Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Lessons From A First Time Self-Published Author

It's been a little over three weeks since the official launch of my debut novel, Violet Storm. As I look back during those first few weeks prior to launch and just how much work there was in getting the novel print-ready, there were certainly lessons that I wish I could have known. Even if some of them were just reassurances. Something to ease the stress and allow me to enjoy the process a whole lot more.

Here are 7 lessons from a first-time self-published author:

  1. Cover Art: Start early. I'm talking at least two months before launch. Give the artist and the cover designer enough time to create your vision. It's unlikely that everyone will get it right the first round. One, two, maybe even three iterations might be needed. Save yourself the stress and start early!
  2. Systems: Learn the basics of the systems you'll be using to publish your book, and don't be afraid to publish your work early to meet your deadline. Here were the timelines I experienced:
    • CreateSpace (Paperback): Immediately 
    • Kindle: 12 Hours
    • Nook: 12-24 Hours
    • GooglePlay: 1-2 Days
    • Amazon (Paperback): 1-3 Days (by the 3rd day, all the links to everything--paperback and ebook, author profile--started working)
    • iTunes: 1 Week
  3. Budget: Budget, budget, budget. I was pretty surprised to find out just how much things ended up costing. Keep in mind that it will take time for royalties to be paid out (expect at least 1.5 to 2 months). So in the meantime, any costs toward advertising are still coming out of your wallet. After the first two months however, you can start using your royalties and putting them back into marketing and advertising. Here are some costs to consider:
    • Editor: $1500 - $3200
    • Proofreader: $200 - $300
    • Promotional cards (which I found more relevant than business cards): $75
    • Cover Art: $150 - $300
    • 10 ISBNs: $250 (if you plan on writing several books, I'd recommend purchasing a pack of 10, rather than individual ISBN's)
    • Paperback Proofs: $20 - $80 (depending on how many proofs you get)
    • Raffle prizes: $25 - $75
    • Paperback copies for you to personally sell: $450 - $650 (depending on how many books your purchase, the estimate is for 100 copies, plus taxes and S&H)
    • Advertising: $30 - $100 (Facebook, Goodreads, Google Ads)
    • Book Launch Party: $50 - $300
  4. Friends: Don't be like me--afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family will be your biggest champions. Kindly ask your closest family and friends who may be available and interested to help you with the following: beta reading (5), reviewing (5), proofreading (3), and spreading the word. Friends helped me take photo's, create logos, create covers, and setting up events. Don't forget to give your thanks, something as simple as an acknowledgement in the book (it's a big deal!), and maybe coffee, treats, or a thank you card.
  5. Market: Indie publishing is difficult no doubt about that. Of everything listed here, the hardest part is marketing and all the efforts needed to spread the word. But understand that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Think slow and steady. Start early, network with other authors (and make new friends!), and schedule, schedule, schedule! From blog stops, book signings, giveaways, and social media events/publicity. It's a lot and it can be overwhelming. Don't be afraid to make a long list and tackle each item one at a time.
  6. Collecting Money: When selling physical copies of your book, you'll likely be collecting cash along with credit. Be on the hunt for programs that have low fees, are convenient to use, and meet your needs. Here is what I use:
    • Square: 2.75% (for swiped transactions), 3.5%+15 cents (for manually entered transactions) - (also allows for you to set up an online store to collect and process online orders for paperbacks)
    • Gumroad: 5% (easy for your customers to pay and download your ebook--which Square does not do--and allows for you to collect and process orders for paperbacks).
  7. Perfection: I've said this before, the process is tough. You will want perfection from yourself and of your book. All I can say is: be kind to yourself. Something is bound to happen that you didn't expect. There was a moment after I launched, when out of excitement I decided to reread the first chapter. And that's when I caught a grammatical error on the first page. THE FIRST PAGE. I felt like crawling into a hole and dying quietly in shame. Since then, it's been corrected, but it still haunts me. Just remember: it HAPPENS. So just tell yourself that it's going to be okay. Mistakes will happen. It's all a part of the journey.
Hope this helps others in some way. I'm excited to launch my next book later this year. Violet Storm has gotten great reviews and I'm happy to hear that people have enjoyed it! Thank you for giving me the chance to share my stories with you.

**Have anything to add? Post it on the comments below!


A champion athlete with all the skills of a fighter, augmented to become a weapon that will change the fate of our world. 

A brilliant surgeon known for his invention of Modi’s—the only cure for a fatal disease running rampant in the City of Light—has gone rogue with his experiments, and the Monarchy is desperate to shut him down. That's where Aeva Storm comes in, a champion athlete with an ego to match. Aeva is the surgeon's secret weapon against the Monarchy. After reconstructing her body to become a Modi unlike any he's ever created, Aeva is forced into a fight against all odds. She'll have to break loyalties, hurt family, and turn her back on newly awakened love. Thousands of lives hang in the balance in a battle that will set forth a new era.

Join Aeva on her quest to see whether she's got what it takes to go up against the most powerful humans ever created.


  1. Excellent tips. I'd add that it doesn't hurt to look for an artist 6 months or even more before release, since I was in a last-minute crunch to get an alternate cover made, the freelance artists I wanted were backlogged for almost a year.

    Anyway, your story sounds awesome, so count on my to do a release blurb when this A to Z is over. :)

    1. David, that is a great point. I'd say the same for professional editors. Mine was booked out for a couple of months!

      And thank you for the offer to help spread the word on VS with a release blurb. I'm so excited! :)

  2. This is a GREAT post, Anna. Really full of practical, helpful, and useful information. I'm sharing and bookmarking this one!

    1. That's awesome Liz! Thank you! There's nothing like real life experience to really wrap your mind around such a big project, but I really wish I could have known some of these lessons before! :) Oh well, there's always the next book ;)

  3. Such good points! Also, it's so fun to get to meet new people! :) You're doing great, and I totally love your attitude about everything. Going to go tweet your book being on sale now!

    1. Aw, thanks so much Meradeth! It has been really fun to meet new people, something I wish I had gone out and done sooner. But here we are, and I've gotten the chance to connect with you! :)

  4. Great lessons, and a great, well organized post. You cover most the basics, although I will argue you can find amazing editors for a lesser cost. It takes some crazy searching though.

    1. Thanks Crystal! And great point. I definitely think there are more affordable editors out there. Like you mentioned, it just takes a lot of patience and research.

  5. Great tips! And everyone's added such good points too this is a fabulous post!!


    1. Hi Mia! Thanks for stopping by. Love the "MH" logo! :)

  6. A really helpful post! I've recently began researching self-publishing. It's nice that self-published authors like you take the time to share what you've learned. I'm off to amazon to check out your book! :-)

    1. Thanks Genissa! :D I know how terrifying it is to want to try something but feel like you just don't have a clear enough picture of how it all works. So I hope this helps and I'll keep posting similar topics as I continue on this indie-publishing journey!


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