Self-Publishing: 6 Valuable Lessons I Learned Between Book #1 & #2

books Late in 2014 I launched my second mystery-thriller-romantic suspense novel, The Last Fairytale. A lot of time passed between Book 1 and Book 2, and although I sweated the gap that produced no significant fiction writing, in hindsight I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It was quite a ride.

I’ve learned an enormous amount during the past three years. I started this self-publishing journey by joining Twitter early in 2011, then started my blog, then published my debut novel, Mark of the Loon, in June, 2012. I could write volumes about what I learned between book launches, but I’ve honed it down to these six points. Here’s what changed for me:

1. I’m a better writer
I’ve blogged once a week consistently since Spring 2011, with only a couple of misses. Blogging has boosted my confidence about my writing, increased the speed at which I produce coherent thoughts, enhanced my writing skill, and improved the quality of my books. All unexpected results, and for these reasons alone I recommend that most authors maintain a blog. There are many other reasons to blog, of course, but that’s another post: Why Do We Blog?

2. I morphed from a pantser into a semi-plotter
It took a year to complete the first rough draft of LOON: from June, 2009 to April, 2010. Back then I had a full-time job, no concept of plotting vs. pantsing, and plenty of time between writing sessions, so allowing the story to develop as I wrote worked out well. Now, with two books under my belt and the intention to launch more titles within a certain timeframe (that means faster), I’ve realized that pre-plotting the book is the only way to shorten the writing cycle and enhance productivity. I can write faster when I sketch out the plot upfront. It still allows for leeway and creativity, but just like any trip, it helps to know the events you want to experience and where you’re going to end up before you get behind the wheel.

3. Confidence and experience strengthened my personal filter
That means I’m better able to trust my gut and choose what’s right for me amidst the clamor of a million conflicting, well-intentioned voices eager to advise newbies about what they MUST do.

  • No, you don’t HAVE to include book club questions in the back of your novel. In fact, book club questions make a great free download on your website, to entice readers to visit after they’ve read the book.
  • No, you don’t HAVE TO make a print copy right away, although if you don’t, you’ll exclude yourself from some promotional options.
  • No, you don’t HAVE TO set up a separate Facebook fan page for every book you write and populate them all with posts and beg people for likes for all your pages. (Acckkkkk!) and …
  • No, you don’t HAVE TO do this or that or jump through hoops because somebody tells you to dance.

When it comes to self-publishing, use other peoples’ opinions as a guide (that includes mine!), but do what’s best for you. Here are the basic must-do’s: You must have a well-written, well-edited, well-proofed and well-formatted book with a professional-looking cover.

4. Established platform and social media accounts = better networking and support
Again, I’ve been working on my blog, building my email subscriber list and social media accounts (mainly Twitter), and connecting with other authors for nearly three years. Once you’ve built a mutually-supportive network, book blurbs, guest posts, tweets, shares and reviews are all easier to obtain.

5. Knowledge of the process reduces the anxiety and confusion of the book launch and marketing
I changed the way I went about many aspects of the writing and launching process (translation: I didn’t sweat the details of the launch). A little industry experience made it easier to manage and maneuver. Just like anything, once you run through the steps you get the hang of it, and every time you run through them again, you learn more. Eventually, you establish your own system and get into a rhythm. (I’m still waiting for that to happen, but I can see the possibility.)

6. I cooled my jets about “extraneous” money and time commitments
I didn’t market LOON at all during the past twelve months. And of course, I sold few books. I know, it sounds dumb. But I found that it was like smoking crack (hey, not that I’d know) to throw money at one-off book promos: I’d sell a few books, but I’d have to spend more and more and more to keep the momentum going, just to sell a few books. The truth is, the more titles you have, the better your chances for a single promo to sell books across your list. So I chose to bow out of the promo bandwagon and instead focused on writing more titles, improving what I did write, and streamlining the process. I plan to begin marketing with vigor after my third fiction title is released next spring.

Fairytale_7-29-BIG-Title_OpBree Butler shelved her dream of becoming an investigative journalist long ago. But when she finds a young biotech exec dead on his office floor, she starts to think she might have another shot at it – even though she’s a suspect in the homicide investigation. Bree and Detective Gen Delacourt (who we first met in Mark of the Loon), begin a danger-filled quest to unravel the puzzle. The deeper they dig, the more truth about their own personal lives is revealed along with the dead man’s. They’ll both begin again after this is solved … if Bree makes it out alive.

