What I Learned As A First-Time Author

So you want to write a book, or perhaps you’ve already written what’s destined to be the next great American novel. Either way, right about now the same question is probably bouncing around inside your brain… Now what? 

As a first time author, the path that leads from Once upon a time to Amazon.com can be a daunting one. I should know, because I just traveled down it myself. Throughout the entire process - from research and writing to publishing and promotion - there were many sleepless nights and lessons learned. And while I am no J.K. Rowling, what follows are a few tips from those teachable moments that other aspiring authors are sure to encounter along the way. 

Let me tell you what I’d wish I’d known, when I was young and dreamed of glory… ~Hamilton

It’s Probably Gonna Cost You 

Sorry to rain on your parade, but the fact is you’re probably more likely to replace Matthew Mcconaughey in the next round of Lincoln commercials than to have your masterpiece picked up by a publisher. This is especially true if you happen to be writing about a niche topic, such as the history of a municipal golf course in a small town in Central Florida. The self-publishing industry makes it possible for anyone to get their story to print, but they don’t do it out of the goodness of their heart. Do some research into the cost of self-publishing early on and decide just how much this dream is worth to you. 

Barnes & Nope 

We’ve all had that dream.. You know, the one where you walk into the local mega-bookstore and see your name alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald and H.A. Rey. Well, the odds of this one coming true are just as long as getting that publisher to pick up the tab. But that doesn’t mean the dream has to die.. It just means you have to take matters into your own hands. Buy a cup of coffee, and donate a couple copies to the man. 

Keep It To Yourself 

If every guy who said he was going to write a book actually did so, the Earth would be devoid of trees and paper its rarest commodity. Let’s be honest… Telling someone you’re writing a book sounds ridiculous and chances are quite high they won’t believe you. Skepticism that will sting if you’re already well into the writing. On the other hand, if your friends and family are the supportive type, the good-hearted questions of “How’s the book coming?” may add unnecessary pressure beyond what you’re already putting on yourself. Especially if they come during a nasty spell of writer’s block or a much needed break. My advice: keep the project a secret for as long as possible. 

Know When To Say The End 

There will likely come a time when your book is basically done, but you just won’t let it go. Rewording a sentence here, moving a paragraph there.. It is so easy to tweak the thing to death. It’s understandable, given the amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears you poured into it. When I reached this phase with my book, I got to a point where I just had to say “Enough.” I set a date when the work would officially end and stuck to it. If I hadn’t, chances are it would still just be a lousy Word document. 

Don’t Keep It To Yourself 

Remember what I said about not telling anyone about your book? Well, there’s one big exception… Once the book is complete, have a few of the people closest to you read it a couple of times, especially if they are knowledgeable on the topic at hand. A few sets of fresh eyes will help you spot things - be it typos, inconsistencies, etc. - that you might have otherwise missed. The urge will be to keep it under wraps until the hardcopy is in their hand, but they are sure to be just as honored with the chance to read it first. In the end, the feedback may prove more valuable than the satisfaction of handing them the finished product. 

Pay For The Proofread 

Seriously…. Few things are more annoying and detrimental to the flow of a book than typos. If you self-publish, don’t go cheap on the proofreading. You worked far too hard to have minor things like misspelled words and grammar put a damper on it. Which leads me to the next tip... 

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff 

So there I was, minding my own business one night, when I saw it... A typo. Instantly, the walls felt like they were caving in around me; my mind raced for hours and there was little sleep to be had. In this case, it wasn’t an improper use of “their” or “there,” but a factual error.. Albeit a minor one that few, if any, readers would ever notice. But I noticed, and I beat myself up over it for days. 

Despite reading it 1217 times, and enlisting friends and a professional proofreader, you can pretty much rest assured that some sort of typo will make its way into your book. Try not to sweat it, because a) It’s not truly the end of the world and b) It’s an easy fix. Not to beat a dead horse, but you put too much personal capital into this book to let something so small detract from your achievement.  

Be Loud And Be Proud 

For many of us, self-promotion is a messy business. And yet, if anyone is going to read your book, that’s exactly what it will take. Sure, it may feel a bit uncomfortable, but let me take this opportunity to remind you…. You wrote a freaking book! Your friends, family, and perhaps even the community will be proud. You should be too. Post about it on social media, write the local newspaper, give copies away if you have to.. Enjoy the glory, because it will be very short lived, but most of all… 

You earned it.

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