My Debut Year: What I Learned

My novel only came out two and a half months ago; for an intents and purposes, I’m just a newborn author. But I’ve had all these thoughts floating around in my head for a while, and I wanted to get them out into a blog post. I know that many of you are really interested in the publishing process, so I thought you might find this of interest. Forgive me if it’s random. I’ll be using bullet-points again.

debut year

  • I absolutely loved doing a big celebratory launch party on release day. It was so much fun and so special to have people I love from so many parts of my life come together to celebrate Truest … and to celebrate me. It was awesome. And it was great to have it on the actual release day so that there was actually a climax to the day I’d been counting down from for nearly two years. YES to release day parties.
  • I loved my street team, but I did everything too early and put too much money into it. I tried to come up with enough swag to entice readers to join the launch party, but I think the people who joined it would have joined it for less. In future, I will probably do a street team, but I will a) give them only the ARC plus some exclusive content, b) do everything within a month of the release date.
  • I would absolutely dish out the money to do a couple book tours during the release month. I’ll be doing a couple of those here in November and December, but I really wish I’d had the foresight to do them in September. Newbie!
  • At every event (except maybe the launch party), I would also promote other books that I enjoyed. I really want to give back in this way, plus I want bookstores that host these events to sell more than just my book.
  • I made a handful of promo materials. I probably should have just come up with one incredible idea, made a ton of them, and then given them out EVERYWHERE. When I busted out my promo events at a local college fair, they went like hot cakes … didn’t hurt UNW any either! It inspired lots of conversations.
  • Here’s one that might shock you: I would have been more spoiler-y in my flap copy (i.e. the text on the inside flap of the book). A story about three teens in the summer isn’t particularly compelling, but once I mention that one of them has a disorder that causes her to question whether she’s in real life or just dreaming, I see lightbulbs go on. Every time. I’ve been looking at the flap copy of other books, and theirs is open super spoilery … and it doesn’t hurt the experience of the book. I think this was a big mistake of mine.
  • I used Author Author to get copies of my books, but I’m not sure if I really got that great a deal on them. That said, it’s been so great to have plenty of copies that I’m able to sell at events. I also recommend using Flint for those sales. Also, bring a wingman to handle the sales. You don’t want to have to worry about handling money and credit cards– you should be free to just chat and sign books.
  • Don’t read the reviews. Except the five-star ones. Those are tremendous fun. Filter everything else out on Goodreads.
  • I learned that publishing a book isn’t a magical key to fulfillment. Okay, so maybe it is on launch day. There is nothing quite like seeing your book on shelves for the first time. But after that day, I was still just Jackie, full of self-doubt and wondering if anyone would like it, wondering if I could write another. I’ve shed a lot of tears since Truest came out, and most of them were not happy ones. Being published changed my life, but it didn’t take away my problems and doubts. At all.
  • Everyone says the best thing you can do for your current book is to work hard on your next book. It can be really hard to tear yourself away from the action around your debut novel to focus on writing another one, but this is the writing life.

So, do any of these surprise you? Any other writers have additional thoughts to chime in?

5 thoughts on “My Debut Year: What I Learned

  1. I can totally see the impulse to start promoting things too early and then run out of steam kind of (or have other people run out of steam). I continue to be so grateful for your look into what this process has been like.

  2. I have a friend who is currently pursuing some…interesting…avenues for her writing, and following you through the process is really helpful for me–just for myself, but also in relaying to her some of the reality of publishing. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned as I’ve read about your journey, and I’m excited to see how you and your writing continue to grow. Goooooo, Jackie!

    Side note: What font did you use for your website name in the title graphic? It’s super magical.

  3. These are such great tips! I will have to save this to come back to in a year or two when my debut is (hopefully) coming out. I saw you work so hard on social media to promote Truest, and I’m sure there was way more going on behind the scenes. Well done for backing yourself and putting in so much effort to promote your book! I hope it has paid off in every way possible.

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