Four Things No One Tells You Will Happen When You Publish A Book

I haven’t been an author for long, especially compared to the literary giants who have become household names. Most of those guys have been writing longer than I’ve been alive. But even so, having a couple published books under my belt has taught me some things – things I didn’t completely expect, though a couple I was aware of on a surface level. None of these are especially “fun”, but don’t worry. It’ll all come together at the end.

1. You have to brag.

Perhaps “brag” is too strong a word here – let’s go with “celebrate your accomplishments in a public forum.” The point is if you’re the quiet type that likes to hang in the background and not talk about yourself (like most writers are), you’d better get over that if you want to sell books.

Talking about yourself is uncomfortable, especially for women (check this article for more information on that). We’re conditioned from an early age that it’s rude, especially if you’re talking about how great you are. Add to this the existence of Impostor Syndrome, where successful people think they don’t deserve their success and chalk it up to luck or timing, and the discomfort associated with celebrating accomplishments is compounded.

achievement

Here’s the thing, though – people like to jump into something that’s already going well. That’s why the term “fairweather fans” exists. If your book does well and you post about it, chances are more people will want to read it. Fans you already have will share your successes with their friends, resulting in more exposure.

It’s easier to talk about big successes, like landing a publishing contract, winning an award, or hitting the best-seller list, but sometimes, especially at first, you have to talk about the little successes. “My book broke the top 20,000 on Amazon!” or “Check out this great review!”count as successes. Talk about them. It may feel silly and uncomfortable at times, but it makes you and your book look viable and more read-worthy.

2. You have to market (okay, you probably know this, but you don’t know know it until your book is out).

social-media-936543_1280And you have to be sneaky about it most of the time. People won’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists. Celebrating successes is one way to indirectly market. Twitter chats are also useful, though I don’t consider those “marketing”, per se. They’re a way to connect with other authors, which is key, because if you team up, you can cross-promote each other. You can’t think of other writers as competition. We’re all in this together, and there are plenty of readers to go around.

Some authors are hesitant to pay for any kind of marketing, which I think is a mistake. You just have to be picky about where you spend your marketing dollars, and to do that, you have to know what your goals are. It might not always be about sales. Facebook ads are good for tracking which users are clicking your ads, so you can see if your targeted audience is actually interested in your book based on the cover and maybe a short description. Subscription services, such as BookBub and Ereader News Today, are better for generating a lot of sales and climbing best seller lists.

Shooting for free marketing all the time means you have to rely on your family, friends, Twitter followers, Facebook followers, etc. to help you get the word out about your book. And while it’s nice when they do that, that’s not their job. They will get tired of seeing your face and your book if that’s the only reason you’re posting anything.

3. Say goodbye to reading for fun.

Maybe this is just me (I hope it is, for the sake of all the other authors out there), but since I started writing and editing, reading for fun has become a lot more difficult. It’s tough to turn off the critical eye. I don’t consider myself an “average” reader anymore, so I’m reluctant to post reviews – that is, unless I really enjoyed something. These days, that’s tough to accomplish. Any other writers with me here?

4. Everyone gets permission to express their opinion about you.

This is another one you probably know going in but can’t really appreciate until you get there. While people talk about each other all the time – meaning they’re talking about you already – producing something creative and distributing it for public consumption gives strangers permission to do it in public and be thanked for the favor. It doesn’t matter if their opinion is positive or negative or valid. Putting yourself out there means people get to talk about you, even if they have the verbal skills and friendly manner of a trapped skunk.

opinionsThis is scary for the majority of new writers, I suspect. It certainly was for me. And those first few bad reviews do sting more. But after a while, you see things level out. You start to appreciate the true value of an opinion, and you remember why you started this whole writing thing in the first place. I bet it wasn’t to impress a bunch of strangers on the internet.

After reading all this, you may be wondering why I continue writing books for publication. While these four points certainly caught me off guard, as I get used to how things work, they become the new normal. Celebrating successes on my Facebook page is fun, because I have friends there who celebrate with me. Marketing becomes easier when you figure out what works. I truly appreciate a new book that grabs me and keeps my attention. And my skin has become much thicker over time.

