What I Learned From Publishing My Debut Novel

It’s been nearly five months since my debut novel, The Scavenger, was published on Amazon! The weeks have has flown by and I think it’s a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences self-publishing. When I started writing way back in first grade, I had this vision in my head of what it would be like to publish my first book. The plan was simple: I would finish writing it, within a few months (or weeks even), get it to a publishing company, and then have it on shelves soon after. Looking back now, it seems crazy that I thought it would be that simple (although I can forgive younger me, as I was only six years old). Over a decade later, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned through my writing and publishing ventures, and I hope it helps in your own!

1. It’s Hard — Really Hard

Now, this probably doesn’t come as a shocker to most. But when authors say that writing and publishing a book is hard, they’re not lying. Whether you decide to traditional or self-publish your novel, it’s going to be a lot of work. I’ve heard many authors say that the actual publishing of the book is the easiest part of the journey from written draft to bound copy, but I didn’t actually believe it until I experienced it. If you’re still drafting/editing your WIP, take a moment to enjoy the actual writing process. It might seem tedious and frustrating at times, but once your book is actually published, most of your time and energy is forced to go towards marketing. It might be quite a while before you have the time in your schedule again to really write, so enjoy it while you can!

2. Make Friends

Like number one states, the writing/publishing process is not easy. At the same time, there’s no rule stating that you need to do it alone. We live in the golden age of technology and communication. It might seem a little awkward at first, but reach out to authors that have experienced what you’re going through. More likely than not, they will be more than willing to give you some tips and answer some questions! For me, Kristen Martin was really a life-saver. She’s insanely talented and helped me on more than one occasion. I, for one, would also be glad to help you with anything you have questions about. Shoot me an email and I’ll try my best to help!

3. Plan, Plan, Plan!

Once you finish your book, you’re going to want to dive head-first into the publishing process. Although it might take a little self-control (or a lot, if you’re me), you really need to tug back on the reigns before you make that first jump. Publishing your book is a very complicated process. If you’re self-publishing, you need to worry about cover design, formatting, and printing. If you’re traditional publishing, you need to worry about finding an agent and publishing house. There are hundreds of routes in both directions and if you choose the first option you see, it may not be best for your book and story. Take some time to look in-depth at every possible decision and choose the best option for your story. It seemed frustrating at the time of my writing The Scavenger, but the time I took helped me find the best cover designer and editor for me. Remember — even though you’re super pumped about getting your book in your hands, there’s no rush!

4. The Book Takes Time

Before I started writing The Scavenger, I would constantly think about that book. I wanted to write something so bad, but not one idea I came up with seemed good enough. I would start writing it or even get a first draft done, but the idea would always peter out. I knew I would write that story eventually, but it seemed to take forever for that idea to come. If you’re feeling the same way, know that it will happen eventually. It may take time, more time than you’re expecting, but it will happen. And when it does, you’ll be so glad you waited.

5. You’re Gonna Get Haters

The more I’ve talked to others about my work, the more I’ve realized that there are actually many people out there who want to write a book. It’s one of those dreams that everyone keeps at the back of their head, saying to themselves, “It’s never gonna happen,” but still wishing it all the same. When someone they know (you, in this case) is able to accomplish this seemingly impossible dream, it can be a bit disheartening to them. People might get self-conscious and that can lead to envy and jealousy. If people get frustrated and angry, don’t fear. Even if they don’t fully understand the work you’ve put in to get to where you are, you know how hard you’ve worked. And you deserve it!

6. It’s Worth it!

It’s going to be long. It’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be so worth it! There’s nothing like the feeling of holding your work in your hands for the first time. And it only gets better once people start reading your book and you get to talk to others about it. No matter where you are in the writing/editing/publishing process, know that your hustle now will pay off later in ways you can’t even imagine.

Well, that’s all for today! Hope this gave you some insight into what The Scavenger has taught me.

Have you learned anything from your WIP? Leave it in the comments below!

Keep working hard!

— J. L. Willow

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