I’m going to make this introduction brief, because I’d much rather have you spend your time reading the protein of this post, which are some hard truths about writing and publishing your first book.

If you have any thoughts after reading this article, feel free to get in touch with me by emailing me at lauren@laurenericksonwrites.com or commenting on this post.

1. No one’s going to care about your book more than you

      For a long while, you are going to be your book’s first and only advocate. You are its caregiver, and you are responsible for helping it grow and develop in the way that it needs to. The story chose you to write it, and it’s up to you to write it well.

      If you wrote a heart-felt memoir about the bond you and your long-lost mother had, that’s great. If you wrote the first of a 3-part epic fantasy series inspired by Game of Thrones, awesome. But so what? Why should anyone care? That’s partly what you have to keep in mind as you write your book. There always needs to be a point, there always needs to be forward motion, and, at the end of the day, there always has to be something in it for the reader.

      2. You will most likely not make a splash with your first book

      Unless you have some industry connections or a work history with a notable New York publication, you most likely will not secure a major publisher. You either need strong, relevant experience or a sizable platform in the tens of thousands at least to run with the big dogs. Just like if you’re job searching, you can apply to a job you’re unqualified for, but there’s a teeny tiny chance they’ll actually take you on.

      Connections, experience, and a faithful audience matter because the publisher is taking a risk on YOU to help them make money, as well as maintain their credibility and reputation. As wonderful as books are, they are still a business.

      Your first book will mostly be about 2 things: proving yourself as a writer and getting your foot in the door. This is your opportunity to get people to like you, so write well, write often, and build your credibility in the meantime.

      3. People will judge your book by its cover

      For the love of God, do not, do not, DO NOT let your friend, colleague, daughter, godson, niece, granddaughter, etc. design your book cover. Unless they’re a damn good artist or graphic designer that’s got a strong portfolio and notable credibility behind their name, do not let them design your book cover.

      If you’re prepping your first-ever book for publication, go with the in-house designer (after all, they’re there for a reason) or pay for a design through a quality freelance designer, boutique, or other company with experience creating consistently high-quality book covers.

      Also, the design is not necessarily about you. If you look up popular books related to your genre, you’ll notice a theme with some of those book covers. There are standards and trends to consider. As an example, check out this handful of romance novels.

      4. Self-promotion is uncomfortable, but necessary

      This is especially true if you are an indie author expecting to turn a profit or secure a book deal with a traditional publisher. If your only goal is to write a book for the sake of writing a book, then this section may not be that applicable to you. Though I would bet that majority of aspiring writers would hope to attract some sort of readership, in which case, you will inevitably need to practice self-promotion.

      Get comfortable with being on social media, writing bi-weekly newsletters, and talking about yourself and your book because I would go so far as to say that’s even a pre-requisite for being an author. After all, if you can’t even vouch for your own book, then why should anyone else? Your enthusiasm is another reason for why anyone should read your book.

      5. You’ll never finish a book if you only write when you’re inspired

      Neil Gaiman once said, “If you only write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.”

      If you want to write a book, you’re going to have to be very, very consistent with it. It took me a solid year to write my book’s first draft. Then another two or three just to edit the darn thing and get clear on my publishing path.

      Create a plan for yourself, figure out whether your brain is the sharpest for writing in the morning or evening, set a daily word count goal, dedicate yourself to multiple glasses of your favorite drink, because at the least, this will be a part-time job.

      6. There will be an inevitable shift from the craft of writing to the business of books

      This is one that rarely any writer can anticipate, and not very many are prepared for (or even interested in) the latter half of that sentence. “I’m the talent, I’m only supposed to write!” Maybe that was true for 19th century novelists, but we’ve got rent, tuition, and childcare to pay. If you want to be an author, you’ve gotta know how to sell a book or two, which—on its own—requires technology, marketing, and networking.

      If you’re self-publishing, even hybrid publishing, this is especially relevant for you. You’ve gotta recoup the cost of your investment. Don’t you want to see your ROI? Don’t you want to build an audience of readers? If you’re going to play ball, it helps to play it in a field, not an office.

      Thanks for reading! If you’re curious to learn more, consider checking out my YouTube channel for more information on getting your book published and promoted.

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