What I’ve Learned In My First Year As A Published Author

Whiskey Creek Press released The Seneca Scourge one year ago. In that time, I’ve traveled the unfamiliar terrain of marketing, book reviews, and the epidermal thickening that comes from both. I’d like to share my lessons learned. So grab your moisturizer, and let’s begin.

My skin’s transformation. Sorry, the butt-crack similarity was not my intention. (Image credit: my arm and wikipedia.org)

My skin’s transformation. (Image credit: my arm and wikipedia.org)

1. Seek More Early Reviews

I should have offered free books in exchange for early reviews. Part of my problem was not knowing where to look for readers. Furthermore, given I wasn’t independently published, I couldn’t logistically offer free e-books. And yes, I was scared of getting a bad review.

I should have chucked the fear and shelled out gift cards.

2. Face-to-Face Marketing is Distinctively Uncomfortable

I avoid public interaction. Thus, except for two book signings and a table at our school’s book fair, most of my marketing was online.

But there were other reasons I stayed hidden:

  • The price of my paperback is too high to hawk. Whiskey Creek Press is an e-book publisher, and their print-on-demand (POD) books are costly.
  • It’s difficult to get POD books into bookstores.

Had those two obstacles been removed, I would’ve pulled up the big girl pants and gotten out there. I’m not that socially handicapped.

3. Online Marketing is Distinctively Uncomfortable

It’s easier than face-to-face marketing, but I still feel like a sleaze whenever I share a tweet, status update, or post about my book. And yet do it I must.

But everybody and his Uncle Bob has a book out, so as most authors will tell you, it’s the interaction with others that gets one noticed, not the endless book-related rants. A delightful bonus is the opportunity to develop online friendships with like-minded people. Even an introvert loves that. Maybe especially an introvert loves that.

But to be honest, even though I’m a mere guppy in the ocean,  I still fret and sweat over my online visibility.

In terms of usefulness of the various sites? For my own marketing, in order of most helpful to least:

  • Blog*
  • Goodreads
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Kindleboards
  • (Google+ and LinkedIn I neglect.)

4. Contests

Some authors feel contests with lots of categories are gimmicky. Maybe, maybe not. But plenty of traditional publishers enter their authors in them. A win won’t guarantee more sales, but it makes for an additional marketing tool. Plus, you get the chance to be beaten by a celebrity:

Bested by Dr. Peter Benton from 'ER.'

Bested by Dr. Peter Benton from ‘ER.’

5. Promotions

If you can do them, do them. In June, Whiskey Creek Press ran a three-day promotion of The Seneca Scourge on BookBub at the magic-bullet price of $0.99. After months of me huffing and puffing to sell a few hundred copies, my publisher’s promotion sold in the thousands. Plus, the brief sale kept my e-book in the top 100 medical thrillers for five weeks thereafter. That was swell.

The day pigs flew...

The day pigs flew…

6. Advertising, Not Worth it Except for Goodreads

As a test, I recently ran ads on Google, Facebook, and Goodreads. I stopped the fruitless Google ad and will do the same with Facebook when the campaign runs out. Goodreads, however, I’ll keep running. The cost has been minimal, and many readers have added my book to their lists. I did not run any newspaper or print ads.

7. Bad Reviews

Bad reviews inevitably come, especially if you’ve had a flurry of sales during a promotion. But after the woe, self-doubt, and self-abuse recede, a tougher author emerges. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Some people will like your book; others won’t. And they won’t be afraid to say so.
  • Readers will misperceive or misinterpret things from how you intended. And that’s okay. We probably do the same when we read.
  • The iffy reviews lose their sting. Why? Because at least the book inspired a reaction. Indifference may be harder to swallow.

7. At Some Point Marketing Must Take a Back seat

If not, the next book will never get finished. So I scaled back, and this is where I’m at with my current manuscript:

So those are some things I’ve learned since my book’s release. I hope they’re helpful. I’d love to hear about your experiences, either with publishing, writing, or social media in general. 

*Another heartfelt thank you to all who left reviews, posted about The Seneca Scourge on your own blogs, tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, and more. You are the ones who boosted my launch and kept things going. I will forever be grateful.