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61 Responses to Self-Publishing: 6 Valuable Lessons I Learned Between Book #1 & #2

  1. Jolyse Barnett December 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Wishing you many sales, Molly! Love the covers and advice. 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      Thank you so much, Jolyse! Tonight I drink wine, tomorrow I start on novel #3. Hope the learning curve slows down a bit going forward!

  2. Alison DeLuca December 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Congratulations on the launch – how exciting! I can’t offer a review just yet (drowning under commitments) but I’d love to feature your book on my blog if you like. That would be wonderful!

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Allie, I would love that, thank you so, so much. Let me know a date that works for you!

  3. Debby Gies December 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Congrats Molly! Awesome blog. I love what you said about the things we shouldn’t feel pressured to do! I’m with you on the pace, although I am somewhat over extended at the moment, I shall put in time to breathe!
    Oh and I would happily read your book and review! I am inundated these next two weeks with my overdue book launch and it’s problems but I could certainly be done by early January. DM me if you’d like me to still read! 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks, Debby, and that will work – I’ll DM you tomorrow. Thanks for everything!

  4. Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    You’re out of spam jail now, Debby!

    • D,G,Kaye December 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      Yay, thanks Molly! 🙂

  5. Pamela Beason December 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    You go, girl! I have more novels out (9 with the release of THE ONLY CLUE a few days ago) but I know you can easily beat me with social network and marketing expertise. I still have so much to learn in that regard. I’ve learned a lot from you, so please keep blogging and teaching!

    I wish you amazing sales and I hope I get to meet you in person one of these days. Any chance you’re going to Left Coast Crime in March 2013?

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Thanks, Pamela! It’s comments like yours that make me keep blogging. Thank you so much! I just checked out LCC 2014 (Monterey, wow!) and sounds like fun but I can’t commit. I promise you, though, that I will hike with you someday! Thank you so, so much for your good wishes.

  6. JLOakley December 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    All good points, Molly. I’m about to launch my next novel and I’ve learned so much from the process. I’m being more careful to make the book really ready. It’s done very well — picked up by book clubs, a community read– but I’ve been more nervous about this one.

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      I was more nervous about my second one as well – I know how you feel. Congratulations to you on your upcoming release, I wish you all the best!

  7. Kayla Dawn Thomas December 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Great post! I’m hoping to self-publish my first novel in May, and I’m already overwhelmed with the details. They can really distract from the writing process. Thanks for all your tips and keeping the indie world real.

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Thanks, Kayla. The details are overwhelming. Make a good checklist and keep writing!

  8. Tammy Salyer December 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Yay!!! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it!

  9. Richard Alan December 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Congratulations on the new book launch! I love what you have to say about your lessons learned, especially #3: “When it comes to self-publishing, use other peoples’ opinions as a guide (that includes mine!), but do what’s best for you.” We authors could go crazy trying to follow all of the different, well-meaning, but conflicting advise we receive. Thanks for another great blog post.

    Richard Alan

    • Molly Greene December 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      Thanks, Richard. It’s true, and I DID go crazy trying to do everything I *heard* I should do with my first book. And I’ll be writing more about my book promo experiences going forward!

  10. elaine pinkerton coleman December 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Way to go, Molly! Your newest novel is on my reading list, and I love today’s post. I’m embarking on my second novel The Hand of Ganesha (or “Arundati”) and in fact going soon to India to do research. Your advice could not have come at a better time. Thanks SO MUCH and congratulations!

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Oh, Elaine! We’re all jealous that you get to do your book research in the “first person” – how fun and congratulations on your new project! Thanks so much, as always, for your support.

  11. Mark December 2, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    What a great list!

    Interesting that you are more of a plotter nowadays. I understand why people like to write without an idea of where it’s going or only a very vague idea, but if you are in the business of writing, that way takes too much time for most people. Good that you figured that out pretty early.

    I’d love to syndicate this article on The Masquerade Crew. If you are interested, see the following link.

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      Hi Mark! Yes, being a pure pantser went out the window the week I sat down to work on my second novel – this one with a deadline – and I was clueless what to write. And THANK YOU so much for the invitation, I submitted your form this morning to syndicate the post. I so appreciate your interest and your support!

  12. Jane Lythell December 3, 2013 at 5:36 am #

    Good and helpful points Molly, thank you.

