I Published My First Novel – Here’s What I Learned

I Published My First Novel - Here's What I Learned I’m thrilled to announce that my first novel has been published and is available as an eBook on Amazon. The paperback version will be coming in a few weeks.

This is a project that I’ve been working on since 2008. In fact, I’ve already started three sequels for this book that are in various states of completion. Those sequels were created during #NaNoWriMo that I participated in three times. If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s National Novel Writing Month and it happens every November. I started this one prior to learning about NaNoWriMo.

So there’s a few things I wanted to share about the process and my lessons learned for any aspiring authors out there. It’s not as simple as writing a book and then uploading it to Amazon. And, there are a lot of different things to consider.

The Story:

 

First, let me tell you about the book because you’re probably wondering what it’s about. After all, you can’t tell a book by its cover. Here’s my description from Amazon:

Chemical researcher Ben LeCosa is recruited by his friend, Steve Gibson, to help research a grisly murder. The victim’s body bears a striking resemblance to the way their college roommate was found nearly two decades ago: the head and limbs in place, but the torso missing.

 

Things begin to take a strange turn when both receive late night phone calls from a mysterious stranger. Someone looking for help on a similar case. Little does Ben know that a religious cult is watching him with the hope that he can recover an object that has been missing for nearly 20 years. An object they desperately need to execute their diabolical plan.

 

As events unfold, Ben, along with his wife, Marcy, and Steve get pulled into a game of cat and mouse where their lives are at stake. What is this mysterious object? Do events from Ben’s recurring nightmares hold clues to its whereabouts, or the secret society that they’re on the run from? It’s a race against time as each answer they find only leads to more questions.

You can probably guess that there’s a lot more to do once the story is complete. The above description took me 2-3 hours to write. I researched best practices, looked at what other authors did and then continued to refine it. In fact, I changed the description on Amazon three times in the first day. After all, I’ll be using this text (or an abbreviated version) on the back cover.

Speaking of the cover, I stumbled upon that one by accident. My initial plan for the cover was going to be a fancy white chaise lounge chair with a black fabric mask resting on it. That idea represented a series of events related to the plot. However, I came across the above photo while using a cover designer tool and it jumped out at me. It’s relevant because it represents a scene during the climax of the book.

 

From Manuscript to eBook:

 

I have to give Amazon credit because they make it pretty easy to turn your finished manuscript into a book. Here are the steps I went through:

  1. I created a KDP account on Amazon. This is free and if you have an existing Amazon account, it takes a couple minutes.
  2. I added a new book to my bookshelf. This is the first step in the process.
  3. I downloaded Kindle Create and imported my manuscript. Kindle Create is a free tool and it makes it easy to get your book ready. I used MS Word to write my book, but the tool supports several different formats. My book was 160+ pages in Word and it took about 5 minutes to import.
  4. I cleaned up and added some additional sections in Kindle Create. Writing does not end with a finished manuscript. I added about the author, copyright and title page sections. I also had some offset formatting that I needed to ensure looked correct. Honestly, I was surprised at how well the tool imported the book.
  5. Then, I added the cover and description. The cover has to be over 1000 pixels on at least one side. So use a cover designer tool like Canva to design or upload your cover to ensure it has the right directions.
  6. Next, was choosing a price. Amazon has some tools to help you pick a price for your book. I did some research on similar type books to figure out what rate made the most sense. I settled on $3.99 USD as I felt anything higher wouldn’t sell and anything lower would have a low perceived value.
  7. Next was adding tax and payment information. I highly recommend using an EIN instead of your social security number. You can get an EIN for free on the IRS website. You will need an actual business to get an EIN, but it’s pretty easy to create your own sole proprietorship by just registering it with your city or town.
  8. Finally, I uploaded it. You’ll need to export your work from Kindle Create to it’s format before uploading, but that’s pretty quick. Then you hit that magic button to upload your work and you’re done. It can take up to 72 hours for your eBook to show up on Amazon. But there’s something definitely cool about seeing your name listed as an author for the first time.

 

Marketing Your Book:

 

I could (and will) create a separate post on marketing your book. But here are a few tips you can use right away:

  • Share the news on social media. Let all your friends, family, coworkers, etc… know that you’re now a published author. They’ll not only be excited for you (and ask lots of questions), but some may actually buy it. I was overwhelmed by the support I got when I first shared that my book was published.
  • Ask your friends and family to share the link. Take advantage of the excitement by asking everyone to share the link to your book with people that might be interested in reading it.
  • Post a note on your blog/website. Let your readers and visitors know that they can be among the first to purchase it. You’d be surprised at how many people would love to support you by buying and reading your book.

 

I Wanna be a Paperback Writer:

 

I’m hearing a certain Beatles song in my head while I’m typing this. I have not completed the process to get my book in paperback form yet. So I will create a follow up post once I get through that process. There were some things I omitted from the eBook, such as the dedication and acknowledgment, that I want to include in the paperback. I had set a goal to get the eBook done by June 1st and I was not going to let these things prevent me from reaching that goal. I can always update them in the eBook and I think most readers skip over them anyway.

Amazon offers proof copies for authors to review before finalizing their paperback.This is to review the finished product before offering it for sale.  I’ll also provide an update on this in a future post.

 

Lessons Learned:

 

  • Writing a book is a lot of work. And the process after the book is complete is also a lot of work so plan ahead. The good news is that some of the steps above don’t need to be repeated with every book.
  • Think about how you’d describe the book while you’re writing it. Also, look at the descriptions of successful similar books for ideas. Think of what your elevator speech for your book would sound like.
  • Avoid using excessive formatting in your book. This can cause problems when converting to eBook & print formats.
  • Get feedback. Get as many friends and family members to read your book as you can. Some may love the story while others might not. But pay attention to their feedback and ask them to point out any spelling or grammar errors they find.
  • Don’t get discouraged if the sales and/or feedback doesn’t meet your expectations. Instead, look at it as a learning experience that you can apply towards your next book.
  • Keep writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get.I believe that you have what it takes to be a great author and want to hear about your success!

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