What surprised you the most about publishing your first book?
Surprise 1 – The biggest surprise by far – writing a book is an entirely different process than publishing a book.
Before I started this process, I assumed that writing a book was about 80% of the effort and publishing a book was about 20% of the effort. What I found was the opposite – writing the (first draft) of the book was about 20% of the effort. This surprised me because I expected to sit down in front of a blank page and become paralyzed. This never happened.
Surprise 2 – I never had blank-page-syndrome.
When I watched movies about writers, they appear tormented by the blank page. In the 1980 movie “The Shining”, the writer character is eager for his winter retreat where he can have all the time he needs to write, then he literally loses his mind in front of a blank page.
In the 2003 movie “Adaptation”, the entire plot is about how the writer character can’t think of anything to write. Then he writes a meta-story about the process of writ- ing. The writer gets trapped in the writing process and it leads him down strange paths.
It wasn’t like this at all for me. As long as I created the space and time to write, I never had problems writing. I found that it was easy to fill the page with words, especially once I loosened up a little and let it flow without self-editing.
Surprise 3 – Readers are interested in the Author
When I first started learning how to write stories, I was encouraged to share my personal stories. This may sound odd, but it never occurred to me that my personal stories would be interesting to a reader. I thought the value in the nonfiction book was the research and the teaching, not in my own experiences.
I was wrong. I pushed myself to get uncomfortable and share personal stories from my life. Turns out that these are the stories that resonate with others. They are cu- rious about me – the Author. Part of what they are getting when they get the book is a little piece of me.
Surprise 4 – Social media is a necessary evil
I knew from having a small business that your online presence was important. As early as 2012 I was doing social media for my business, but in a very limited way. Fast forward ten years – websites have become less important than your ability to promote on social media.
Confession – I really hate social media. I never had a twitter account. I shut down my Facebook account after a few fun hours looking up ex-boyfriends. Scrolling on Instagram gives me motion sickness.
However, to publish a book, you must absolutely use social media. I knew this in theory, but I felt it viscerally when I was logged in daily to LinkedIn. Social media creates odd emotional surges, it can be exhilarating and depressing, sometimes within minutes or hours. When I was building the audience for my book, I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn.
I have learned to both hate and love LinkedIn. I have friends, real friends, that I met on LinkedIn. I hate the way I feel when I track “likes” or other metrics. I get over- whelmed by the never ending stream of information. I feel wonderful when someone reaches out and says I made a difference in their life through my posts or my book.
Surprise 5 – Publishing is hard, really hard
As I mentioned earlier, I assumed that writing was the hard part. It was not. The publishing process is long and there are so many steps to go through before you have a high quality product that you can share with the world.
I really disliked editing. My hybrid publisher (meaning that I do most of the work but I have a team to help me) guided me through every step. I still hated it. One of the things I hated the most was writing citations. Tedious and I had to do it several times to get it formatted properly. Editing meant going through the entire book and looking for instances of the word “that” to make sure I wasn’t over-using the word. Etc etc.
So many steps – editing steps, layout steps, uploading steps, account setup steps, promotion steps, presale steps, book cover steps, audiobook recording steps.
I pride myself on being good at getting getting shit done but sometimes the process was too much, even for me. I would get through one step, just to find another. My publisher had a philosophy to just show us the next step as not to have us feel overwhelmed. For me this backfired. Not knowing all the steps up front with a schedule made me feel like a rat running on a wheel. As soon as I got one thing done there was another, and another.
Surprise 6 – I got the itch
After all this hard work, I would assume that it was enough. I would want to spend time promoting my book and sit back on my laurels.
But the funny thing is, now I feel this itch to write. I stopped writing for a few months and it felt itchy. I decided to start again and the words flow. It feels right. I would never have considered myself a Writer but in the process of publishing a book, I have become one.