Five Essential Lessons I Learned from Self-Publishing my First Book

I’ve done it.

After nearly a year and a half of writing, procrastinating, and doing everything other than release my new adult paranormal romance novella “Warmth” to the public, the time has come.

I’ve submitted my final edits to my book. It’s pending review, and will be available for purchase on November 23rd, 2018.

Holy hell, guys. Really.

You know how long I was supposed to be working on this book?

One month.

You know how long I actually worked on this book?

Nearly a freaking year and a half.

And I definitely didn’t work on it for that full year and a half. Much of this time was spent putting this project on the back burner in favor of caring for my baby, taking on freelance work, and even outlining other stories. Warmth may be only 20k words long, but I had to fight for every one of those bad-boys, and there’s a few reasons for this. Please heed my example, because I gleaned some valuable gold from this experience.

Here’s what I learned from writing my first self-published book, “Warmth”:

1. OUTLINE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

I know, I know. It’s nice to frolic in a field of words and stamp whatever sticks to your feet onto a freshly made Google Doc. I love it, I’m not going to lie. I love fucking around. There’s something gloriously freeing about pantsing your way through a novel, splashing about in puddles of whatever interesting goo you come across.

Until it’s editing time.

And you realize that… You didn’t wrap up anything you started.

Your characters act inconsistently with their actions.

Some of your chapters don’t even make sense.

And in order to thoroughly fix your manuscript, you’re going to have to tear it down to the basement and start from the very first glob of cement.

Such was the case with Warmth.

I did not outline this story at all. I forced myself to come back to the same document, hiatus after hiatus, and made myself put some words on the paper. And it wasn’t like the first draft process was always a carefree dance in some imaginary garden, either. I kept tripping over rocks of “That’s nice, now what?” which would inevitably lead to another handful of weeks of procrastination. Shit did not get done in a timely manner.

If I had bothered to brainstorm, outline, and really shake down the structural elements of my story, I would have produced a better product, faster. 20k words a years is not an acceptable rate of manufacturing, and if I had just bitten the bullet and drafted an outline a few times over, this project would not have dragged on and on for over a year.

So, lesson learned. Go ahead and frolic, but do that in the outlining phase. You’ll smash into the boulders ahead of time, before you’ve built a few thousand words around some glaring problems with your work.

2. Use a stopwatch.

I was shocked at how much more I got done once I started timing my efforts.

Take out your phone and decide how many 20-minute sprints you can squeeze into your day. If the baby cries, pause. If you have to use the bathroom, pause. Need coffee? Pause. Figure out exactly how many hours a day you’re putting into each activity, and see where you need to skim the fat.

I don’t just time my work sprints, however. After a few sessions of writing (usually three, though not always) I allow myself a break to clean my room, play with Felicity, cook dinner — you know, wifey shit. That’s my job too, and if I don’t quantify how many minutes I put into this area, it’s easy to let my work-life balance get out of whack.

This is also a handy way to prevent yourself from squandering hours in a Youtube rabbit hole, which is my favorite source of procrastination. Fuck that shit, we’re on the clock. Save that video for when there’s laundry to fold.

3. Shoot for a solid B – .

I’m not going to lie–I considered doing a full rewrite of Warmth.

I considered delaying its publication again, tweaking this, adding that, reworking characterization issues and breathing life into the themes that got muddled in the execution. I thought about it.

But I’m not going to.

Because that path leads right into a fucking trap.

Striving for perfectionism has held me back for decades. I’ve spilled so many words on projects that will never see the light of day, either because I did not think them through thoroughly (see: outline your shit), I couldn’t stop rewriting them, or I abandoned them midswing. Nuh uh. Can’t do it, Captain. Not this time.

If I’m going to achieve my dreams of becoming a full-time paranormal romance author, I need to know when to call it quits. A year and a half is more than enough time to produce a novella, and I couldn’t afford to flush more time into this project. I have other ideas, bigger ideas, better ideas, and I didn’t want to live in the world of this story anymore. The time had come to wrap shit up.

So here’s what I did, and I highly recommend that you give it a try:

4. When your first draft is finished, put your book up for preorder on KDP.

As a veteran procrastinatrix, I’m great at finding ways to waste time, then beating myself up over it later.

To prevent myself from dilly-dallying during my editing process, I put “Warmth” up for preorder even though I knew I had a shitload of repairs to make. If I couldn’t make this deadline, Amazon would revoke my preorder privileges for a year, which would severely hinder my future marketing strategies. This means that a total rewrite was out of the question: whatever I could fix in the window of a couple of weeks, I fixed. I added some explanatory paragraphs, weeded out some filter words, learned how to format my ebook and my paperback manuscript, and that’s it. Done.

5. Don’t stop blogging!

You know who I really missed? You, World.

Seriously, I love writing on this blog. I love connecting with my readers, reading your posts, responding to you, laughing with you. I love having guests in my little cyber-home, and I really let my blog go for the past month or so. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I’m still learning how to manage my time effectively, and I’m getting there. Thank you for hanging in there while I figure this shit out, because I love hanging out with you. You’re pretty cool.

So, that’s all I’ve got for you today. I hope you enjoyed this cup of coffee. I’ll be back, I’ll be front, I’ll be wherever the fuck I want, and I hope you will be, too. Deuces 🙂

xoxo Liv

 

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4 thoughts on “Five Essential Lessons I Learned from Self-Publishing my First Book

  1. Well congratulations, Liv! You’ve not only managed to finish Warmth and get it out there, but you’ve learned some valuable lessons that will no doubt serve you well with your future projects. It is very hard for most people to manage time, but it’s obvious you’ve made great strides in that area. You have a lot of things to juggle, Liv, and that isn’t easy. But I think you have your priorities in order. And I’m glad you’ve decided to continue with this blog, because keeping in touch with other writers and friends IS very important. You never know where your ideas will come from, and you may even pick up a few pointers along the way. Plus, I like having you here! Good luck with Warmth, and continued success with your other projects.

    Bill

    1. Aw, thank you for dropping by, Bill! Your comments always brighten up my day. Time management is just one those perrenial tasks 🙂 I hope you’re doing well!

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