212 Responses to “What I’ve Learned In My First Year As A Published Author”

  1. kingmidget

    Interesting that you’re such a fan of Goodreads. I’ve convinced myself that the promotional opportunities on the site aren’t that good. I’ll have to re-consider.
    I definitely agree that early reviews are important. It’s the thing I haven’t done with either of my novels — engage in pre-publication promotional efforts. That will definitely change the next go-round.


    • Carrie Rubin

      I still have my Goodreads ad going. Some days I get 10 clicks, other days none. You only pay if there’s a click through. Several people have added my book to read as a result. Of course, whether they buy it is a different story.

      The only thing about getting my book ‘out there’ like that is I’ve made myself more vulnerable to lower ratings and reviews. Readers on Goodreads can be tough. On the other hand, I’ve also received 5-star ratings from people I don’t know, and some have even added it to their ‘favorites’ lists or other public lists. So for now, I’ll keep it going, especially given I’m not doing much else in terms of promotion now. At some point, you have to move on, I think.


      • kingmidget

        I’ve decided that I’m going to spend more money on promotions with my next novel. Get a Kirkus review. Run ads on goodreads. Do all sorts of things. Be patient and plan more and see what happens. Of course, I may do all that with weed therapy if I republish with a different name.


        • Carrie Rubin

          I think a Kirkus review is a smart way to go, though I know they can be costly. I wish my publisher would have been more proactive trying to get reviews for me. Unfortunately, I’ve heard unknown authors from even the bigger, more traditional publishers have to scrounge for their own reviews. It’s a tough time to be an author…

          Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!


  2. nesaauthor

    Thank you for this post. My first novel is in the hands of my editor and I am scared to all crap about the next steps. You covered almost all of what I was expecting to have to do, but your insights definitely helped with easing some of those fears and will at least help me go in the right direction. I look forward to reading some more of your posts and I will check in to your works as well…..thanks again.


    • Carrie Rubin

      I’m glad it was useful to you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Congratulations on your book. It’s always a bit nerve-racking waiting on the editor. I usually find once I read through the editor’s (or beta readers’) suggestions and recommendations, I have to put the manuscript aside a bit to process everything. Can be difficult to not take any criticism personally though I’ve gotten much better about this (as my post this week will point out).

      Again, thank you for stopping by, and good luck with your book!


      • nesaauthor

        Thank you. And yea it can be a bit nerve-racking. But nothing easy should be anything less, and I have had such a great time writing this book…..thanks so much again.


  3. Susannah Ailene Martin

    This is great. I’m currently in the process of editing my first novel. As soon as I finish (which will be when I find time away from class), I will be publishing it. I think I’m going with Westbow for print versions, and I’m just Amazoning it for e-stuff. I enjoyed when you were talking about having to interact with people. As a fellow introvert, I am not looking forward to the experience. A phone call petrifies me, so I have no idea how I’m going to do it.


    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, yes, I know all about having a disdain for phone calls. I always thought my phone aversion was simply a weird trait of mine until I read Susan Cain’s book about introverts and discovered most introverts hate talking on the phone. I’m able to do it in a professional setting, though I still don’t like it. Thank goodness for email and text messages!

      I wish you luck with your novel. Very exciting. Yes, the marketing part is difficult, but it’s a necessary evil. I hope all goes smoothly for you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 🙂


  4. countingducks

    Well done on getting a book out there, and having another so nearly ready. I’m not sure, in all this, how well your book actually sold, but I’m very interested as I have a book being currently mauled by editors as we speak


    • Carrie Rubin

      It sold in slow bits and pieces until my publisher ran the promo. Then sales picked up, but of course, they’ve dropped to a trickle again. But they exceeded what I hoped for, so I’m happy about that.

      Good luck with your book! Always fun to get it back after the editors have ‘mauled’ it. 😉


      • countingducks

        I’m just rubbish at self-promotion and marketing or boasting or whatever its called, so I’m really dreading that part


        • Carrie Rubin

          I wish I could tell you it’s fun. But I’d be lying… (But rest assured, I’m sure some people love that part, and you may, too!)


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