When I hit publish on my first book, I was exhausted. I didn’t know the journey from idea to published book would be akin to the 12 labors of Hercules–seemingly impossible, unending tasks that consumed more time, money and effort than I could have imagined when I signed up and set out.
It’s been three and a half years since that day, and my third book will be out this month (!!!). While each book is its own journey, I’ve gotten much better at reading the signs. I don’t get lost as often, and I make it to my destination quicker. In anticipation of my third full length book, I wanted to share 3 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about penning, publishing and promoting books in the three years and three books I’ve written.
#1 Revisions and rewrites will help you sleep better at night.
I stopped writing several times over the four years it took me to write Altered before the Altar. There were a few different reasons for this, but the main reason was because I was trying to create a perfect first draft. I thought I had to catch every grammatical error as I went. I had to have the perfect wording for each sentence before I wrote it down. I was driving myself crazy with my perfectionism.
The biggest lesson I learned from the experience was to let my creative side have the reins in the first draft, and trust my editor side to save my bacon in the rewriting, revising and editing process. My first drafts now include notes to expand on an idea, rework a sentence, and add descriptions so I don’t get bogged down in the details before I know what the book is truly about.
Allowing my first drafts to be messy helps me to get the idea down on paper much faster than I have in the past. Altered before the Altar took four years. The second book, The Season for Getting Serious, took a little less than 2 years. My next release, Break Right, has taken me just under nine months. The right words find their way to the page, the wrong words get cut, and I’m left with a better book when I take off the mantle of perfectionism and get my hands dirty.
#2 Journey Backwards
I really struggle with sticking to a publishing schedule, but my current struggles are nowhere near as bad as first time author Erica’s struggles. I thought writing the book was the hard part until I hit the stage of publishing where you, you know, have to publish the book. Finding a cover designer, creating a cover, getting the book edited, formatting the book, ordering the proof copy and approving the book for sale where all new and overwhelming experiences. By not meeting my deadlines for the first and final draft, I had to keep pushing back my book’s release. I underestimated the time I needed at each step, which meant further delays.
The best piece of advice I ever received about publishing a book was to journey backwards. Set a release date for your book, and work backward from that date to where you are today. Set deadlines and goals along the way that will keep you on track for your release date.
I have to be honest: I didn’t do that very well on this book. My first goal for publication was completely unrealistic. I work full time and do freelance work for publishers and authors. My writing time was too limited to accomplish everything. Make sure your goals are SMART goals. Be realistic about the amount of time and money you can devote to writing and publishing a book when setting your goals.
#3 Pick up Hitchhikers, but Be Discerning
After I published my first book, I knew I had to figure out marketing and promotion, but I had no idea how to begin. It took me two weeks to make my first sale, which was to my good friend whose wedding was featured prominently on the cover. The next purchase, and several after that, were also by married women I knew from church. While I have no issue with anyone reading my books, I knew these women weren’t the target audience for a book written to help single women like me prepare themselves for marriage biblically. I knew who my target audience was, but not how to reach them.
Through a series of God-ordained connections, I managed to learn about vending opportunities at conferences and events. I bought my title as a domain name and learned how to create a simple WordPress website for my book. I started to create content around topics raised in the book that I could share to give people a taste of what the book was like. All of these were wonderful things, but by far, the greatest help to my promotional pursuits has always been word of mouth and reader reviews. You can amplify this effect by seeking advance readers, building a launch time, or having your foreword written by someone more well known to your target audience.
In order to produce the best book and reach the most people you can, you have to involve others in the process. You will pick these people up and drop them off along the way. They won’t make the entire journey with you. You might pick up a book coach, graphic designer, formatter, editor, launch team, advance readers, a foreword writer and several others along this journey. Don’t try to do every little thing yourself if you don’t have to. Be discerning. Choose people with good reputations whose work you admire. But have company on the journey.
Most of the knowledge I’ve acquired about penning, publishing and promoting books I’ve acquired the hard way, but you don’t have to. I offer several services to writers seeking to get their book out into the world. From coaching you through the writing process to editing a manuscript, to formatting for publication, I have you covered. I’m also working on a ton of resources for writers at all stages of the process. You can find out more about my services by visiting my shop page.
This week and next, we’re talking all things Break Right, my upcoming release (now available for pre-order here), and book publishing. Up next: Cover Me, choosing a book cover and title for Break Right.