Saturday, January 26, 2019

5 Major Mistakes I Made Publishing my First Novel

So....that first novel was a doozy.

I love Lucy's Legend-A Robin Hood story. I love it because it was my first published novel. I love it because those characters have now survived two series with me and they're family. I love it because it was the starting point of this writing career that is my joy and passion. But let's be real: that book was terrible.

I wrote a book, and I was insanely happy about it, and I wanted my joy to be spread to the world. What should have been my first step--editing the book--did not, in fact, happen. So that was mistake #1. My siblings read it and a few of them offered some advice--though to be fair, none of them were English majors. I did not look for professional editors or even approach my family members who were, in fact, qualified to edit a novel.

The next step would have been researching the industry, both traditional publishing and self-publishing. I did not do any research of the kind. This was mistake #2. I didn't want to go the traditional route because it seemed like a lot of work. So I did a google search, found CreateSpace, and published Lucy's Legend. Just like that. Mistake #3 was rushing. I had my parents telling me to take a deep breath and slow down, and I for sure did not listen. I didn't even know how copyright worked back then. Or how to format a novel. Or anything at all. But I published it anyway.

Mistake #4: I did zero marketing. None. I didn't attempt to build an author platform online, I didn't garner interest in my community. Nothing.

I was 19 years old, knew nothing about the industry I was trying to break into, and I wasn't taking the time to research. Plus, I was 19...I know I already said that, but let that sink in: I was 19. My writing was terrible. Readable, sure. Showing potential for greatness, I'll give you that. But terrible nonetheless.

I also chose to write under my own name, Amanda Grace, without doing any research, or even a simple google search (which would have showed me what I discovered later). This was mistake #5. I found out after publishing Lucy's Legend, and its sequel Always in Shadow, that there are a lot of Amanda Grace authors in the world, and they all already had relatively large followings. It is hard breaking into the writing world and finding an audience but when you aren't unique it is even harder. Which is why, as you may have picked up on, I have changed my pseudonym.

So for newbies, here's what I would say: Don't publish your novel until you 1) research the industry so you know whether you want to go traditional or self-publishing and also how each of those work, 2) get your novel edited, 3) build an audience, and 4) do a bit of research before choosing your pseudonym. Plus, it might be wise to know, especially if you choose self-publishing, how the whole idea of formatting novels and creating covers, etc., works.

Since that first novel, I have actually researched the industry. What I discovered was that I was glad I went the self-publishing route, even though I had done it for the wrong reasons initially. I did decide it was what worked best for me. I also have every book edited before publication now: that's a big step you can't skip, case you thought you could. And I market my books, because if no one knows you exist how will they know about your books or have any interest in buying them? I also did a lot of editing/rewriting of Lucy's Legend for a second edition that is much less terrible than the initial book had been. I am also constantly learning new skills and doing research--on the industry, how to market, even taking writing classes to continue improving and honing my skills.

There is so much that should have been done with Lucy's Legend that wasn't, but I can say that I learned from my mistakes and am much better--more qualified and more professional--at publishing books now.

So, in conclusion, I hope anyone looking to publish a book will take heed and not follow in my footsteps of that first novel of mine. But know that if you do--or already did--you can come back from it and right your mistakes. It just takes a bit of hard work and determination, but if you already wrote an entire novel I can say with confidence you have what it takes.

Happy Writing, everybody!

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