Four Lessons I Learned When Self-Publishing
Was it worth it?
As of today, my book The Mistletoe Connection has officially been out for over a week! *cue confetti* Although I’ve been doing a deep dive into the process of self-publishing in a series here on the blog, I thought I’d also share a shorter post about what I’ve learned through this process. Would I do it again? What would I change? Keep reading to find out!
It’s more work than you think
I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading blogs about self-publishing for years. That’s why I even started considering to do this on my own, after hearing about other people’s experiences. Even still, I wasn’t prepared for everything that goes into self-publishing. I mean, it’s hard enough to write a good book that you feel confident in. Then you have to make allll the decisions about how it looks and what to pay for and how to advertise and formatting and all the other things. I’m sure once you’ve self-pubbed a few times, all that gets easier, but certainly when it’s your first time, it’s a lot to figure out, and it can feel overwhelming.
It takes more time than you think
Because of Point #1, it also takes more time than you think! I decided in January to write and publish a book by the end of the year. While I did it, I would never choose that short of a timeline again! Since my book is Christmas-themed, I couldn’t really push the release back a couple months to give myself time-it was either publish it this year, or wait until next Christmas.
So I forced myself through a lot of stages where maybe it would have been better to take a break, because I didn’t want to wait a year to publish. And maybe that was foolish. But I feel like it also taught me a lot about publishing as an industry, writing on a deadline, and balancing the business part of being an author with the creative part.
Having an overarching goal is key
I’ve talked before about how it’s important to have a goal that guides all the decisions to make around self-publishing. And I really, really can’t emphasize that enough!! If my #1 goal had been to make money, I would have made a lot of different decisions. But my goals were: 1) To have “yes” project-something entirely under my control. 2) Learn about the process of publishing. 3) Establish a base readership.
This third goal, I realized, was the one thing that wouldn’t naturally happen just by publishing. It required thought and work to make it happen-advertising to people outside of my normal sphere, doing interviews, getting people to join my email list. I brainstormed all the ways I could make The Mistletoe Connection a launch pad for a long, hybrid author career, and worked toward that, rather than toward making a bunch of money (LOL) off this first book, which is unlikely anyways!
Take yourself seriously
I’ve written about this on my Instagram, but something that’s important, really for all writers but definitely for self-published authors, is to take yourself seriously, even before anyone else does. When you’re starting out with self-pub, there’s no one really to hold you accountable to keep to your deadlines or stated release date. No publisher, no contract, not really even a waiting audience because you haven’t built one yet. So you have to take yourself seriously-set deadlines and stick to them, as best as possible. Commit to spending the money and taking the time necessary to have a book you’re proud of.
Then, when it’s time to publish it, don’t be afraid to hype it up! When people in my life find out I’ve published a book, I have this instinct to sort of laugh it off-like it’s just some little project I did. I think there are a lot of societal factors that play into this: I’m a woman, it’s a romance novel which are typically undervalued, and it’s self-published which has a whole stigma with it. All these things together make me want to minimize my accomplishments, and I think some people even expect it of me too. But I choose to take myself seriously. I wrote a whole book! And I did all the work to get it published! I am proud of that fact, and I refuse to make it seem small. So when people ask me about it, I don’t pretend to be shy or embarrassed or whatever my gut reaction is. I thank them and excitedly give them the pitch and tell them where to buy it. I can see their reaction change-when I take myself seriously, others do too.
So…would I do it again?
The short answer is YES. With some changes.
As I mentioned before, I definitely would give myself a longer timeline. In fact, I’d probably write and edit the whole book and have it completely polished before even setting a release date, to relieve myself of that pressure. I’d give myself more grace-there were times during this process that I was too hard on myself, which obviously affected my creativity, and my overall mental health. I keep having to remind myself that 1) this is AWESOME even if it isn’t perfect, 2) basically nobody else will notice the little things that kept me up at night and 3) this is my first time publishing a book! There’s going to be a learning curve, and that’s okay. Hopefully next time I do this, I’ll be better at remembering these things!
Of course, I also hope that next time I won’t be writing and publishing a book in the middle of a pandemic… But I have less control over that part I guess!
Are any of these tips helpful for you? Would you ever consider self-publishing? Let me know in the comments!
Originally published at https://chelseapenningtonauthor.com on November 18, 2020.
More articles by Chelsea Pennington (that’s me!)
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