4 Things I Learned Self-Publishing My First Book

In two days, my first book will be officially released. It’s called, “Flannel-Graph Jesus: More Than a One-Dimensional Savior,” and to say I’ve learned a few things during the self-publishing process is an understatement. Here are four of my takeaways.

It’s About Dedication, Not Inspiration

When I first dreamed of becoming an author, I would write in fits and starts. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and scribble a few paragraphs, and other times I would stay up deep into the night and polish off a few chapters. I was inconsistent and it got me nowhere.

What I found out was the only way to start and finish a book was to commit to a certain amount of writing each week and then stick to it. For me, it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5–6am. Rather than wait for inspiration, I learned to channel it. Just the act of sitting at the keyboard early in the morning with nothing else to distract me induced creativity.

Sure, I had days when words did not come easily. But I found that the more I kept at it, the easier it became.

Believe In Yourself, Even When No One Else Does

Years ago, when I first attempted to write a book, I became discouraged when I shared my writing with friends and family and heard nothing back. I assumed that I wasn’t a good writer and that I should give up. Seth Godin says, “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.” I learned that other people are very busy and most don’t have time to be inspired by your dream.

Jeff Goins teaches that you have to call yourself a writer, first.Click To Tweet I remember going to each of my social profiles and changing my title to “Writer and Pastor.” Initially, it was a dubious title, but now it’s real. There’s power in words, especially when they are spoken internally and repeated often. Call yourself a writer and then work hard at it. Trust me, if I did it, you can too.

Editing Is Like Magic

In my early writing sessions, I would find myself getting bogged down in the minutia of a single paragraph — tweaking words and punctuation until I got it exactly correct. This is the wrong approach. While I was writing Flannel-Graph Jesus, I would sit down and get as many words onto the paper as possible, not going back to fix spelling or punctuation. As I learned, all of that can be handled during revision.

After I finished my completed manuscript at just under 30,000 words, I went back and did a rough edit — just fixing some obvious issues and clarifying areas of the book that needed adjustment. Then, I hired a copy-editor. Wow! An editor is a writer’s secret weapon. Yes, it cost a little money, but having a trained professional make suggestions, adjustments, and corrections was a game-changer. The process took longer than I thought it would, but I’ll be hiring an editor to help with all my manuscripts from now on. And don’t forget, all top writers have editors — it’s the just way it works.

The Publishing Process Takes Time

I self-published my book, which is to say, I was in charge of finding an editor, cover designer, layout designer, printer, shipping the books, and paying for all of it. I thought I could accomplish all of these tasks within a couple months. Not a chance.

First, I used Kickstarter to raise the money to pay for the publishing cost. This is essentially “pre-sales” of the book and allows people to support the project ahead of time. My Kickstarter campaign total exceeded my goal by more than $700, which was amazing. I raised about $3,700. However, Kickstarter takes 15–20 days to release the funds, not to mention taking about a 10% cut.

Additionally, working with the copy-editor took more time than I thought, not because she was slow, but because it’s a process that requires careful thought and plenty of decisions. Designing a book cover also takes a lot of time. Each revision may take a week or more and there are several revisions to make along the way. Lastly, it’s no small feat to coordinate the purchasing of ISBN numbers, bar codes, getting the manuscript uploaded to Kindle, iBooks, and shipped to Amazon.com.

In the end, I had to push my release date back by about 30 days and I still had to rush to get everything done.

While challenging at times, this journey has been exhilarating and fun. I’ve already started working on my next book. Armed with a little experience and knowledge, I’m hoping to publish around this time next year.

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