7 Things I’ve Learned from Self-Publishing My First Novel

The pre-order period for The Warden of Everfeld: Memento officially ended last Wednesday, which means it’s time for a little retrospective on how this 30-day marketing binge went for me.

Here are 7 things I’ve learned from self-publishing my first novel, so far.

1) Don’t rush into the pre-publishing phase until the manuscript is complete

What do I mean by “pre-publishing”? I would consider this the period when you are preparing your manuscript for publication, such as working with a book designer, working with a cover designer, preparing marketing materials, and setting up accounts on any authorly or publishy platforms.

I began this process while I was supposed to be focused on reading through my manuscript for consistency and dumb errors.

As you might have guessed, having a split focus made it more difficult for me to review my manuscript. I ended up needing a few minor changes after my book designer had already put together the final files. He was very accommodating and understanding, but it was stressful for me.

Lesson: Finish the damn manuscript. Then, do everything else.

2) 30 days is too long for a pre-order period

I enjoyed my pre-order period for WoEM. The anticipation and build-up to publishing were really exciting!

…until about two weeks in when all I wanted was to have the book published.

Listen, the pre-order period allowed me to space out some of my promotional efforts and see what worked. For instance:

My announcement on the RSPC Facebook page? Nothing. Not a peep. Fuckin’ worthless.

My announcement on my personal profile page? Amazing! So much love from so many people! I can directly attribute 3-4 or my KDP pre-orders and at least 1 print sale to two Facebook posts I shared with my friends and family.

Besides that, however, the pre-order period dragged a bit for me, which means it likely dragged for anyone else who was waiting to just buy the damn book.

Lesson: Don’t wait 30 days to publish. If you want a pre-order period, try two weeks.

3) CreateSpace is not a very user-friendly platform

I’m not in the business of needlessly shitting on companies, but I have to talk about this.

I prepared my print manuscript for CreateSpace on June 22, knowing that I wanted to schedule it for July 18. When I hit Submit, I assumed that I would be given the option to tell CreateSpace when to publish my book!

Nope. A celebratory message appeared on screen saying my book was live on Amazon… I immediately panicked and called CreateSpace’s customer service. They pulled the book down and told me that they could change the official publication date listing when I was ready. (This turned out not to be true, but CS helped me out because the Bowker-listed publication date for my book was July 18.)

Everything worked out in the end, but seriously… CreateSpace…

How can you possibly not warn me that my book will be published as soon as I submit it for your approval? Not only that, but you say that your review of the book may take 24-72 hours. How am I supposed to plan all of my marketing campaigns and everything else that comes with publishing when you give me a 3-day window in which my book might be published?

Lesson: Don’t submit your CreateSpace manuscript unless you are ready for it to be published.

4) My press release worked

I sent a press release about my novel publication last week, sort of on a whim. I didn’t expect much from it except for some website traffic, but drawing more eyes to my website was worth the effort to me.

The next day, I received an email from someone who read my press release. The editor for a literary review magazine has asked for a copy of my novel to be considered for their quarterly publication!

They cannot guarantee that my book will be reviewed, but the fact that they reached out to me directly is immensely encouraging. I’ll hush up about this so I don’t jinx my chances.

Lesson: Press releases can be a viable way to get your book in front of people in the publishing industry.

5) The RSPC Facebook Page is truly worthless

As I said earlier, I posted my publication announcement to the RSPC Facebook page. It received a grand total of 21 views and a couple Likes. Nothing else.

The two posts I shared to my personal profile combined for over 150 Likes, a handful of Shares, over a dozen comments, and oh, by the way –a handful of book sales!

More on this in a second.

Lesson: Use the social media that works for you, not the social media that works for someone else.

6) You don’t have to do everything all at once

Marketing is a patient person’s game. Using every marketing channel all at once will get difficult to manage, and will make it difficult to attribute any actual sales to a particular channel.

I haven’t used GoodReads, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, or a variety of other platforms to market/sell my novel yet. I also haven’t hosted a launch party in Baltimore. But there’s time.

Lesson: Space out marketing efforts to cover more ground (and not overwhelm yourself).

7) The people around you are more supportive than you think

I’ve held this book close to the vest for over four years. Even as I was working on it, I rarely brought up in conversation with friends. Even when I did, those discussions didn’t get very far, likely because I was hesitant to give too much away, or (worse) to see that someone was not interested.

The amount of love and support shown by family and friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in person in years, was astounding. People were DM’ing me asking where they could get copies. At least 10 people I know have already purchased my book… like, they spent their own money to support my writing efforts. A few of them have told me since that they are already reading my book.

I’m still blown away.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The right people will turn out to receive you with open arms.

Lessons Learned

There will certainly be more lessons to come, but these seven have stuck out to me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to carry these lessons into my next publication phase.

What do you think? Are there any glaringly obvious lessons I’m missing here? Let me know!

Steve D

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