I’ve published five books (three nonfiction and two fiction) and there’s so much I wish I would have known before publishing, that I now know through the long, hard road of experience. Whether you’re going the traditional publishing route, or you’re choosing to self-publish, there’s definitely a learning curve to becoming a new published author. My hope is that I can save you the headache of figuring it all out on your own so that the whole process goes a bit easier for you.
Everything Takes Longer (Sometimes Much, Much Longer) Than You Think It Will
When I published my first memoir, I set the release date for the end of April. I was so sure I would make that date. I told all my friends and family to mark it on their calendars. I set up all my marketing strategies to coincide with that timeframe. And then . . . I got the first proof of my book and the cover looked AWFUL. It was nothing like the digital image I had seen when I initially approved it.
Of course, I went into a tailspin of doubt and despair. When I finally pulled out of it, I realized that not only did my cover need a lot of work, but I actually needed to go with any entirely different designer. The end result was that I had to push my release date back by four months, which felt like an eternity at the time.
What I wish I would have known: Don’t even think about setting your release date until you’ve held a physical proof of your book in your hands and reviewed the cover and formatting with your own eyes.
You Will Have Mixed Feelings on Release Day
Every time I go through the publishing process, it feels like I’m running a marathon and I’m just so tired all I can think about is getting to the finish line. Every time, I assume that when I cross that finish line, I will feel euphoric, accomplished, triumphant, and relieved. And I do feel those things . . . some of the time. However, it’s also not that strange for me to go through a whole host of other emotions.
I’ve had release days where I felt nauseous the entire day. I’ve had other release days where I felt let down, or sad and disappointed, seemingly for no reason at all. I’ve had release days where I felt mostly nothing, or a weird kind of numbness. What most authors don’t know is that it’s possible to feel all these kinds of emotions and more on the day they release their book. In fact, it’s actually quite normal.
What I wish I would have known: Releasing your book out into the wild won’t necessarily feel like a positive experience, but that’s normal and it doesn’t mean you, or your book, are “wrong” in some way.
The Success of Your Book Is Not Defined by Your Launch
Nowadays, authors are urged to put so much emphasis on cover reveals and pre-orders and “building buzz” around their books, that it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that the number of sales you make or social media feedback you get on your launch day is the last word on how your book is going to do out in the world. But the truth is, it’s not uncommon to have low sales on the day you launch, and then gain more traction with your book over time.
It’s also hard to find information online about this unglamorous truth because we live in a culture that constantly pushes for everything to be bigger, faster, and more aggressive. But the real truth is that most books that become classics are sleeper hits that take time to make their mark on the world. So if you don’t sell a million copies (or even ten) on your launch day, don’t despair.
What I wish I would have known: Sustainable success in anything takes time, and one day (even if it’s your launch day) never makes or breaks a book.
This post originally appeared on Lauren’s blog on July 2, 2021.
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