Top 5 things I wish I knew before I was published
1. You can’t please everyone
This is something we all struggle to learn, not because we don’t already know, but because it affects us anyway and it is such a tough thing to slough off.
You’re a published author, you’ve had the book professionally edited, typeset, with a cover you love, promoting it as best you can…and you still get negative reviews. It’s not that you don’t know to expect this, it’s that it feels like a blow every time and you have to remind yourself of this fact – you can’t please everyone.
There’s a fine line between constructive criticism that you can internalize to improve for your next book, and people who just don’t like your work and never will. Separating those and moving on to the next positive review is so important. As an author, you have to grow a tougher skin, especially at the start.
2. You are your own marketer
I think people who have yet to be published have this idea in their heads that as long as they get accepted by a publisher, at that point their hard work has paid off and they can sit back and let the publisher do the work to make them successful.
Some people might think that, well, maybe not for smaller publishers, but surely with the Big 5—NOPE. Still not true.
Unless you magically become the next JK Rowling and are already famous, books do not sell themselves, and publishers do not market for you. You are your own marketer and you need to do the work to get your name and your titles out there.
Have a website, have social media, engage, write things other than your books, look for where your audience hangs out, do signings and conventions, do everything, and don’t expect for one second that anyone else will do it for you.
3. You have to spend money to make money
This sort of ties into being your own marketer, but successful marketing costs money. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but you need to be aware that some budget should be spent on blog tours, conventions, purchasing books you might want on hand not provided by the publishers (as most don’t give you more than a single copy).
You will spend money on a release and you need to plan for that, but if done right, you should make that money back on the first month of sales. There are exceptions, like buying the URL for your website adds additional cost, certain conventions cost more and might not pan out, buying boxes of books might not always sell initially, but it’s a learning curve. You just need to be ready to spend a little no matter who you publish with.
4. Be ready with your next book immediately.
Maybe most of you are like me, where as soon as you get one idea out of you, you likely already had the next one percolating, and the one after THAT. So moving from one book release to already being in the midst of writing your next one should be easy.
If you want to be a successful writer, this is important because it keeps you top of mind with your readers. It means they’ll constantly be looking forward to your next book. If you’re forgotten, it’s easy for people to miss that next release, and you want to gain momentum over time, not lose it.
If you just have one or two books in you and that’s all you plan to produce, fair enough, but if you want to write and write and write, DO IT, and always be ready with that next idea. One book a year is entirely doable.
5. Participate in NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month saved me as a writer. As someone who has regularly written stories for close to two decades, it may surprise you that I hadn’t heard of or participated in NaNo until very recently (I’ve done it twice now).
If you don’t know, it’s the month of November each year where writers dedicate themselves to writing 50k words. It might be the entirety of a novel, or maybe just the start if you write lengthier pieces, but it is still a grand undertaking, because it translates to over 1600 words a day. That’s easy when you think of one day, but doing it every day for 30 days straight is a challenge.
When I first participated in 2015, it rejuvenated my passion to write every day, because for that month I had to, and when it was over, I didn’t want to stop. You don’t have to write 1600 words every day forever, but write something, and NaNo is a great way to get started. It’s also how I’ve kickstarted my last two novels and the one I’m currently editing.
If you worry about being able to get a novel written a year, try NaNo next November. It is a lifesaver.