8 harsh lessons I learned AFTER I published my debut novel, Search for the Holy Whale

Guest blog by Selena Jane

Why 8? Why not? It’s my favourite number!

Many writers speak about the process of writing and publishing, and I’ll no doubt get to that in a later blog, but today I thought I’d share with you the top eight harsh lessons I learned AFTER I published my debut novel and my tips on how to deal with them.

Lesson 1: Your family and friends will probably NOT buy your book.

Not only will they not buy it, but they also probably won’t read it either.

I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but best to prepare yourself now.

This is a common complaint among authors.

Why don’t they buy it, or read it?

Maybe they don’t read, maybe they don’t read that genre, maybe they are too busy, or maybe they expect a copy for free. Either way it doesn’t matter, I’m sure they support you in other ways.

Tip 1.

Try not to take it personally. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Ok, so I know you are still taking it personally, so  if you want them to read it, ask them; if you want them to buy it, ask them; and if you want them to review it, just ask them. It’s quite liberating once you pluck up the courage to. It frees you from your negative thoughts, and after that the ball is in their court. I mean, they are not mind readers, are they?

Just ask!

Lesson 2: Promote yourself and your book.

No one is going to do it for you in the beginning, so unless you can afford to pay someone to do it for you, you’ll have to toot your own horn and put yourself out there on all sorts of social media platforms.

This is seriously uncomfortable for most authors. I’m an unknown, so for me it was super awkward asking people to buy my book. It still is.

Tip 2.

Ask friends and family to share pictures of your book on their social media platforms. Join a networking group and ask them to share your book for you, you’ll be less attached to the outcome, because they are business associates, and no doubt you’ll be asked to return the favour one day, which takes the pressure off. Organic marketing works well, but at some point, you may consider paying for a little advertising to give you an extra boost.

Lesson 3: You need reviews.

Imagine having to ask for reviews? Can I just crawl into the nearest space right now? Well, you could look at it that fewer reviews means less chance of critical reviews. I have heard some terrible stories of authors being slammed from pillar to post. But the reality is, reviews are important and you need them. Also, the review process can be tricky to navigate. For example, Amazon won’t accept reviews unless a customer has an account with them and spends over a certain amount each year.

Tip 3.

Ask with no expectation. Make it easy for anyone who has read your book by sending them a template or a sample of ideas with the links to your preferred review platforms.

Lesson 4: Not having an email list.

You’ll need to build and grow your email list to market your book and future and connect with your audience. If you don’t have an email list, then who are you going to connect with and sell your book to? How will people remember you?

Often, new authors start from scratch with this and that’s ok, an email list can build quickly, or over time, depending on what you do.

Tip 4.

Make sure your website is up and running. You’ll be surprised how quickly your email list builds if you have a lead magnet or a subscription newsletter on your website. When you connect with anyone on social media who is remotely interested in you or your book, ask for their email address as soon as it’s polite to do so, and add them to your email funnel.

Lesson 5: Crush Imposter Syndrome.

For most writers, getting their book to the finish line is a massive accomplishment. The most competent and successful authors speak about their crushing negative feelings around their writing and countless fears that they battle daily during the writing process. Putting your work into the world is a real leap of faith. For me, it feels like standing naked on the balcony every time.

After your book has been published there’s the agonising wait to see what people will think, which is worse. Maybe no one says anything, or no one is buying your book? You are getting no reviews, or bad reviews, and there is certainly no one patting you on the back saying, ‘Great job.’

Tip 5.

Let it go and get cracking on your next manuscript. Author and activist Glennon Doyle recommends completely detaching from your work once you’ve put it out into the world.

Easier said than done, but great advice.

Lesson 6: Learn the social media platforms.

Seriously, it’s an endless cycle of learning. So many platforms to choose from. Should you be on all of them or not? Even if you’ve mastered all of them, who has an infinite amount of time to monitor each one and post regularly to each platform so you are not forgotten?

Coming up with ideas of what to post takes you away from writing your next novel, but it’s crucial to your book marketing and your brand. It all takes time and often for very little engagement and, worst of all, posting to complete silence.

Tip 6.

Learn one platform at a time, master it and move on to the next. Always keep up to date with changes to each platform, as there are many. You’ll need to be super organised and schedule your posts. As soon as you can afford it, get a VA to handle your socials for you.

Lesson 7: Errors in your book.

We see errors in books all the time, right? But when you see one in yours, after all the hours of editing and proofreading, it can come as quite a shock. If you are a perfectionist, then the blow is going to be a double one. The print has been run, your book is out there and there’s no calling it back.

Tip 7.

Go easy on yourself. Remind yourself that the most famous books in the world contain errors and make a note to fix it as soon as possible.

Lesson 8: Managing other people’s expectations.

So, you’ve written a book and, apparently, you’re going to be famous. You’ll be taking your friends to a red-carpet event and shouting them dinner.

On top of that, you’re expected to whip up another book in a matter of months. Well, if you work full-time like me, that’s just not going to happen.

Friend: “Are you rich and famous yet?”

Me: “Ah no, maybe if you bought my book and told your friends about it and left me a review I might be.”

Ha ha!

Tip 8.

Run your own race and keep dreaming of that red-carpet moment. You’ve got this!


Selena Jane writes in several genres including teen fiction, fantasy, and woman’s fiction.

In 2020 she published her debut YA fiction novel Search for the Holy Whale, a coming-of-age story about the importance of our connection to animals and mother earth.

A copywriter by day, novelist by night Selena is also a mother, business owner, world traveller, animal lover, marathon runner and avid reader, she appreciates a well-written book, with great characters and a good storyline.

She lives with her Aussie husband, two children, and as many animals as she can squeeze onto their small acreage in SE Queensland, where she is busy working on her next manuscript.

You can chat with her on twitter, Instagram or facebook or visit her at http://www.selenajane.com


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