What I learned in my First Year of Self Publishing

I want to preface this article by noting that I am not a professional by any means. What I’m hoping this article will do is help other beginning authors like myself learn from the struggles and mistakes that I made in my first year. I published my book as an ebook in April 2017 and then as a paperback in August 2017 and it was easily one of the best moments of my life. I felt so proud of my achievement. The feeling of holding my first book in my hands was something I will never forget. Everyone who read the novel enjoyed it and things felt like they were falling into place. However earlier this year I realized that my impatience was my worst enemy. I realized that I had rushed the release of my book without properly thinking of how best to promote and distribute it. I then did some research and learned some things I wish I had known before.

A book cover, as we all know, really is the first thing an average reader will judge upon first seeing the novel. For my book, I jumped back and forth between what I thought was a good idea and what would be more attractive to people. Unfortunately my research only consisted polling my bookish friends and acquaintances, asking them what covers appealed to them most. While that information was quite valuable, I realized that my friends and acquaintances don’t necessarily reflect the market I was aiming for. My book is meant for young adult audience and I started researching what was expected of that target audience. What I learned made me realize I had to change the cover.

The book cover is supposed to typically imply what the story is about to give a kind of quick preview to the novel. It’s the hook that gets a potential reader to read the blurb and hopefully dive deeper. My book is a young adult novel that focuses on the lives of three teenagers who are trying to figure out who they are after the end of a global conflict in a fictitious world where the first location this story takes place in is based on a feudal Japan like setting. The issue I came to realize however is that the cover did not correctly reflect this. The cover, upon careful consideration, implied more of a Nordic tale that might have given a completely different idea of what the story actually was. At no point did the cover reflect the characters or the setting that Book #1 took place in. The font choice was also felt lackluster. It gave a very amateur feeling to the book with its simplicity and size. I decided to overhaul the entire book jacket.

The description on the back was also lacking in a descriptive blurb about me as the author. It’s something that some authors do and I realized that as a new author, it wouldn’t hurt to include a short description of myself and how to view additional content I create. I looked online as well as through books at my local bookstores and saw that this was a more common practice than I initially thought. From what I’ve read, it helps to connect the author to the reader should the reader be curious to know more about the creator.

I also started incorporating some of the feedback I had received after publishing my book. As a fantasy author, the world I created was interesting but without a map there as a lack of connection for many readers. Looking at other fantasy novels, the majority had maps for the reader to follow along. I added maps of the world as well as the continent where Book #1 takes place to give a sense of place for the reader. I also decided to clean up the formatting to make it more professional and appear cleaner as a result.

One of the most important things I had ignored in my initial release was just how valuable the market research and formatting is to a novel’s reception. This year I took the time to think about what best suits the story I created and fits the normal standards for book formatting. One of the easiest things that can help so immensely is to just take another novel in your genre and see what they did and apply it to your own work. Comparing the initial edition to the 2nd edition, I’m so much happier with how it came out.

The Original Book Jacket :

Back, Spine and Cover 3.2

The 2nd Edition Book Jacket :

Rerelease 3.4 Preview

I plan to have the 2nd edition available for purchase this month on Amazon. 🙂

I hope that what I’ve learned in my first year of publishing helps fellow beginning authors in their journey of book publishing and avoid the mistakes that I made.

– Raphael

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