As proud as I am for not only completing but self-publishing my first novel, it soon became apparent that there were a lot of things I did wrong, and a lot of things I can learn from. These are just a few which I’ll be applying for my future books, and which may be beneficial to other authors:
Abandoning ideas can be a good thing
People always tell you ‘don’t give up’ and ‘always finish a book’. There is some good sentiment in these statements, but I think it’s more important to recognise when you should give up or abandon a project which isn’t working.
For me, I spent years working a novel which I was proud of at the time, but looking back it contained every YA book cliché. Rebellious princess? Revolution? Non-human and borderline creepy love interest? Yep, it had them all.
When I first came up with the idea which would turn into the Undersea series, I was reluctant to give up on the book. But after much reflection, I realised that letting it go to work on this new project was the right move. While there are still some things with this new series, I’m not happy with in hindsight, reception has been much more positive, so I’m glad I didn’t release that cliched book as my debut release.
Plan from the beginning
While I decided early on that I wanted this series to be a trilogy (with the possibility of further books in the future), I didn’t plan out each book in the trilogy until I started the first draft. This has held me back as I’ve wound up with dozens of different characters and sub plots to juggle and resolve cleanly in the final book. Many character arcs have gone a different direction than I intended and some foreshadowing in the first (now published) book I’m now wishing I had cut out. If I write another series with ongoing continuity, I’ll do much more planning from the start so I don’t end up writing myself into a wall.
The final draft is never the final draft
You would think that once the final draft is done, it’s over, right? Oh, how wrong I was! There are still edits, proofs, print copies, copies in different formats. These are all the files in my ‘final version’ folder:
And that’s for just one book.
No matter how low your expectations, you’ll still be disappointed
This one is going to be difficult for other authors to swallow, but is precisely why we need a thick skin. I knew that as a debut author with virtually no platform, my sales were going to be low at first. But I thought I might get at least a few on release day. Maybe a few people would read my blog or see my social media posts.
I opened my Amazon account the next morning and… nothing. My first sale didn’t come in for a few days, and that was me buying a copy of my own book to check it for errors.
Part of it, I have now learnt, was that it takes a few days for Amazon’s system to pick up a book, add the ‘look inside’ feature, and start including it in search algorithms. This is why next time I’ll go for a ‘soft launch’ to give Amazon a few days to register the book before I start promoting it. I’ll also focus more on looking for ARC reviewers to look at the book on release (contact me if you want to join my ARC team, btw).
Sales have picked up a tiny bit thanks to some promotions, but are still nothing most days. But I’m not discouraged. This is just part of the process. I’m going to keep writing whether I ‘succeed’ or not, so it really doesn’t matter.
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