If you’re a published author, do you agree with these points? Or do you have points of your own?

If you’re working towards publication, what are some things you’re unsure of as the day gets closer?

32 thoughts on “Four Things No One Tells You Will Happen When You Publish A Book

  1. Thanks Allison for the blog. I’ve been a member of a writing or groups since 2005. My first novel in 2014 was largely ignored by the group, who mainly had not published. My second novel -more so! Validation arrived when this novel was voted most popular read on a Kindle site in October ,2016. The test for your novel is winning reader acclaim. Your harshest critics in a writers group are perhaps not your future readership, I have learned.! You mention with self-publishing that it can be hard to get publicity. I agree that Facebook and social media are definitely supportive psychologically when you have limited advertising resource. My third novel is in critique, and I feel more confident now that readers have asked about when this novel is due to go live. Publishing for the author is a whole new world and your coverage of the topic certainly resonates for me.

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  4. Loved this, Allison! All great points. My debut novel is pubbing in April, and can already relate to your advice. Just “liked” your FB page!

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  6. Thanks Allison for this advice. I agree about the competition part, that is we are all in this together and it’s better to help each other. Of course this is from a girl who HATES being competitive and can’t watch the Olympics because I think they all should get a medal. Seriously especially in the swimming category where they judge in hundredths of a second. I also shy away from people who brag and am always trying to find the middle between insecurity and healthy self esteem. Every day is different. Thanks again for making me think.

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    • Hi! So sorry for the late reply. It seems this comment got buried and has been waiting for me. 🙂
      I’d say in this case not only is viewing other authors as competition not helpful, it can be harmful. Especially if you’re active on social media, potential readers can sense if you’re “out to get” other writers, and that can only end badly. So in this case, your distaste for competition is a good thing. 🙂

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  7. Everything except the ‘reading for fun’ bit. You know when a book really is good when you find you’ve switched off the critical ‘editor head’ and are just busy turning the pages 🙂

    My advice re Facebook (I mean your personal page, not your author page) is to hardly mention your books at all. I only post about mine when I have a new one out. Friends who have known you pre-publishing will be actively put off by ‘achievement’ posts, if they appear more than once every four months! (Like, ‘she used to post lots of nice funny stuff and chat, now she just goes on about her books all the time’). If they’re interested in your books, they’ll buy them anyway. Save it for Twitter, which is much more marketing orientated.

    Excellent post, Alison 🙂

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    • I agree about the personal page. I share stuff there from my author page occasionally, like if there’s a sale or I got some great news, but I mainly save book stuff for the author page. That said, I have friends who sell mascara or jewelry or purses and post a few times daily about that, so I get a little annoyed when people are okay with that but don’t like me posting about my books. Anyway.

      I got to thinking about the reading for fun thing last night, and there are a few – and I mean a few – that we’re good enough for me to turn off the critical eye. Maybe those titles deserve a blog post. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  8. I agree with every point, EXCEPT the one about reading for fun. I still read for fun – in fact, reading’s more fun now than it ever was, perhaps because I’m better able to spot the subtle nuances in the writing. I also read MORE for fun than I ever did before publishing my first book – up to 50 books a year.

    And I write reviews for every. single. one of them on Goodreads. Granted, it’s extremely rare that a book gets a five-star review these days, because I’m so good at spotting errors, plot holes, and the like, but that’s fun.

    Other than that, this is a great article! 🙂

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  9. Good article, Allison. All valid points and most, if not all, new writers will be able to relate to all of these. I’m Scottish, and Scottish people, even more I think than people in the rest of the UK, are very slow to promote themselves generally. Thankfully I had a Sales & Marketing background so that wasn’t such a big issue for me. I think you definitely have to learn to develop a thick skin, particularly as regards reviews. It’s very easy to take everything to heart. The one which still gets me, even more so now, three years after launching my first novel, is the reading for pleasure thing. I do still read a lot, but as I am also a proofreader and editor, I find it hard to read without noticing poor syntax, missing words, wrong spellings etc. Good luck with your writing. I’d say finding the right balance between writing and marketing is the hardest part of being an author.

