Monday, December 8, 2014

What I've Learned As A Newbie Author

From user Stacy
One year ago this week, I pressed the “Publish” button for the first time.

I was a scared new author, trying to build some confidence in whatever way I could. And for me, that meant putting up a short story I was fairly pleased with. I’d decided during the year that I was going to try my hand at self-publishing, and while I didn’t necessarily have a specific plan, I knew doing something was better than doing absolutely nothing.

When I pressed the lovely button that sends chills and waves of panic through many authors, I knew I was taking my first step, but the important thing was to make a second and third step. For me, that meant getting the next story out there, not worrying so much if my first was selling or getting good reviews (although I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t check my sales reports rather frequently!).

In March of this year, I found myself in a rather unique position, though not as unique as it used to be. I signed a publishing contract with Splashdown Books, making me a hybrid author. It was an exciting step, something I’d hoped to accomplish for a long time, and it boosted my confidence. Working with an editor for the first time, as well as getting the advice of a good writer friend, both really helped me learn the ropes, to learn more about my weaknesses as a writer, and helped round out my knowledge of how to publish a book.

But I still was a nervous wreck when I pressed “Publish” again in July. On an Amtrak train. Somewhere between Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.

By the third story, I became a bit of an old hat at this publishing thing. But I still have a lot of learning to do.

Some of the important things I’ve learned in this last year include:

  • Always be doing something, even if it’s not quite the right thing. Learning from experience is sometimes the best (and usually for me, the only way) to truly learn. Publishing a short story on Kindle Direct and doing several free promotions in a haphazard fashion maybe wasn’t the best way to do things, but it did get my short story into people’s Kindles. 

  • Ask advice. I tend to have a bit of a nervous personality (it can come through in my female lead characters). And I’ve also had several major failures in life already, which have led to that extra burst of nerves. While I’m not truly afraid of failure (I’ve been there, done that, and survived to come out the other side stronger), I have a healthy respect for trying to do the right thing the first time. I’m sure many of my writer friends have privately chuckled over some of my questions and the little things I’ve fretted over, but publishing is very nuanced. What works for one person will completely bomb for someone else. But the only way to know for sure is to try it.

  • Be patient. Becoming even a small success takes time. While I haven’t reached what I’d call “successful,” looking at my sales numbers lately is definitely encouraging. I was tickled pink when I realized that my sales in November were more than my sum total of every month prior to it—and it marked my 12th month with stories for sale. 

  • Be humble. I’ve had some tough pills to swallow this year. One that really stands out was a phone conversation I had with someone about my book cover for the novella I published in July. I could easily have been insulted by what this person had to say, but she has marketing experience and has published books in the past. Instead of getting rude and defensive, I listened. I asked pointed questions. Sure, I was a little bummed, but I still took what she said to heart. And I think it made my book covers better as a result. That would have been impossible had I not had a humble spirit. I’m new at this, and I want to get better. I hope one day to land that New York agent, but I won’t unless I have a reputation for being someone who is cooperative and doesn’t always demand her own way.

  • Your next book is the best advertisement for your last—and vice-versa. Unless you write in completely different genres (which I do not), your books will advertise each other. I learned this one from a couple of my favorite podcasts. And recently, I found out it was completely true. Shortly after I published my second novella, Retaliation, sales of its predecessor, Emergence, started taking off. Granted, they’re not much, but hey, I’m thrilled!

If you’re a newbie author, or hesitating on whether you should push that “publish” button for the first time, I encourage you to make your next step. Hit publish. As soon as it’s properly edited, put that next story up. You may not make any sales in the first week—or month. But it’s still out there. And it’s totally worth it.


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking--basically avoiding housework at all costs! A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador.

She blogs periodically at
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