Self-Publishing My First Novel and the Seven Things I Learned.

My journey with self-publishing – well with writing, in general, got it’s real start a few months ago.  While my love for well-written stories has always been a part of me, I am learning how hard it actually is to create and share something wonderful. My very first novel was started a few years ago, though I only got a few chapters into it, it ignited a passion that turned me into the person I am today, the one who actually did it – wrote and released something for everyone to read. 

I am fully aware I have much more to learn, and I look forward to the day I am much further along then I currently am. That being said, what I know now is worlds more than I knew a few months ago, so hopefully what I have learned can be of help to others. 

Here is a list of the 7 biggest ones:

1. Take a step back and slow it down.
The very first things I wanted to do when my book was finished was getting it edited and uploaded as fast as possible. I was so excited to be a ‘published author’ I did not spend as much time as I should have to get beta readers, ARCs (which I will get to next), developing my marketing strategy, or spend even more time on the editing. Don’t get me wrong – publishing day felt amazing. I spent most of the day telling my boyfriend, “Guess what, I published a book.” He is a saint for congratulating each of the one hundred times I said it.

What I should have done: 
– Edit, then leave it alone for a week, edit again, then hire a professional editor
– Found more than two ARC readers
– Had a plan for posting to social media – not blasting each site at the exact same time with the same boring content of me basically saying “Yahoo!! I published my book.”


2. DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT do all of your final editings on Kindle Create.
The rookie mistake of the year. Since it was my first, I didn’t want to overwhelm myself and publish on too many websites (which I later learned you cannot do if you are publishing on Kindle Unlimited), so I uploaded my manuscript to Kindle Create and got to my final edits, figuring I can always convert the file for later use when I decide to move on to other websites. That should work, right? Wrong.
Once it is on Kindle Create, the only thing that file can turn into is a Kindle ebook. You cannot convert it to a word doc, pdf, mobi, etc.
This doesn’t sound terrible, until you try to send your fresh novel out to beta readers and ARCs, because guess what, you cannot.

What I should have done:
– All revisions done on whatever program used to write (mine was word).
– Uploading to Kindle Create should have been my very last step before publishing.

3. Understand how the process of ARCs actually works.
Sounds easy, right? All you do is send out free copies to people before your book goes live, then they graciously read it and post wonderful 5-star reviews. Well, before they can read it, you have to be able to get the book to them, in a readable fashion (see above) and you have to find people who are even willing to read it.

I joined six ARC groups on Facebook, posted on Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram – I received a grand total of *drumroll* two ARC Readers. Honestly, I lucked out, if I had more interest, they would have all received a copy of a horrific PDF that was lacking any and all formatting (from my errors with KC).

Since then, I have updated my blog to include a MailChimp mailing list sign up, so people can opt to be an ARC Reader and expanded my online presence. I still don’t have many, but it is better than before.

What I should have done:
– Found different avenues to recuit ARCs (which I am still working on).
– Reach out to other authors and try and find a mentor/ pick their brain on how they got early ARCs (again still a work in progress).
– Wrote a better blurb to entice more potential readers.

4. Pay for things that count.
The one thing I paid for this round was a professional cover. I used 99 Designs and ran a contest for cover design. It was wonderful, I listed what I would roughly like to be on the cover and designers got to work. I ended up with thirty different designs to choose from and found the perfect one for my novel.

Heads up: if you go this route, give at least two weeks to get a cover.

What I should have done:
– Pay for a professional editor!!!! I short-changed my book from it’s potential by skipping this step, there are a few plot holes I need to revisit with the next revision that could have been missed entierly if I had the right eyes on it. 

5. The blurb matters
I spent hours agonizing over my blurb, writing and rewriting, loving and hating it, erasing it and starting fresh, and I still feel it is not good enough. Best way to fix that: use your beta readers to give you feedback on the blurb. After they read it, send a few different options and have them tear it apart and tell you what they either loved or hated about it.

After covers – blurbs sell the books. This needs to be perfect. Good news is, you can update them as you go, so it isn’t the end of the world if it isn’t perfect out of the gate.

What I should have done:
– Trusted more than myself and my boyfriend to edit and perfect the blurb (though he is a wonderful critic, he doesn’t let me off easy).
– The more eyes, the better.

6. Don’t look for shortcuts
Does it suck that I currently have a total of 150 followers across all my social media sites (and about 20% being friends and family)? Yes, it does. But a few weeks ago, I was at zero. There are plenty of get-likes-fast schemes, but those will not do you any good. You don’t need just any likes, you need likes from people who enjoy the content you create. If your ultimate goal is to use social media to promote your novels, you don’t want people who couldn’t care less about your posts, if they are even human followers.
Don’t focus on the numbers right away, focus on reaching out and making meaningful connections. Right now, my goal is to get 2-3 new followers a day on each of my platforms. Instagram and Twitter are currently the winners, but that is because I share a lot of funny pictures and cats. Not as much about my content, which is more what my blog focuses on.

What I should have done:
– Started earlier. I was shy, not having published anything yet, I felt weird reaching out to other authors and readers, but I realize now, that only held me back with my first publication. 
– Blog more! Blogging is my favorite form of social media, and I want to get more involved with the blogging community. Also best place to share content, the stuff that really matters. 

7. Marketing
sassymarketing.PNGMy god, where to even start. What I have learned about online digital marketing is practically enough for an undergrad degree (I wish). There are loads of information out there about best ways to self-publish and market your books, as well as many people offering to do it for you. Personally, I have avoided those companies, as I believe learning the skills myself and trudging through until I am competent is more rewarding in the long run, but if you find one that seems honorable and effective, give it a go.
Most of my material I found through googling and watching youtube videos, Kindlepreneur has been one of my favorites.

All I can say about Marketing your book is first, grow your social media organically and second, learn as much as you possibly can hold in. I spend a few hours every morning connecting with subreddits, doing google searches, blog searches and reaching out to as many people as I can, hoping to grow. It is hard work and I am always mentally exhausted towards the end of it, but it is the best way to learn. You have to fully immerse yourself.

What I should have done:
– Taken a digital marketing course in college – instead of all the blasted pre-med courses I suffered through.
– Begged my brother – a website designer – to set up my blog, so it was actually functioning the way I wanted it to. 
– Started learning marketing as soon as I decided to commit to writing and self-publshing a novel. 

In summary:
I love writing and it did feel damn good to publish a book, so I am never going to stop. If this is something you really want to do, just dive in and do it. You will get overwhelmed. You will have moments of self-doubt. You will struggle. Just keep doing it. Every mistake you make will be a learning experience and the longer you do it, the better you will get.


Featured Image: Photo by from Pexels

2 thoughts on “Self-Publishing My First Novel and the Seven Things I Learned.

Add yours

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I really liked your honesty too 🙂
    Congratulations on your novel!

    At the moment I am thinking about Indie publishing and trying to learn more about it, so posts like this are very helpful! 🙂 My dream would be to be a hybrid author, and have some traditionally published titles and other Indie ones.
    I like what you said about just diving in and doing it!! 🙂 Great advice!
    Thank you!


    1. I am so glad you liked my post! Best of luck getting started with your publishing!

      I don’t know if you have joined any reddit boards, but they were super helpful to me!


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