    I’m not self-published, I was lucky to get picked up by Head of Zeus a UK publisher. I am now well in to my second novel and agree with many of the the points you make.

    I particularly agree with your point about the usefulness of blogging. I started a blog in May 2011 and for nearly two years posted weekly. In fact I posted 34 parts
    of a fiction with weekly installments on the adventures of Chloe Greene. This commitment to producing 1000 words a week for my blog was a very valuable discipline and it did help me hone and polish my writing style.

    So thanks for the post and good luck with Rapunzel.

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Thanks, Jane! Even traditionally published authors need to do a certain amount of book marketing on their own, right? And blogging serves so many purposes. So glad you agree, and I love your character’s name! 🙂

  13. Kathy Steinemann December 3, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    Thanks, Molly. It’s refreshing to see some realistic suggestions instead of a rehashed advice column.

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      Thanks Kathy! I tells it like I sees it.

  14. Shirley Ford December 3, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Hi Molly, enjoyed this article, especially item 6 – I think you are so right. I would love to review your book and can fit it in within the 2 weeks as requested. You have my email and I would accept a mobi file. Please contact me if you still need a reviewer.

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      YAAAAY! Thanks so much Shirley! I’ll email you a mobi file today, and I deeply appreciate your support.

  15. Nicola Young December 3, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Thanks for the advice and congratulations on the launch. I agree that it is better to have a few books under your belt before going all out with the marketing. What I am struggling with is whether to keep contacting agents etc or just going it alone and getting on with my next book. I almost feel like I’m at the mercy of the agents and it’s just wasting my time. But am I just lacking in patience and should I keep contacting them??

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      Ah, Nicola, I can’t answer that for you. Do what your heart tells you! If you really want to be traditionally published, you have to keep on.

  16. Julie Stock December 3, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    I, too, have learnt so much from you, Molly and I can’t believe that you know so much already when you’re still quite new to it all. As a newbie myself, you give me hope that I can make it work for me and I continue to find your posts so relevant and useful. I really liked the point under number 2 above, when you said ‘Back then I had a full-time job’. I’ve gone part-time this year and would dearly love to be able to write for a living instead and you make me think anything is possible! Thank you and well done 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      Thank you Julie! So many writers begin while working in other industries. Although I am not supporting myself from my writing that is my goal, as well, and I can see the possibility looming ahead. If I can do it, you can do it!

  17. Victoria Grefer December 3, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    LOVED this post! Congrats on your release, Molly!

    I too have found that as I take some time to reassess and cool my jets, I have become more of a semi-plotter than a pantser like I used to be. I too feel like I am becoming a better writer. While that makes looking back on older writing difficult and painful, it is definitely a good thing. We should always be striving to improve, that’s my motto: not to be perfect writers, because that isn’t possible, but to be better than we are right now. 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks so much, Victoria! So funny you should mention looking back at older writing, because it’s true, most authors cringe just a little bit at some of their early prose. But it’s a good sign too, that we can tell the difference, right? Like you said, the goal is to improve!

  18. R.J. with December 3, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Having your marketing engine setup is HUGE! Like you said, it makes things much easier, including (and especially) selling books. If you have fans who can’t wait for the next book to be published, you’re already ahead of the game.

    For those new authors just coming across this post, start getting your marketing engine setup. Social media profiles, a mailing list, a website. All of these things continue to pay dividends well after you set them up if you utilize them and get your readers connected with you through these mediums!

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Hey RJ – I don’t exactly have fans waiting for my next book to be published – not yet anyway – but I do have lovely, generous readers, friends, and colleagues who help me spread the word. And that I owe to my social media and blogging efforts!

  19. David Bruns December 3, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    HI Molly –

    Great post and I love your website. I’d be happy to review your book if you are still looking for volunteers.

    I’m also between Book 1 and 2 right now. This week I am running a giveaway on my author FB page to celebrate the paperback release. Pls check it out!

    Take care –

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Thanks, David! I sent you an email.

  20. Vicki Hudson December 3, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Hi Molly,
    Congrats on the book launch. I can do a review if you’d like. Sent you a twitter DM on that. Also – would love to feature you in my monthly interview series on the web site. I’ve had mostly poets lately so be great to have another genre represented!

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks Vicki and I’m IN! Just sent you an email.

  21. Darlene December 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    Good points! Love the idea of making the book club discussion questions a separate download!

    • Molly Greene December 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Isn’t it? And put a live link in your ebook that goes straight to the questions on your blog!

