5 Lessons Learned in my First Week as a Newly Self-Published Author

As a completely new author with no fan base, no one on my newsletter but my mom, and a brand spanking new website but no real platform or brand or other fancy marketing words yet, I knew that I wouldn’t exactly be rocketing to the top of the charts. I’m in it for the long haul, which translates to, “I never really thought about the first week except as something I had to pass through on the way to the first year(s).” Here’s some of what I learned, living through the first week without having bothered to think about it ahead of time.

  1. A short-term plan would have been good. Nothing too complicated, just a little something to get me started. For example, I hadn’t done advanced reader copies, so I had no reviews lined up. Another example: because I was rushing to get my book live, I uploaded it at around 9 pm Hawaii time on July 10. That means I started with a day of zero sales because it was already July 11 on the mainland. Does that make a difference in the long run? No. But you get to the long run by persevering through a lot of short runs. In the first few days when I had my KDP reports in one tab and my New Release category ranking in another, it would have been nice not to have to ignore that first big goose egg.
  2. Don’t be shy. I was so focused on long-term strategy, and I felt so uncomfortable about selling, that until about 5 pm Hawaii time on Day Two, only three people knew I had uploaded my book. (Then my husband came home and got in touch with his retail roots by becoming a Facebook machine.) Most friends and family didn’t even know I was considering self-publishing, which made it weird when I finally bit the bullet a few days in and started emailing people. I don’t know if this is a common dysfunction among indie authors, but it’s definitely one I need to kick to the curb.
  3. This lesson is a combination of something I did wrong and something I did right. Wrong: I did not hire an editor. Please don’t kick me off the Indie Island—I’d had significant feedback, including an online course with lots of group critiques, some contests (winning a small one and close but no cigar in a big one), and a fair number of beta readers over the years, as relatives who couldn’t keep their mouths shut shared with friends. I’m also pretty anal about proofing. (I’d say it goes back to my attorney days, but as a child I was one of those twits who corrected adults’ grammar, so I think it’s a long-standing issue.) I reread my novel front to back twice before finalizing formatting on Scrivener and once more after. So, of course, what did my husband find in the first chapter preview after I’d published it? A missing word. (Is that like some quantum dark matter thing, finding a missing word?) Which brings me to the thing I did Right: formatting the book for Kindle myself so I could correct my own mistakes was definitely a good idea. It took me maybe ten minutes to make the change to my Scrivener file and upload the corrected file. (But then it took two days for the changes to publish because I didn’t realize I needed to continue on to the next page and hit save and publish—whoops!)
  4. Group promotions are great if you can join in. As I mentioned in a previous post, I pushed up my release schedule to participate in Digital Book Day. I had 474 free downloads in 24 hours, even though the site was so successful at attracting readers (kudos to CJ Lyons) that it kept crashing. That’s almost 500 people who never would have seen my book. Even if only 10% of them actually read it, that’s still 50 new readers. But group promos are better if you build a strategy around them. I knew going in that I had no way to capitalize on new readers who liked what they saw with nothing else for them to purchase (yet—dunh-dunh-dunh!), but I thought it was worth the possibility of picking up a few reviews and newsletter subscribers. We’ll see if that actually happens.
  5. Akaka Falls, HI

    Akaka Falls, HI, by Judy Walker

    Sometimes doing the right thing means doing all the wrong things. From a business perspective, I knew it would be better to have more content, to have more platform, to have more plan before publishing. But I also knew it was time, that I would just keep coming up with excuses, keep trying to make everything perfect. I didn’t want to go another year without publishing. So I jumped anyway. It’s been so much work and so much fun I haven’t hit the ground yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

[Top image Freedigitalphotos.net by Grant Cochrane]