “Really? Why would you want my signature in the book?!” and immediately regretted it, of course. Giving yourself credit is easier said than done, especially when you don’t have a platform yet. You may not be the breakthrough writer the world was holding their breath for, but dang, you wrote a book. And it’s always worth something.
  13. Keep going to meet ups with like-minded people in writing. There is something about the energy that you get after these events that could invigorate and inspire you. And you always have at least 1 take-away, be it for another conference, training or a new cool tool or online source of information.
  14. Reward yourself every week or month or so. Make time for yourself. It could be a massage or a relaxing facial or pedicure – anything that could recharge you and drive you to keep going.

Now these were my errors. There is so much more into the whole process of publishing from world-building, character building, plot development, editing, and cover and interior design. Feel free to reach out if you might have questions. I’m here if you need me. xo

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