Lessons learned - musings of a first time published author

I'm departing from my usual routine of posting author interviews to share with you some of what I've learned so far about publishing. I've got one book published. A coming of age story titled Invisible. Invisible only took four months to write. I was very lucky. I wrote it while on a break from writing my paranormal thriller, Dark Angel, which I am still working on (big sigh).

After finishing Invisible, I tried for a time to find an agent and though I came close, was ultimately unsuccessful. Lesson number one, it is extremely hard to land an agent. My advice to new authors is to skip the agent. Go directly to an indie publisher.

Invisible was rejected by only one indie publisher before finding a home. Now here comes lesson number two - don't expect to make a lot of money. I can hear hearts breaking from here, but the sooner you realize this, the better. Having that first book published by an actual publisher (indie or not) will bring you credibility and that is something you cannot buy. 

Lesson number three - writing a book and having it published costs money. Not for the actual publication of the book. Never pay a publisher to publish your book. Editing, cover art, etc. should all be free. But be prepared to dish out the dollars for promotion - mailing your book to reviewers, blog tours, and in some limited instances review companies.

After having a published novel under my belt, I will try for that elusive agent in the hopes of finding a large publisher for my next novel. The bigger houses will get your book into bookstores (more credibility). This is something an indie publisher cannot do. And the reason is because most indies are print on demand publishers (POD) which means that when a book is ordered, it is printed. Lower print runs mean higher prices for the book and lower profit margins for the stores. So, large chain stores will not stock your book. Also, PODs cannot be returned. This is another reason a bookstore will not stock your book.

Last lesson - once your novel is released, the real work begins. Be prepared to spend countless hours on promotion. There will be no time to write and you will miss that. You will be sick of talking about yourself and your novel - promotion and marketing sucks! But it is a necessary evil. Publishers won't do this for you. It is entirely up to you to sell your book. The lesson here - don't be shy. Do what you have to do to get your name out there and to build a platform. You're going to need it for the next book.

Well, that's it for now. I hope my words of wisdom have helped and not discouraged. I'd love to hear from other published authors. Please leave a comment and let me know if your experiences in publishing are similar to mine.


  1. I've been published by indies (my first novel) and biggies (Doubleday Canada, Dundurn). The bigger the publisher, the more they seem to have to spend on promotion. They will also not only get you into bookstores, they will get you into libraries, and for books at all levels (children's, YA, adult), that is not a market to be overlooked. You get cred with librarians, and that can help you get noticed.
    Still, be prepared to do most of your own promo, especially these days when publishers are scrambling. Expect to seek out book bloggers yourself, and opportunities for giveaways such as Goodreads and Library Thing. Your publisher may provide the winning copies (mine did for Library Thing) but you will sometimes have to supply your own.
    What I would have loved for my latest, The Girl in the Box, was big ads in the major newspapers, here and in the States.
    Dream on!

  2. Thank you for your valuable input, Sheila. I appreciate it very much :)

  3. Jeanne, I found myself nodding in agreement with your points. It's a whole different reality when you're published to the dreams before being published.

  4. Hi Joy, boy, don't I know it. But still the dream is alive and I keep writing. What's wrong with me, lol?

  5. Thank you so much for this post! It's nice to see that someone else has struggled with the same issues that I have, and to see how you have handled them.

    I self-published, and didn't go through an Indie publisher, but my story is similar. Marketing is evil (grrr), and takes too much time from writing. I'm learning to split the two -- marketing half of the day, writing the other half, or having a friend or relative help me with marketing. Because though marketing and getting your book out there is a big job and important, you don't want to lose sight of why you started this job -- because you love to write.

    I wish you the best of luck! Invisible is on my TBR list, and I can't wait to read it. :)


  6. Great post Jeanne! I'm learning a lot! :)

  7. Hi Alexandra, thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Yes, marketing is tiresome work and I really do hate it. You're smart to divide your day up so that you get some writing done. Unfortunately, I don't have that option. I have to work during the day, so my evenings are pretty much all I have to either write or promote.

    Thanks too for putting INVISIBLE on your to-read list. I very much appreciate it :)

  8. Hi Vanessa, so happy you stopped by! I'm always willing to help, if I can and if you need it, lol If you need anything, you know where to find me :)

  9. I just can't do it. Not yet, anyway. I've finished four novels and the third was not the charm. But those first three taught me how to write. The fourth, I adore. I have received two rejections on it, both personal and highly encouraging. I also have a full with revisions out to a third agent, that has shown amazing interest. I could jump ship and go with an indie publisher, it would most definitely be faster if not easier. But I just can't! Unfortunately, my fourth is a Dystopian and now that it's ready...the market is glutted. Sigh:(

    Glad to find you, good luck!!!

  10. Great post, Jeanne. Very insightful. In my case I self publish to Amazon, B&N and the other ebook markets. I prefer it because there's no scramble of sending out queries, and then waiting. I can just get it out there (and I'd prefer beta readers telling me if it's any good or not over publishers).

    However, things are very similar on the marketing end. You have to do it and keep doing it, even after you start getting a bad taste in your mouth from it. It's the part I like the least.

    However, I disagree about taking time from writing. I try to find a balance. My thoughts being that I could market the crap out of one book, or I could heavily market one while getting a second, and third etc etc out there. You mentioned legitimacy. I'm a firm believer that seeing multiple titles attached to your name is also a form of legitimacy. Tells readers that you're here to stay and that if they like one, there's more out there.

  11. I appreciated this blog post sharing what you learned in the process of publishing with an indie publisher.

    I am editing my first novel written for zoomers, titled Going Out In Style, so this is great timing for me.

  12. Hi Redhead - I don't blame you. If you're that close to landing an agent, I'd hang on too. When I was querying, I came close but then the publishing contract came in and the agent's advice to me was to go ahead and sign it, then go back to her with my next project. I just hope she still remembers me by then, lol

    Hi Rick, thanks for stopping by. For me, I really don't have a lot of time to write. I only have evenings and not every evening, that's why it's challenging to find the time to write. I'd rather write than promote and I get frustrated when I have to put my writing on hold.

    Hi Patricia, thanks for stopping by to read my post. I'm glad I was of some help. Best of luck to you. I hope you find the perfect home for your book. :)

  13. Very sound advice. I'm passionate about writing too, and feel my big break is well overdue. If you fancy peeping through my literary shop window, please feel free to leave any comments at maybepoet47.blogspot.com

  14. My experiences are pretty much the same as yours, Jeanne. I feel as though I could have written the post myself ;) I'm glad I'm not the only one to have these thoughts and feelings about having my first published, and working on getting my name out there. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Hi Andrea, thanks for stopping by. It's nice to know I'm in good company. :)

  16. Thank you to tell us so much useful information. So nice sharing. I’m glad to read it.


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