The Things I’ve Learned from Self-Publishing a Novel

There comes a time where every writer has to say, “This novel is good enough!” and publish it, send it to an agent, or in some other way, get the book out in the wilds. This point came for me in late July, 2013. I have learned a lot from this process. This is a list of all of the things I've learned, both good and bad.

  1. Good enough is never good enough. Good thing there are second editions.
  2. It's impossible to release a perfect book on a deadline — weep over the editorial errors, then fix them for the second edition.
  3. I shouldn't read the reviews of my novel at all. Unless they're the glowing ones, and only when I really need the ego boost to get through the day.
  4. There is a lot of paperwork that needs done when one self-publishes their novel. A lot of paperwork.
  5. Sales statistics for the self-publishing venues is frighteningly sparse.
  6. Looking at rankings and statistics for your novel is depressing, so I shouldn't do it. Often, that is.
  7. Deadlines are the bane of my existence. They do, however, ensure the book does get finished.
  8. Three pairs of eyeballs, excluding my own, isn't enough to catch the proofing errors. Next time, find six willing victims in addition to the professional proofer.
  9. Formatting is a nightmare. So glad I hired someone.
  10. Always order that proof copy. Amazon has bugs with certain graphic types with createspace.
  11. Once you fix the proofing errors, a second proof copy isn't really necessary. That said, if amazon throws even a single error on the final review, order a proof.
  12. Don't push off your deadlines. It causes pain and suffering later. Also, account for illness when you plan your deadlines. I didn't. Big mistake.
  13. If you're going to take a review personally, take it personally in such a way where you acknowledge you screwed up and need to fix it. Then fix it. That's what second editions are for.
  14. Smashwords is the source of all evil. Yet, I feel compelled to use the site.
  15. Goodreads is a popularity contest involving novels and friends. Scary territory. Strangely compelling.
  16. Traditional Publishers really do offer authors a lot of services.
  17. It really does take more than one novel to start seeing any form of success as a self-published author. Except for the exceptions. Because they're exceptional.
  18. Don't study Japanese while writing and editing a novel for release. It results in omitted articles. Why? The Japanese are masters of omitted articles.
  19. Don't let your cat help write or edit your novels. Their tastes differ from yours. (Thanks, kitty. Four pages of po; and x.)
  20. Make a checklist of all of the things you need to do and confirm. It really helps.
  21. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to give you a hand if you sacrifice your pride and just ask for aid.
  22. Register the copyright prior to giving the story out to betas and editors. This is my safety policy.
  23. Don't be afraid to talk to fans.
  24. This is my personal policy — this isn't advice for others, so much as it is something I've learned works for me — Don't respond directly to reviews. If the fan wants to talk outside of the review, that's a different matter. Reviews are for customers and other readers, not for me. But, there is nothing really wrong with saying hello and answering a question or commenting when the next book will be out if they want to know.
  25. Get into the habit of working every day, so when the times where you go “I don't want to do this” come up, your body and mind just do it, even though you'd rather be doing something else.
  26. Love your job, even if you hate what you're working on. It helped me get through the hard parts.
  27. Making friends with writers isn't making friends with readers. Don't expect your writer friends to buy your book.
  28. Patience is a virtue. You need a lot of patience when going through the publication process. Between Smashwords and Createspace, you'll want a lot of patience. And vodka.
  29. Kill your pride and ego before you hit the submit button to self-publish your book. It helps deal with the downs.
  30. Every reader who loves your book makes up for the ones who don't.
  31. There is no such thing as a perfect book — not everyone is going to like your story. Accept it, embrace it, and keep writing.
  32. Always keep improving. Sure, the book I just released isn't perfect, but that doesn't mean I can't make the next one even better. And I will make it better.

There are more things, but these are just the things that jumped out to me off the top of my head. I'm glad I did this. My next book will be better.

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1 comment
Damian Trasler says August 1, 2013

This is great stuff. I think a book is like a film – it’s never finished, just released into the wild. I love the convenience of e-books. All of mine have been hauled back in at least once for corrections, and there are still more to catch.
One of the reasons self-pubbing has such a bad name is the number of people out there who wouldn’t recognise half the stuff on this list, and are content to shovel their words out onto the internet without regard for quality, because “the genius is in the words, not the punctuation or cover art”.

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