  22. Laura Zera December 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Congrats on your latest launch, Molly beans!! It has been really fun to be your friend throughout this journey and watch you do all these cool, smart and interesting things. I know it’s all going to continue to grow in the best way possible. xo

    • Molly Greene December 4, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks Laura! I’m not sure it’s all been “cool, smart, and interesting” from my viewpoint but I sure do appreciate you saying so! Mwah.

  23. MM Jaye December 5, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Hi Molly! Valuable advice to a newbie like me. After I got not further than partial requests from agents (still a good ratio: 2/10) I decided to self-publish my first romance, but I have a long way to go. The advice I’ll keep close at heart: “the more titles you have, the better your chances for a single promo to sell books across your list”. That’s why I’m working on my second manuscript while my first is ‘cooling’. I’m a new fish in the pond with no impressive credentials, but I’m willing to review Rapunzel and post a review on my blog, Goodreads and Amazon within a week from receipt.

    Best of luck!

    • Molly Greene December 5, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Hi MM and congrats on your book! Writing good books – and continuing to do it – is the key. None of us have impressive credentials, by the way, we’re all in this together! Thanks for the review offer, I’ll email you today!

  24. Cinthia December 5, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Hi, Molly! Congrats on your second book! As someone who works as a journalist, I’d love to read and review a book about an investigative journalist–what a cool idea, and how fun! Cheers and hope you are well.

    • Molly Greene December 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      Yaay! Thanks Cinthia! I’ll email you today!

  25. Barry Knister December 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    This is a truly valuable summary of things learned and worth learning. In particular, I think you help us all by noting that spending money to promote a one-off book makes little or no sense. I also appreciate your telling writers to relax a little about launch dates. In the age of digital publishing–both ebooks and POD–the significance of launch dates is small compared to what it was in the age of print-only publishing.

    • Molly Greene December 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      Thanks, Barry! so glad to see you here 🙂 I agree about launches BUT I think a big launch could be fun and would work for a popular author with several titles already out. I’d like to try it myself someday!

  26. Lissa Johnston December 6, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Great article. I left a similar comment when I +’d this so pardon the duplication – I was literally taking a break from writing some discussion/book club questions when I found this post. Full stop! Completely switched gears to post them on my blog either as a download or to generate interest; not sure which, yet, but NOT going in the book! Agree with the other comments about being bombarded with advice. I think of it like a shopping trip. Just keep trying stuff on until, like a couple of the points in this article, something fits.

    • Molly Greene December 6, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks, Lissa! Another idea is to create a “private” page on your blog and include the link to that page at the end of your book – this is a great way to give value-added content to readers AND to entice them to your blog to sign up for more freebies in the future.

  27. V.M. Sawh December 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi Molly,

    I loved this article. Your voice was great and the tips were both helpful and reassuring. As a week-old author myself, I completely understand this process and yes, I am tripping over my own feet. The most helpful one was the one about following your OWN advice. I’d be interested in reviewing your ebook!

  28. L. Darby Gibbs December 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Your advice always makes me take a breath and notice I feel less stress. Thank you. I am working on my third book and like you, I plan to make my push with the third publication. Congrats on the book Rapunzel. Wish I wasn’t under a mountain of grading. I would love to write a review. Perhaps when summer hits the opportunity will arrive again.

    • Molly Greene December 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Thank you so much, Darby! It makes me so happy to think I’ve reduced someone’s stress level. My #3 should be out next summer just in time for you to read! Best to you in all you do.

  29. D,G,Kaye December 9, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Going to help spread the love for you Molly, and I anticipate starting you book before Christmas! 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Debby, thank you so much!

  30. Faith Simone January 10, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    Thanks for sharing! I can totally relate to the part about blogging helping to improve writing skills. I’m also on that learning curve!

    • Molly Greene January 10, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      Hi Faith! My pleasure – and it’s always helpful to know others out there are going through a similar learning curve. Best to you in all you do!

  31. Penelope Haines December 7, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi Molly, thank you so much for your Blogs. I’m a newbie author with a book ready for launching and another novel of which I have finished the first draft. I find your blogs inspiring and very helpful as I battle with the whole process,

    • Molly Greene December 8, 2014 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks, Penelope. There IS a lot to learn, and I’m still learning, too! I deeply appreciate your lovely comment, and I wish you all the best on your self-publishing journey.