Everything I did wrong when I published my first novel. A pair of glasses rests on an open book.

I just published my first book: here’s everything I did wrong

Recently, I became a published author but, like so many before me, it took many wrong turns to get there.

There are so many different facets of publishing a novel. Writing the dang thing is just the start! Longtime followers will already know that I really struggled with the revision process. What they may not know is that this left me with only ten days to get to grips with formatting, publication and cracking unfamiliar software.

So, without further ado, here’s a comprehensive list of everything I did wrong when I published Dear Blue.

Perfectionism and procrastination

This, I admit, is the crux of most of the issues I had in my publishing process.

Although I’d worked with editors on short-form articles before, it was a whole new experience getting feedback on my book. The articles I’d written and published were almost always impersonal and fact-based. They weren’t precious to me. My book, however, felt like a tiny piece of me and one that I wanted to hold close to my chest. So I delayed and delayed and delayed, dreading the moment when I would have to give it up to new eyes.

I left everything to the last possible moment to protect my pride, and my book (unsurprisingly) only suffered for it. Unfortunately, this was a mistake that I made repeatedly throughout the process.

With each new round of feedback, I would delay my revisions until I had no other choice. It kept me in a constant state of stress and meant that there wasn’t really a moment to breathe right up until publication day.

Beta readers: too few and too family

Because of my perpetual state of fear and procrastination, I had to significantly reduce my beta-reader process.

I had intended on recruiting thirty beta readers, a mix of family, friends and volunteers, to give me feedback before Dear Blue went anywhere near my editor. Once those rounds of revisions were complete, I planned to give the book to sensitivity readers. This step was particularly important because my entire novel revolves around mental health struggles and features multiple mental illnesses.

Sadly, my procrastination period meant that I had to give Dear Blue straight to my editor before getting any other input. I had the bright idea that I could streamline the process by getting beta-reader feedback in tandem with notes from my editor so I could make all the edits in one go.

What I failed to take into account is that I’m a big scaredy-cat and giving my unpolished draft to my loved ones made me physically sick.

For days I hid away and begged them not to tell me what they thought. I just wanted to pretend they’d never seen it and move on with my life. I was only able to take notes from a few very close friends and after a lot of psyching myself up. If I had been braver and more efficient with my time, who knows how different my final manuscript might have been?

And on that note…

No time for author copies

Amazon offers authors the chance to buy proof copies of their books for the cost of printing. This allows authors the chance to see the almost-final product and review it with fresh eyes. It can be easier to spot flaws in a new format, and authors also get to review font and trim size, spacing, cover print, etc.

For many authors, this is one of the most important moments in their publishing process. It’s the first time they get to physically hold the result of all their hard work and experience it as readers will. Regrettably, I didn’t have time for this process. In fact, I didn’t get to see my physical book until after several readers had already received their copies.

Thankfully, the cover came out perfectly and I’m very happy with the interior. However, there are a few tweaks I would have made if I had gotten my hands on an advanced copy.

For one thing, my author photo didn’t print in the author bio section. This isn’t a big deal but it is a little disappointing, especially considering there’s a weird gap where the image is supposed to be. I also spotted a mistake in the text that slipped through all of the revisions. I haven’t had the guts to read the print version in full yet, so it’s possible there are other mistakes too. For now, though, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I’m a published author. I’ll give myself a few months before I revisit the text and correct any errors.

Irregular social media posting

I’m not the most well-versed in social media. In fact, I ignore almost all platforms. But I’ve read a book on how to use Instagram as a fiction author, and for a while, I was doing really well.

Unfortunately, when I’m up against a deadline, or even just neck-deep in a stressful task, I tend to go into hyper-focus. I disappeared into revisions and had no brain space for anything else, so I fell off the Insta-wagon.

Thankfully, this is one of the easiest mistakes to rectify next time around. Even if I’m doomed to disappear mentally, I’ll know next time to bulk-prep social media content in advance.

Minimal launch

(This one sort of ties in with my irregular social media posting.)

I spent so much time and energy getting the book as polished as possible that I didn’t really give much attention to the launch. I knew that this time around I didn’t have the budget for a physical event, but I should have made more of a splash in the digital realm.

There are a lot of things authors can do to launch a book digitally and I did basically none of them. I didn’t do giveaways or competitions; I didn’t organise a virual book tour; I didn’t put together hype team, and those are just the tip of the digital iceberg.

Again, this failure came from a lack of preparation and fear, but it’s an easy fix for next time around.

Amazon miscalculations

One of my biggest errors was misunderstanding the Amazon publishing process.

I had done enough research to know that Amazon was the easiest self-publishing platform for first-time indie authors. What I didn’t fully get is that it takes more than seventy-two hours for a book to go live across Amazon platforms.

Although my book was indeed ‘published’ by my publication date, it took a few days for my book to be marked as ‘available’ on many Amazon sites. The French and German sites (Amazon.fr and .de) were the first ones where readers could purchase Blue, followed a few days later by Amazon.com.

This was a little disruptive to momentum, as most of my readers are Irish. We were all patiently waiting for stock to become available at Amazon.co.uk and I gave it nine days before contacting customer service. Someone talked me through the issue right away and it turned out my book was already live on .co.uk. The problem was that Irish readers don’t have access to certain paperbacks from .co.uk because of a strange Brexit technicality.

I admit that this was quite a shock and a disappointing one at that. Most of my research came from American or British authors discussing their process and, of course, none of them had encountered this issue. If I had known this earlier in the process, I might have reconsidered Amazon as my primary publishing platform. I know for a fact that I’ve lost at least a few sales from those who wanted to use their Prime account to get free shipping. But at least I won’t make the same oversight with my next novel.

Having said that...

This was my first foray into the publishing world. Of course there was bound to be a f*ck-up or two along the way!

Overall, I’m very happy with what I managed to do in a short space of time.

And yes, one of my biggest issues was indeed timing. But you know what? If I hadn’t publicly set myself a publication date, I don’t think it ever would have gotten done. It was a big leap and something I’d been putting off for years. If I had continued to wait until everything was perfectly perfect and perfectly ready, Dear Blue would never have seen the light of day.

Although I got a lot wrong along the way, I’m finally finally finally a published author. As they say, done is better than perfect.

Keep an eye out for...

…The rest of this series!

As I spent more and more time readying the manuscript, one other thing I neglected was this series documenting my publishing process.

Now that Dear Blue is out in the world, it’s time for me to share details on:

  • My revision process and getting feedback
  • Dear Blue‘s cover design
  • Formatting for paperback and ebook
  • My book launch plans
    and this article’s companion piece
  • I just published my first book: here’s everything I got right

Watch this space!

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