5 lessons from publishing 3 books in 15 months

There’s nothing quite like having three traditionally published books in 15 months to give you a crash course in the world of book publishing! Things I had no idea about just over a year ago are now like second nature to me. Here are my five biggest takeaways so far:

1. Control what you can control, and let go of what you can’t 

There’s a lot about publishing a book that’s up to you, the writing being the most obvious and essential part. But after your book baby is in the hands of your expert publishing team, it takes on a life of its own. Sure, you should be in the driver’s seat for the editing process, but many decisions will be made without you in the room. My publishing team was amazing at keeping me in the loop about certain choices, e.g., cover designs. Still, unless you’ve negotiated otherwise, there’s often minimal author input on some “big ticket” items. This is very common but relies on trusting the experts you work with, which can be challenging when you’ve likely “hustled solo” to get this far and are used to being in complete control.

2. Ask questions proactively so that you don’t miss opportunities 

You know that old saying: “You don’t know what, you don’t know.”…it doesn’t matter how great your publishing team is; they’ve still gone through the process of publishing a book hundreds of times before, while you’re experiencing all of the “firsts.” I was so intent on being a “model author” and not one of those “neurotic” ones that you hear so much about, that I initially sat back and waited to be asked questions. I’ve learned that it’s helpful to be forthcoming about the skills and networks you have to leverage/offer–whether that’s arranging an early endorsement quote from an author friend or,

later, organising an event at your local bookstore. Depending on your publisher, your marketing/publicity team should start working with you at least six weeks before your publication date, and that’s the perfect time to bring up what and who you know!

3. When it’s on, it’s on, so strap in!

So much of the publishing industry is about “waiting” – waiting on that initial offer, waiting for your publication schedule, waiting for those first round of edits… the list is endless. But, once it’s on, it’s on. This abrupt gear shift can feel like a real shock to the system. Suddenly, you are juggling editing deadlines while potentially publicising another book and working your day job. I was promoting my second book, Duck a l’Orange for Breakfast, with an editing deadline for my third book, Never Ever Forever, looming large. If I were to do it all over again, I don’t think I’d even attempt to sit down at my computer in that week of publication. I’ve heard Liane Moriarty say that she becomes “too conscious of herself” during promotion time, and there’s nothing left for her manuscript (apologies for paraphrasing, Liane, but it was something along these lines!). If the day job allows it, I would even try and take a few days off around publication time. What surprised me (and this may come down to the quality of your publicist – mine was/is so talented!) was the amount of pre-publication “homework” there was, e.g., pre-recorded podcast interviews, blog Q&As, and op-eds so expect your evenings and weekends to be busy, busy.

(a micro lesson – and something I still have not done – is to purchase a ring light! Even podcast recordings are frequently filmed with the footage uploaded to YouTube or Facebook).

4. Be kind to yourself

I struggled with putting this lesson into words as if I were a different type of person I might say: “Don’t check reviews!” This was impossible for me, but I know other authors who have better self-restraint or have put a Goodreads blocker on their computer (this wouldn’t work for me, as I would go through the cumbersome process of removing it each time…). You have put your art out there for others to judge, which is personal. Rather than pretend it doesn’t affect me, I’ve worked on acknowledging the not-so-good feelings that come with someone not loving my work, then reminding myself how subjective it is. Creating a highlight reel of positive reviews and taking regular social media breaks was crucial for my mental health.

5. Enjoy the moment (as much as you can!) 

So much intense emotion comes with launching a book that it’s easy to drift away from yourself and not be “in the moment.” It’s such a long road to get here that I believe it is important to make space to appreciate what you’ve achieved. This has meant having a core group of friends who help me stay tethered, share in the excitement, as well as having quiet moments of self-reflection post-events. Often, it’s the smallest things that can make a difference too. Going into the launch of my third book, I have gotten a lot savvier with the catering. I’ve learned that biodegradable stemless wine glasses are the way to go, so there is no fiddly assembling or dropping plastic stems ripe for underfoot-crunching!

Author bio

Karina May is a Sydney-based former magazine journalist turned digital marketer, avid reader and writer of lively love stories that span the globe. Her book, Never Ever Forever, was published on 28 November 2023 by Macmillan Australia.

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