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  10. Good Day to You Allison,

    We have connected long enough, that I’m sure you realize that I’m not an “author”.

    I think you will agree that blogging and writing a book, then promoting it have a lot in common. With this in mind, I’d like to take a moment to both help validate your perspective and share just a little how my (limited) blogging experiences compare.

    Hopefully, sharing this with you and your readers, will encourage them to continue to try, even though they may feel a bit overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed as well, and following you continues to be very rewarding, even if I am “just a blogger”.

    One of the hardest things for me has been learning to promote myself.

    My parents didn’t like “braggers”. They always made me feel “guilty”, and called it “shameful”.

    Trying to promote yourself on social media, without feeling like “I’m blowing my own horn” is often uncomfortable.

    “Marketing” our “niche” or otherwise promoting our projects is HARD!

    Those of us with “ethics” and a desire to be respected and show the same, I’m sure, find it difficult to find a balance.

    You make such a wonderful point about “Twitter chats” and not considering those “marketing”.

    Here is another quick THANK YOU, for all the wonderful information you have published on this blog about Twitter. My followers just reached the one hundred (100) mark. Much of the credit goes to your wonderful helpful posts.

    At first following you on Twitter was a bit overwhelming. You had just published your new book and the pure volume of activity surrounding that, and promoting other author’s works. Over time this has started to make since.

    Your example, along with some others, have gone a long way to help me understand how best to promote ourselves.

    Social media is more about networking and less about “selling”.

    Being of value to our audience is key, once we figure out how to do this, the action becomes mutual and sometimes even viral.

    Like you, reading for fun has been replaced to a large extent by researching and trying different approaches, from a business mindset, not for fun.

    Every now and then, something positive comes up, not unexpectedly, from sources that have provided a positive experience in the past.

    You have a wonderful way of making me smile. Just so you know, I do take notice of all those little personal touches. You help make working on my project fun, every now and then.

    Your point that “Everyone gets permission to express their opinion about you”, applies equally, even if we don’t publish books.

    I love your image!

    It is so hard sometimes to pace ourselves, and not get too caught up in the opinions of others, even if they are important.

    Doing our best and realizing that we can’t please everyone is very important.

    Not everyone will appreciate our good works and they don’t have to.

    Thank God, when our work deserves it, many will be glad we created it.

    Your work is appreciated, not just your books, but your posts.

    If these words help to encourage others to create and become what they dream they can be, I’m happy too!

    Best of success to you Allison.

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with us!

    My Best to You
    Arth

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    • Thanks for the awesome comment, Arth. You’re absolutely right about blogging and book publishing being the same in these ways. I was a blogger exclusively for three years before I had a published book. I still consider myself a blogger ahead of an author a lot of the time. 🙂

      You nailed it with this point: Social media is more about networking and less about “selling”.

      That’s why it’s social media, not promotion media.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am certainly more critical as a reader, which hasn’t necessarily ruined the fun for me. I just appreciate the good books I find more than I used to. What has been an issue for me, is the research I do for my novels sometimes ruins TV shows and film for me.

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  12. I’m not a published author, but am a fan of all who are. I find the book publishing process interesting and your four points especially so. They could easily pertain to blogging as well as book publishing. Success is never overnight, is it? All the best to you and your books in 2016!

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  13. This was a very timely article for me, Allison. Thank you. I just posted one about my feelings of insecurity as my website prepares for launch. Marketing, especially oneself, is difficult. It requires the right balance of promotion without seeming to brag. I found the articles you linked to very interesting. I think I might try writing my promotional material as if it was about another, seeing myself and achievements (do I really have any?) from a distance. 🙂

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    • You have achievements. I promise. 🙂
      Another angle – and I don’t really consider it marketing, but you’re still talking about your stuff, so it could be – is a post expressing gratitude to your followers for ______. Helping spread the word, offering feedback, whatever. Especially if your following is on the small side, they like to feel involved (because they are).
      I’ll have to find your post in my Reader! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Allison. I like your suggestion of a post expressing gratitude. I remember Anne Goodwin doing that. The community I engage with have been incredibly encouraging and supportive, and I do appreciate them. 🙂

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