Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone says it but never has that message been clearer to me than a week before I’m supposed to launch my debut novel. And as I start to freak out and stress, I do what I normally do—I turn to writing.
So, if any of you hopeful authors would like to know some mistakes I’ve made and ways to make your first book launch go smoother than mine, I guess there’s no better time to tell you about them than when they’re fresh in my mind.
1. Do Plan to have a Print Version of your Book
I didn’t plan to have a print version of my debut novel. Until today. 11 days before release day. This was not a good plan. Actually, it was the absolute lack of a plan that got me into this terrible situation. Do not do this. Print is good. It’s your friend.
Why didn’t I have a plan for a print version, you ask? Because it seemed silly. We have technology strapped to us all the time. Your dang watch can be an e-reader (okay, maybe this is an exaggeration, but maybe it isn’t). I didn’t think anyone except for super nerds like me preferred print over eBook. As it turns out, this is not true. A lot of people still really prefer the print version. They like the way books feel in the hand and the way they smell, and your friends and family like the fact that they can have an autographed copy.
Be prepared to use CreateSpace at the very least. They facilitate the handy “Print on Demand” feature on Amazon. Also be prepared for a bit of a formatting headache if you’re not a computer whizz (guilty). If you’re not, watch this YouTube video tutorial on formatting your book for CreateSpace. It will help, I promise.
Also be prepared to have a wrap for your print version. It’s more than a cover, it’s a PDF spread required by CreateSpace that includes the spine and the back of the book blurb. You can create your own through CreateSpace but in my humble opinion, they simply don’t look as good as one done by a professional. Thank heavens my designer, Fiona, was willing and able to put one together for me on short notice. But it isn’t a nice thing to do to a designer, so try to avoid it and have it ready to go in advance.
2. Do have some Wiggle Room in your Budget
This was actually something I did do, but I was amazed how quickly the money in my budget disappeared. This self-publishing thing is not cheap. One of the biggest errors I made was only including “big ticket” items in my budget, like the artwork and editing. The little things add up quickly and caught me by surprise. Here’s a quick list of the things I included my budget and others that popped up along the way:
- Cover Design (included in budget)
- Artwork/graphics for website, Facebook, etc. (included in budget)
- Wrap for print version of book (not included, popped up)
- Content Edit (included in budget but went over budget)
- Copy Edit (included in budget)
- Costs associated with buying ISBN numbers and barcode (I literally didn’t know this was a thing until about a month before launch. I’m not proud of this lack of knowledge, but if it helps one of you avoid the same mistake, I’m happy to admit it. Obviously, this was not included in my budget)
- Website hosting costs (included in budget)
- Vellum formatting costs (or other formatting costs if you choose to go with a formatter for print and/or eBook) (not included, popped up)
3. Do Consider Pre-Orders
The pre-order function on Amazon didn’t really seem to make much sense to me for a first book. I mean, no one has heard of me and the only people who were going to pre-order my book were people who were going to read it anyway (my family and friends, mostly). But as soon as I started posting about the release date on Facebook and officially launched my website, I found a lot of people were interested in pre-ordering my book. My editor also asked about posting pre-order links to her social media accounts. This left me in a bind.
I actually did manage to scramble and get something ready for pre-order, but it’s not much of a pre-order as it’s only coming a week before launch. It was also extremely stressful (I’ve been working for going on 14 hours today), and in my haste, I messed something up on my Amazon submission and my book is now listed under my editor’s name instead of mine, and I’m sitting here with my fingers crossed obsessively checking my email every 17 seconds to see if Amazon gets my email begging them to fix it before it goes live on the site.
Which leads me to my next point about pre-orders on Amazon. At the very least, pre-orders give you a chance to correct any silly mistakes you’ve made (like listing your book under your editor’s name instead of your own) BEFORE your hard launch. The other great thing about pre-orders is that if it’s already ready to launch, it will be released exactly when you want it to instead of having to wait 12+ hours on launch day for it to go live on the site.
4. Do Remember to Breathe
I’m a naturally anxious person, so I might be more stressed than most, but this is advice I could have used. All throughout my day, I kept telling myself: there is nothing that has been done that cannot be undone. There is nothing that cannot wait. It helped. Well, at least until I put my book out for pre-order under the wrong name.
Seriously though, it can be fixed. I know it can. That’s the great thing about technology and the great thing about self-publishing. This would have been much more serious if I’d just put the wrong name on a slip for a 10,000 book print run. That could probably be fixed too, but this is much simpler. I can fix it quickly with Amazon (aren’t they the greatest?), and I’ll be right back on track. Nothing is so big it can’t be addressed.
5. Don’t Forget—Taxes are a Thing
Any retailer is going to ask you to fill out a W-9 for tax purposes. For me, this was relatively simple, but I didn’t realize it until I was basically ready to start uploading to various retailers. This might be an added complication for some, so I wanted to throw it out there in the event someone wasn’t expecting it!
Happy Writing! And if you see The Wheel Mages listed on Amazon under someone else’s name, please still buy it! I’m pretty sure I got the mailing information right for the check, at the very least!