10 Things I Learned After Publishing My 1st Novel

“Once you decide to pursue your passion, document the struggles and successes. It’s about the journey. It’s about the growth. It’s about seeing the dream fulfilled. Celebrate each step of the way.”

On August 23, 2022, a lifelong dream came true for me, and I released my first contemporary romance novel, I Loved You Yesterday, book one in the Trading Heartbeats trilogy with Inkspell Publishing. As a debut author, I had no idea what to expect on launch day—and as prepared as I tried to be, I still walked away with a list of things I learned from the entire publishing experience.

If you’re on the cusp of publishing your first book, read on for my top ten list of things I learned throughout the process.

1 – Writing is just step one. When I first embarked on this journey, I assumed writing the actual book would be the most difficult part. Oh, how wildly wrong I was! While writing has its own set of challenges, it’s the marketing of the book that really takes the cake. Be prepared to learn a variety of new skills because you need to quickly become a master of social media promotion, Amazon, ads, website development, and public relations.

2 – Publishing takes time. I’m not sure what I expected, but it felt like the longest wait ever between the moment I signed a contract and the second I opened my box of books. And while I did try to use that downtime to build an author platform, the time felt wasted until pre-sale opened. If you’re traditionally publishing your book, be prepared for it to take up to two years before you hold that physical copy in your hands.

3 – Your book becomes your business. If your goal is to sell books, consider yourself a small business owner. Everything costs money. Be sure that you set up a separate bank account and track your expenditures for tax purposes. In full disclosure, I’m terrible at managing money, so it’s super rich hearing this advice from me. Consider this tip one from my husband, my unofficial “business manager”!

4 – Grow thick skin (quickly). Not everyone is going to like your book. And that’s okay! You didn’t write it for the masses. You wrote it for your ideal reader (and likely for yourself too!). If you see a negative comment, brush it off and move on without a look back. For every negative review you receive, you’ll get ten positive ones. During launch week, I had a streak of 4- and 5-star reviews… and then a 3-star popped up on Amazon and I immediately felt like a failure. Digging into the review a bit more, the reviewer didn’t even have anything negative to say – she simply just awarded it 3 stars. It’s going to happen, and it’s best to know in advance how you will respond.

5 – Graphic design is everything. Didn’t go to school to become a graphic designer? That’s okay! But you still need to know how to showcase your book online. I have two recommendations that you should invest in. First, gain access to Canva. This is an incredible tool that’ll make designing (for social media in particular) a snap. It comes with ready made templates you can customize in seconds. Second, you want Book Brush too. This is another great program that’ll make social media marketing easy. I also really love it for its user friendly, customizable book trailers.

6 – Grow your email list early. This is the most loyal group of readers you’ll have, and it takes time to build up your list. I started a monthly newsletter in January 2022, beginning completely from scratch. It’s taken time, but I now have over 200 subscribers—and they’re not all just family and friends! I’ve found tremendous value in Story Origin and highly recommend that you invest in the service. Take advantage of building a reader magnet, and then seek out newsletters swaps and group promotions. Your email list will literally grow overnight!

7 – Find your fellowship. No one can put out a book alone… at least not super successfully. It’s important that you find your support system early on in the process. You need beta readers, editors, launch team members, and individuals familiar with the industry. Not to mention, cheerleaders for the tough days nothing seems to go right. Build your support system and thank them often.

8 – A follow for a follow is NOT the right strategy. Let me give you an example. I knew I wanted to break into #booktok on the popular social media platform TikTok. I got lucky and had a video go mini-viral and gained about 2,000 followers in a 48-hour period. I was over the moon excited at the time but let me tell you why it hurt more than helped. Those followers clicked my profile because the trend was a “follow for a follow”. They have no interest in my book, writing, or the author journey. For months after that experience, I saw low video views and terrible engagement. I collected followers, but they were absolutely not the target audience I wanted. Don’t fall into this trap. Organically grow your platforms with the right audience.  

9 – Don’t compare yourself to other authors. When I first started writing, all I saw was success left and right. And I felt super behind the curve and didn’t think I stood a chance. But what I realized along the way is that not everyone’s journey is the same. Some authors write full time and have the financial means to market. Others write when their schedule allows and self-publish. And there is no one correct path! Do what works for you – no shame.

10 – Document the journey. I think it’s safe to say that many people have “write a book” on their bucket list. But so few people actually do it! Once you decide to pursue your passion, document the struggles and successes. It’s about the journey. It’s about the growth. It’s about seeing the dream fulfilled. Celebrate each step of the way.

And there you have it! My top ten list of things I learned on the path to publication. Comment below, what would you add? What have you learned on your own journey?

Published by julienavickas

Julie Navickas is a nationally recognized contemporary romance novelist with Inkspell Publishing, known for her keen ability to weave heart-wrenching, second-chance love stories through relatable characters with humility, humor, and heroism. She is also an award-winning instructor and academic advisor in the School of Communication at Illinois State University, the public relations manager for Burning Soul Press, the social media strategist for Labyrinth Made Goods, and is a continuing education instructor with Heartland Community College. Julie is a mom to three children: Lily (5); Colton (4); Brady (2), and has been married to her high school sweetheart, Thomas, for ten years.

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