Kayla Hicks - Author Kayla Hicks - Author

What no one tells you about self-publishing for the first time

7 min read

Publishing for the first time in this thrilling and nerve-wracking experience all at the same time.

No matter how prepared you think you are for it as a first-time author, it isn’t until you’re published that you truly understand the process.

What do I mean by this?

When I first decided to self-publish, I was solely focused on getting my content in front of readers. I briefly searched online in regards to how to self-publish and that was it. I contacted Amazon Publishing (Kindle Direct Publishing) and my first book flew into the wild.

While this first time self-publishing felt very easy, I didn’t find out until I wanted to self-publish again that I’d missed crucial steps.

Sure, Amazon helped me edit, create a cover, and get it on the platform, but it cost me thousands of dollars. I also didn’t take time to build an audience before I published. This resulted in an immensely slow return in relation to my sales.

What no one tells you in self-publishing is that it takes time to build momentum and if you don’t follow certain steps, it makes everything slower.

Now, things have evolved significantly since I self-published for the first time.

There are definitely more resources and information out there now than ever before. There are more choices as to where you can self-publish. And, the awareness for self-published authors is growing.

With that being said, following these steps before you consider self-publishing will pave a path to building the momentum you need as a self-published author.

  1. Make an author platform: Many authors skip this step but I can not say this enough, if you don’t create a platform, it’s hard for readers to find you! An author platform is the social media platforms you’re on and your author's website. These are ways that readers can connect with you. Creating them early on can help show your seriousness about writing and build your audience from the beginning.

  2. Research your genre: This is a step that even I skipped in the beginning. My first book was a Young Adult Dystopian novel. I knew I wanted to write it and that I loved to read books in this genre. That was it. Had I done some research, I could have found out more about what was trending at the time with this genre. This could have also clued me into how I could attract an audience on social media towards my book.

  3. Create timelines and goals: Even if you have started your manuscript, you want to take a moment to sit down and plan it all out. Create draft deadlines (first draft, second draft, final draft), alpha and beta reader deadlines, and release date. You can also plan reveals throughout this timeline to show your audience characters, the cover, the description, or even a location. As for goals, make them for yourself. A daily word count or something is helpful.

  4. Keyword research: Doing keyword research is tedious but worth it. Look up other books in your genre and come up with 100 keywords among them. Look for words that are common throughout the genre. For example, young adult dystopian had keywords such as action, peril, adventure, world, and high stakes. These helped me for publishing in terms of setting keywords for my book on the platform and incorporating them into my description.

  5. Build momentum: If you have read any of my other posts here on Medium, I have referred to building momentum as a writer as a rolling snowball. The longer you work at rolling this snowball down a hill, the larger it grows until you say to make a snowman. For social media, it doesn’t matter if you just started writing your manuscript, post about it. The more you talk about your story as you write it, the more people will interact and become interested along the way.

  6. Don’t rush the process: I know how hard it is to hold back and wait to publish something. When you are ready to start publishing, you are ready for readers to see it. But, don’t rush to get it out there. Rushing the process only leads to mistakes.

  7. Be patient: It is rare for your first book to be a bestseller, but if you manage to do so, that is wonderful. For most writers, the first book is slow going on sales, and it takes a long time to accrue reviews. If you consistently put out new content (books, short stories, blogs) you will start building not only a body of work but a reader base. Many writers don’t see traction until they have four or five books out. It will happen if you are patient.

Many writers make mistakes in haste to get their books published which results in slow growth.

As I said before if you want to grow a reader's base, you need to do it the right way.

If you choose to self-publish, you are learning all of the processes by yourself, and that takes time. And it isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. When you rush by paying lots of money to have a service publish it for you or don’t take the time to build momentum, it slows your progression.

These mistakes lead writers to lose the excitement for publishing as well.

Tons of first-time authors give up after self-publishing their first book.

It’s sad but true.

This is for a few reasons. They either didn’t see the progression or sales they wanted to see after publishing their first book. Or they became frustrated with learning the ropes of publishing or lost too much money paying services to publish for them.

Unfortunately, this almost happened to me.

I had spent thousands of dollars publishing my first book, only to make roughly $300. At first, I was bummed at my stats and it dried my well of creativity. But more than that, when I was ready to write another book, I wasn’t aware of how easy publishing could be, as I had paid so much money to do so before.

It wasn’t until I networked and connected with other seasoned writers that I found out I wasn’t the only one.

What you don’t know about self-publishing, thankfully another seasoned author somewhere is willing to show you the ropes.

Once I found some great writers, I learned so much.

I learned how to:

  • Make my own covers

  • Do keyword research

  • Navigate advertisements

  • Price my books reasonably

  • Build my audience

  • Write better book descriptions

  • Publish my books for nearly free

If not for having found someone with experience who was willing to guide me, I’m not sure I would have gone to publish four other books.

What no one tells you about self-publishing for the first time is that it's tough.

We all are going to make mistakes, but make sure that you learn from them. And once you go through the publishing process, it gets easier every time.

Self-publishing can feel scary, but if you take these steps, you can make great things happen.