Monday, September 26, 2016

7 Lessons I Learned from Self Publishing My First Book


About two months ago, I published my young adult romance novella, Prom Queen Perfect, on Amazon.

The earth didn’t stop spinning on its axis.

I didn’t turn into an award-winning, critically-acclaimed author overnight.

Life went on as usual, but did that lessen the thrill of knowing my book was floating around the Internet and that someone could actually buy it?

Not one bit.

Self-publishing a book for the first time was such a whirlwind, not to mention rewarding, experience that I can’t wait to do it again. And again. And again for the foreseeable future.

But there are some things I’ll definitely do differently next time. Here they are, in no particular order:

Don’t hesitate to offer free copies in exchange for honest reviews.

Aside from the blogger who organized the virtual book tour for Prom Queen Perfect, I didn’t reach out to other bloggers—or even other people, come to think of it—to review my book. It was my biggest mistake and made my book launch not as successful as I hoped it would be.

My pride stopped me from offering free copies in exchange for honest reviews. It felt too much like I was begging people to read Prom Queen Perfect. A part of me hoped they’d discover my book, love it, and review it on their own.

In a perfect world, maybe something like that would’ve happened, but I failed to realize that it was my first book and nobody had any idea who I was. There was nothing wrong with making sure that as many people as possible realized my book existed.

I mean, how can people love it if they have no idea it exists, right?

Experimenting isn’t a bad thing.

During the weeks leading to my book’s release date, I started playing around with Facebook ads. I posted Prom Queen Perfect's cover on my Facebook page and boosted it with a budget of around 150 pesos. I used random keywords like Gossip Girl, young adult books, Sarah Dessen, etc. The photo got more than 300 likes.

More than 300 people knew my book existed and even took the time to like the cover! Yay!

It was a pretty cool experience.

List down all your mistakes along with what you should’ve done instead.

Remember what I said about experimenting with Facebook ads?

The one where over 300 people liked Prom Queen Perfect’s cover after I posted and paid to boost it?

I’m willing to bet none of the 300 people who liked the cover bought the book.

The post I boosted didn’t even include a purchase link or a link to the book’s Goodreads page. Most of the likers probably saw the cover, liked it, and went on to brush their teeth, eat ramen, or continue with whatever they were doing at the time.

They forgot about my book, because I let them. I didn’t give them a chance to think of it again by including a link or two that would ensure they REMEMBERED it.

At my big girl job, we’re taught to find the root cause behind a problem before even attempting to solve it. The root cause behind my Facebook ads’ failure to fully promote my book? I had no idea what I was doing and was in too much of a hurry to experiment with boosting a post to do any research. I used the first keywords that popped into my mind and had no idea which location or age group I was even targeting.

To misquote Cher Horowitz, I was totally, utterly clueless.

I’m going to learn from the experience and figure out how I can or if I should even utilize Facebook ads when I release my second book. Realizing your mistakes and figuring out how to rectify them is a priceless learning experience.

Know the rules before you break them.

Before I wrote the blurb for Prom Queen Perfect, I read a bunch of blurbs for young adult romance novels and called it a day.

Horrible, I know.

I discovered too late that there are certain patterns you need to follow when writing blurbs for young adult books. You have to mention the main characters' ages, and so forth, something I would've learned if only I'd done more research. A mistake I won't be making again.

Unless you have a ton of fans who’ll keep posting about your book, your big COVER REVEAL shouldn’t be too far away from your release date.

The cover for Prom Queen Perfect was revealed two months before the actual release date. Over twenty bloggers signed up for it, their posts all going up on the same day. I remember being so excited.

When the book was actually released, any buzz the cover reveal might've created had all but faded. I forgot to keep in mind that this was my first book, and that I was most likely going to be the only person who was going to keep posting about it.

My book will be on the Internet FOREVER.

I'm glad I learned this lesson early on from a blog post on The Creative Penn. It saved me from panicking about book sales and not getting enough reviews.

When your book is going to be available for purchase forever, you can promote it for as long as you want. There isn't a chance of copies running out, so people can always stumble upon it and, you know, love it. It may take a while, but the book will find it readers.

Attempt to stop being so awkward and make friends.

This is a thing I'm still working on.

I mean, how do you reach out to writers you admire without sounding like an overly enthusiastic stalker? Do you play it cool and pretend you didn't love their work... that much? Do you try to share their posts with witty, little captions? How?!?!

Somebody tell me, because I need to know.

I've taken baby steps by interacting with people from #romanceclass on Twitter and Facebook, but I'm still working up the courage to send a few of them overly enthusiastic messages. Haha. You've been warned, guys.
© Clarisse David
Maira Gall