Is it really true that I’ve learned this much in just a month’s time? Oh my days, yes. I’ve been going on a roller coaster of emotions from the day I accidentally published my debut novel to this present moment.
I’m sharing these thoughts as a way for me to process everything that has happened, but also to continually be real and honest about the process. I feel like a younger, unpublished version of myself would’ve appreciated a post like this when writing or editing got tough, so I hope this helps at least one person out there.
Without further ado, welcome to my real, honest, emotional thoughts on self publishing.
1. People Really Care About My Success
So many people have been cheering me on and I’m overwhelmed by the positivity and love. As a perfectionist and someone with anxiety, it took a lot of guts to move forward with this goal. Mainly because I didn’t know what would happen after I reached the other side. Will it open up new doors for me? How long do I celebrate? How many variations of “thank you” can I create in response to all these compliments?
I’ve written before that it’s often difficult to receive compliments, especially a wave of them. I feel awkward when someone is really nice or continually nice; I think it’s because I want to say something meaningful in return but I’m often at a loss for words. So when I end up with just a simple “thank you” for a reply, it feels wrong.
Well, y’all certainly gave me a lot of practice in accepting compliments, because I continually get messages from family members, high school friends, colleagues, internet friends, and even other brands/senpais that I didn’t think were noticing me! Ugh, it’s a lot but honestly, I’ll keep writing books if it means that I get to be surrounded by all this positivity.
2. There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Self-Publish
Your experience will be different based on your genre, goals, and how much you put in the process. But I think a lot of us want things to happen perfectly and in the right order. Or we want our publishing experience to be just as good as someone else’s. Was I supposed to publish in June? Should I have undone the accidental early publication so that we’d be full steam ahead for August?
Sometimes I wish I could undo everything and start when I felt prepared, but my book is out there now and I’ve been able to really observe what works and what doesn’t work for me. And that’s something I’d encourage for you: observe what other writers have done, do diligent research, then go with your gut on whatever tactics work for you and your book.
That’s ultimately the beauty of self-publishing: whether you want to accomplish the base goal of publishing a book all the way up to making a certain amount of profits, there is a path for you and I know you’ll find it.
3. There’s Still So Much to Learn
I thought I knew the publishing process, but it’s totally different once you make the plunge yourself. And I think that’s true for everyone in this business. I’ve been told many times that you usually have to write or publish multiple books before you “make it big.” And to be honest, being a huge superstar would’ve been nice but that wasn’t the goal.
The goal was to finally claim the title of “published author.” And I did it, y’all! But I still want to get my book out there and make some waves. That’s something I need to figure out on my own and work towards that goal. Publishing without much of a goal is really tough; it makes it fairly easy to get discouraged. If there’s no finish line, how will you know you made it?
Also, I didn’t anticipate other steps that would’ve helped me avoid some pitfalls. I should’ve spent more time in the final review process to catch grammar errors. I also didn’t know it was normal for writers to release an update edition of their books to fix those errors and provide a better reading experience. I thought that was a sign of failure, but it’s not as rare as I initially thought. Phew!
I do still want to learn and improve my writing and my marketing abilities. As my dad put it, it’s like being an 8th grader getting a C in a 11th grade chemistry class. He likely used this analogy because I’ve never taken Chemistry! It did make me feel better when I started getting less-than-stellar feedback on my book.
4. It’s Still Hard to Separate My Worth from the Reviews
This was probably the hardest section to write because I’m still learning and relearning this lesson. I had no idea that reviews would affect me as much as they do. I wanted to check and see if my ARC readers had chimed in with their reviews and I was shocked. Honestly, anything less than a 4 or 5 crushed me. I definitely wished I could wipe everyone’s memory, take all the books back and only return them once I had fix everything “wrong” with my novel.
Ultimately, I wanted to fix the book so everyone would be happy—not just proofreading errors but storytelling elements, too. Maybe a 3-star review isn’t all that bad but that didn’t stop the imposter syndrome from creeping up my back and into my brain. I had a lot of anxiety knowing that my book signing is coming up and I wasn’t confident that people would want to buy a signed-but-flawed novel.
It took a lot of crying, a lot of talking, and a lot of doing-anything-else-but-writing to clear my head. With all of that, I got a lot of feedback from writers, readers, friends, and family—and that really meant a lot to me. Like, I’ve got tears in my eyes thinking about the words and feelings you sent my way. I still have a tendency towards pleasing people but again, I’m relearning the lessons that so many have tried to teach me:
- Not everyone will be my ideal reader
- Give your book a chance
- You can only improve from here
- Your work is not tied to your value as a human
I set out to write a book that was unlike any other, and now I have to deal with the consequences. Still, I was really hoping that people would like this long-term project. I’ve literally been working on it for half of my life, friends! And with that, I’ve carried 15 years of expectations. That’s a lot of unlearning to do, but I know you will help me when I trip myself up.
5. I Wrote This for Myself & I’ll Continue to Write for Myself
Whenever someone asks me why I write, I always think back to a younger me picking up Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and thinking, “I want to inspire someone like me. I want to be someone’s Shannon Hale.” Don’t worry, I stalk her appropriately on Twitter without making a fool of myself.
But I’ve always wanted to lift others up and I’ve always wanted to write the books I wanted to see on the bookshelf. Like, Destiny Seeker has so many female characters. I wanted a book where things were reversed; there were guy sidekicks this time, more women in power, and more girls finding courage within themselves.
So now my continuing mantra is “I’m writing for myself.” At the end of the day, this book is a 5-star gem to me. I can’t make anyone else fall in love with my writing. Hopefully I write enough and learn enough that this perfectionist-friendly task gets easier, but as for now, I’m writing my kind of fiction. This post will serve as some kind of time capsule for when I’m discouraged in the future. You’re writing for yourself, honey. Everyone is writing for themselves. And I just have to work towards accepting that not everyone will love my work or honor the effort it took to get here.
So yeah! That’s what I’ve got for you so far! And I would love to hear your thoughts on publishing whether or not you’ve achieved your goals yet. Also, let me know if you want to see more posts like this one. I’ll likely share more lessons learned as I’ve had more time to learn them!
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