I self-published my first novel, Coffee-to-Go, a month ago and I thought I’d share some of my experiences with the process of self-publishing, what I felt worked well, and what I could do better next time around.

My Pre-Publish Process

Obviously, before I could publish, I had to have a completed and well-edited manuscript. Other things I knew I had to consider and complete on my own were: building my author platform, designing a cover, completing a copyright page, writing my bio, blurb, and acknowledgements.

I began building my author platform about six months before I completed the final draft. I created this website, a facebook page, and a twitter account. I decided not to create an instagram account and while I did create a Tumblr, I’ve not really used it much (I probably should).

Next, I worked with an artist to create the art I would use on my cover and in promotional materials. She happens to be an artist I’ve worked with previously on several commissioned pieces for the fan fiction stories I’ve written. I like her style, so I was happy when she agreed to make an original piece for me and I also had her rework a previous commission, changing the characters to look like Leo and Andy from Coffee-to-Go. I used these pieces across my platform as a way to generate interest in my novel, although I was still working on it.

Once I finished writing, editing, and formatting my novel, I created the final cover design using the artwork I had. I am fortunate to have a background in graphic design, and two decades of experience with PhotoShop. That made creating my cover more cost effective, since I didn’t have to hire a designer to do that for me.

The part I agonized over the most was writing my blurb for the novel. I must have revised it a few dozen times before I was happy with it.

Two weeks before launch, I made a pre-launch announcement. I made the novel available for pre-order through Amazon and I promoted the heck out of that across my platform. I offered the ebook at a discount during this time to help drive sales.

My Post-Publish Process

Once the novel was officially launched, I naturally began doing a lot of promotion across all the different social media platforms I was on. I took advantage of several Facebook and Goodreads groups that allow self-promotion, as well as all the social media accounts I had created. I designed a banner to use for promotion, instead of relying the default images that are pulled in through social media from shared links. I felt this would be more effective as I could more easily control the imagery and message.

I have continued to promote this book while also announcing my next novel, which I have begun to plan for but haven’t started to write yet. It is my understanding that readers prefer authors who aren’t “one-trick-ponies,” but ones that have written multiple novels. Part of my strategy for selling my first novel, is to make sure my readers know that I have every intention of writing more. I already have the premise defined and I plan to write the novel for NaNoWriMo this year.

What has Worked Well

I was very pleased with my pre-sales response to my novel. I sold more copies of my ebook than I had expected to. Since then the sales have been trickling in more slowly, but still steadily. I’ve also been happy that I’ve had numerous people on Twitter retweet my promotional posts and basically give it a “signal boost,” which has led to higher visibility and interaction.

I’ve received very positive reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, so it’s clear that making sure I was listed on GoodReads has been a positive. I have also recently joined another site similar to GoodReads that has also lead to higher visibility of my novel.

While some people criticized my use of drawn art for my cover, over the use of photography, I’ve gotten mostly praise for the artwork. I think the promotional materials I created using the art has helped pique the interest of potential readers and led to more interaction and engagement. I will definitely be working with the same artist again on my next novel.

What I Need to do Differently

The biggest thing I need to keep in mind with my next novel is the fact it can take up to 72 hours for Amazon to review/approve when a novel is ready for launch. Also, their deadline for changes to my ebook was cut off early – so I was stuck for four days with the wrong version of the novel uploaded. Overall it was fine, but I had made a few last-minute corrections that I hope my pre-sale readers can forgive.

I also need to be a little less gunshy with my promotions. I dread losing followers for “spamming,” but I was overly conservative with how often I promoted. I’m still trying to find the right frequency for how often I should be pushing out promotional posts across social media.

One thing I am experimenting with now is to see how my novel does on Kindle Unlimited (KU). I hadn’t signed up for KU when I first launched, to see how my sales would be without it. After one month, I went ahead and enrolled in KU, and I’ll compare my earnings to see which one seems to work better in terms of royalties and number of people reading my novel. Depending on the outcome, I may choose to launch my next novel directly to KU from the start.