You worked hard on your novel. I’m talking fifteen drafts, three different editors, so many beta readers, and you’re at the point where you are finally ready to send that glorious thing out into the world. Will it sink? Will it swim? You don’t care as long as you don’t have to edit it again. 

So, you do your homework. You research the best indie presses. You weigh the pros and cons of going with a literary agent. After countless hours, you send your book baby out and cross your fingers that one of those publishers will like it enough to take it. 

Then you wait. 

Then you wait some more.

Just when you think no one is ever going to love your novel, you get an email that says, “Hey, this thing is pretty rad. Want to let us publish it?”

You take a selfie, post in on your favorite social media platform, and now all that’s left is to count the days until you’re the next best-selling American author, right?

Let chat about what comes after you get that glorious email that says someone else loves your novel as much as you do. Writing the novel, in some ways, was the easy part. What comes next is a steep learning curve. Here are 10 things you should know about the publishing world as a first-time novelist. 

  1. Prepare to yourself to wait. A lot. Then prepare yourself to wait some more. Seriously, don’t be in a hurry.  This is the biggest surprise I’ve had as a first-time novelist. Usually, as an editor, I’m on the other side of this process. I’m busy working my way through manuscript after manuscript tying words and tweaking format. I’m doing market research so I know how and what to say about the novel to get readers to buy it. But as the author, not editor, I forgot that all of that takes time. So, unless you’re planning to self-pub and you get to pick the publication date, prepare to wait. 
  2. You might be making that book cover all by yourself. Crazy, right? If you’re like me, you’ve long heard that you’ll get zero say in the cover art, that the publisher will know what to put on the front to make it sell. And they may. Some publishers are certainly like that, but mine wasn’t. My publisher sent me a couple of sites to find cover art and told me to have a go at it. Thank goodness for YouTube tutorials and local indie Facebook groups who are always happy to give you an opinion on your attempts at making a book cover. 
  3. You’ll need to up your social media presence. Do you have an author website? A long-forgotten Twitter account? Well, you’d better dust them off and see if you can start getting more web traffic. The simple fact is that on average there are about 1 million books published in the US alone every year. You worked crazy hard on that novel, but it’s all going to be for nothing if you can’t get people to read it. I’m not saying you have to dress up in a gorilla suit and do one of those sign flip dances to get people to pay attention to you, but it will certainly serve you well to up your followers on Twitter and do a little self-promotion. 
  4. You should be working on your next novel. Remember how I said you would be waiting? Well, why you’re waiting you might as well work on your next novel. Happy writing. 
  5. Other authors are your best resource. These writing connections of yours have been around the block and are usually more than happy to help you navigate this new world you find yourself in. They can point you toward the resources you need to read/watch/know and give you the advice you never knew you needed. One day you’ll be able to do the same as you meet another wide-eyed newbie stumble around trying to figure out what to do. 
  6. The book industry is not dying. We’ve all heard it. Books aren’t selling. Modern consumers don’t read. Well, dear writing friends, they do. Modern consumers read a lot, and it’s easier than ever to get a new book to read. The trick here is learning how to market and when to market your story. 
  7. If you’ve traditionally published, you can still go on to self publish. There’s no rule that says you have to continue to traditionally publish just because you’ve found yourself as a traditionally published author. I can’t even begin to count the number of writers I know that do both. There are pros and cons to every publishing path that exists. There are some awesome things about self-publishing, so don’t cross it off the list as an option later on just because you’ve been traditionally published. 
  8. Indie presses are not publicists. That means you’re going to have to learn how to market your own work. It’s not that your press won’t help you, it’s that the current market requires them to wear a lot of hats. This means you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work if you want your book to be a success. 
  9. You’re going to have to learn about the current market trends in your genre. If you want to be successful, you’re going to need to do some research about your market. Where do your readers find their next book? How do they choose? How on earth do you navigate Amazon? I know this sounds like a lot, but don’t fret. Google the current trends and reach out those author friends of yours. Ask them what book promotion things have worked for them. You’re not in this alone. Use that writing village of yours.
  10. Take time to pat yourself on the back. You may not be able to retire off your first published book, but you did it! You wrote a book that got published. If nothing else, you rock simply because you worked hard on something you love and now it’s out in the world. Way to go!

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