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What I Learned After One Year Of Self-Publishing Novels

Well, it was a little over a year, but who's counting? First of all, wow, I can't believe it's already been a year since I started this publishing journey. The time has honestly flown by! To simply say I've learned a thing or two would be an understatement. Where do I even begin? Publishing, or really anything as an independent creator, is a wild ride that you have to experience to believe. I feel like a different person than when I started. Between building confidence, learning patience, and truly learning the meaning of burn-out, this year has taught me so much about what it means to chase your dreams.

On the publishing process:

There are a ton of things to consider and steps to take when self-publishing a novel. I won't get into every detail here, but it was pretty overwhelming at first. Things you just would never think about come up randomly as you go along. But, I will say, once I published the first one, the next was that much faster. I had my little method from the first book that was easy to apply to the second and third. Just put in the work once, and you'll have that template to run with for future books.

I also learned a lot about the true cost of self-publishing. I went into it being willing to spend some money, but no specific budget in mind other than that I wanted to keep my costs as low as I could while still putting out a well produced novel. To this end, I only hired out for a cover design and a copy edit, while doing everything else myself. But there were so many more costs than that between the ISBNs, proof copies, copyright, website hosting, Canva, Adobe, Inkarnate and all the other marketing things I tried. Especially the marketing, which I will get into next. I ended up putting in more money than I'll likely get out of it for a long time. They say writing is just an expensive hobby these days, which isn't the case for everyone, but I can see why they say that.

Moving forward, I plan to learn more skills and save the cost of hiring out. Until I can make some money back, spending as much money as I did this year on my writing each year just isn't sustainable. But I'm glad I did it and have that experience now.

On marketing:

As a self-published author, it's extremely hard to find your readers. Marketing is an endless task which often feels impossible to me. I work a full time job in healthcare, which drains a lot of my energy, and am very introverted with social anxiety. Putting myself out there is almost always a struggle, whether it's from lack of time or lack of energy. Many of the things I've done in attempts to market myself haven't panned out like I hoped they would, either. Which is frustrating because it renders all the work I did and time I spent to create such marketing material wasted. Marketing is honestly the bane of my existence and sucks the joy out of self-publishing for me. I'd always rather be writing than marketing.

Another thing I learned was to be more selective of what I'm doing for marketing. Let's take events for example. I went to two big events this year, Imaginarium and Getting Witchy With It, which were both amazing experiences and so fun. But, I didn't really consider my books' genre before picking what events to attend. For some reason, I thought that all events would be a mix of a bunch of genres and types of authors, which didn't turn out to be the case. At Getting Witchy With It, 99% of the authors there were romance authors, which I am not. So those readers, obviously, weren't my readers. Compared to Imaginarium, where there were a variety of genres and types of authors there, so I did much better sales wise. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went to both events, if only to get used to pitching my books and talking to people, but next time I'll look more into an event before I go. I think I was just excited to be invited to an event at all, since they book out years in advance. I wanted to take the opportunity while I could, even if it wasn't the best opportunity.

As a socially anxious person, I also learned a lot about talking to people, both at events and online with other authors and creators. This is especially true through my podcast, Behind the Writer. I was always intimidated by other authors I came across on Instagram or at events, since they seemed so much more accomplished than me. But once I did some of the interviews for Behind the Writer, I realized we're all the same. None of us know what we are doing, nor are we confident in what we're doing. It was refreshing and took away some of the pressure I was putting on myself to make everything perfect and keep up with everyone else.

Though I'm still working out the best way to market my books, I've learned to have more of a balance to things. I could post every day on Instagram and make reels and all that, but I would be unhappy. My goal is to have fun with this and share my work with like-minded people. To this end, I'd rather spend more time actually writing and creating stories I love than doing social media. Will that decrease my reach and potential to find more readers? Sure. Will I be happier? Absolutely. It was never about money anyway.

On patience for the publishing process:

I've never been a patient person. I have big ideas and often get annoyed when things take longer than I wanted. So believe me when I say there is no rushing the publishing process. I tried. It just takes time to get through all the necessary steps to produce a quality story and book design. It doesn't help anything to rush just to get it out there before some imaginary deadline you gave yourself. I'm always amazed at the people who can publish several books a year, because it's really hard to.

For my second book, The Mercenaries of Ice and Shadow, I definitely fell victim to my lack of patience. I wanted to get the book out before I attended my first ever author event, Imaginarium, so I could have two things to sell rather than just one. Not that the book isn't good, because I do enjoy it, but it could be better. I could've added more to the story, added more description and such. I'm someone who takes pride in my work, so I learned not to rush things anymore. If I'm not confident in my work, I'm not going to put it out until I am.

My most recent realization of this was with my third book, The Light in Darkness. I had everything done and was going through it all in my proof copy, but just didn't feel good about it. It could be better, more engaging for the reader. I thought to myself, it's already done, I could just publish this anyway. But then I thought about how I wasn't entirely happy with my second book, and did I really want to put another book out there that I thought could be better? No. So now I'm embarking on revamping the third book. Do I want it published, so I can move on to the next project? Sure. But I want the story to really reflect what I intended it to, more than I just want to be done with it.

The Light In Darkness by Julie Vaid

On burn-out:

It's easy to get burnt-out as a self-published author. There are so many things to do beyond writing. Marketing is never ending, editing can feel like a slough, and all those tiny details to keep track of in between are out of control. And working a full time job on top of that makes it all even more overwhelming. I'm someone who will take on more than I can handle, and learning what will keep me from getting burnt out is an ongoing struggle. I want to publish books, go to events, do a podcast, engage with others online, and work my full time job, but it's just not possible for me to do everything that I want to. The main thing I want to focus on is enjoying the process. As much as I'd like to write as my career, that's just not where I am right now. My full time job that takes up most of my time, and doing a lot of the extra stuff takes the limited time I have away from writing. The reason I do all this is to share my passion of writing with others, so what's the point if I'm not enjoying writing anymore? I think the biggest thing I've taken away from this year is that I want to get back to loving writing again.

On future goals:

I'd like to focus more on my projects and less on the background stuff. I have some great novels I'm excited to write and publish, an audiobook in the works that I'm having so much fun with, and other marketing ideas that I believe will align more with my time constraints (like this blog). I'm so grateful for everyone who has read and been excited about my books so far. My passion for story telling keeps me going, and the feedback I get from readers is the icing on the cake. Thanks for coming on this journey with me! Let's have another great year together!

Julie Vaid

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