5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Self-Publishing

Dela, author of 2014 novel THE 52ND, shares five things she wish she knew before deciding to self-publish her debut novel.
Publish date:

Now a days it isn’t good enough to write a bestselling novel and have instant success. Authors have to be business-minded people, on top of their social media game, and have a niche like none other. Easy, right? No. It’s probably more exhausting to work on what’s after the novel than writing the actual novel. As an author, using yesterday’s tricks won’t allow you to break ground in the writing world.

GIVEAWAY: Dela is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. (UPDATE: Debbie won). 


Column by Deladebut author of THE 52ND (October 2014, Wise Ink
Creative Publishing), a multicultural paranormal for young adults. Before
tracing the minds of Aztec gods, Dela worked as a paralegal and could be
found snowboarding at Brianhead, Utah. She currently lives in Las Vegas
with her husband, three kids, and two exceptionally fat Chihuahuas.
Connect with her on Twitter.

Fast forward to November 2007 where—thanks to the Kindle—technology has allowed a novel to be carried around virtually everywhere. Two words: GAME CHANGER.

You want to be an author? You can! It is now easier than ever to write a novel, put it in print (or in our futuristic case—digital format), and set it free to the world. Here are five things I’ve learned that I wish I knew before deciding to self-publish.

1. Be an Author of Today—Not Yesterday

Stop thinking if you aren’t traditionally published you won’t make it, and that if you are traditionally published you don’t have to do any work after you’ve signed your contract. That might have worked yesterday but definitely not today. Every author, whether you are traditional or self-published, must, I repeat, must, be active on social media. There is a reason why large corporations spend their marketing budgets on ads on social media sites rather than television commercials. There is a reason why non-celebrities have sponsorships with said corporations. That’s where the eyes are, that’s where the sells are. So put yourself out there on social media ASAP and stay active. Like/comment on photos, post at least once every day or two, and collaborate with others to boost followers.

(What to write in the BIO section of your query letter.)

2. Print vs. e-Book

If you’re going to self-publish, you need to know exactly what you want and what you can afford. I have distribution through my publisher, which has been incredible, but I also am eating up shipping costs. Run numbers before you give the go. And know that most wholesale orders will have a return policy where if the book doesn’t sell they can return it. This is another cost you will have to pay. If I had to do it again, I think I might have stuck to e-Book only at the beginning and then considered printing later on.

3. Establish Early Relationships with Reviewers

The one thing I know I did right and was worth every hour was reach out to book reviewers via social media sites and set review dates (preferably the week your novel is released). All you need is to find one or two that read your genre, which you can find on Twitter or through another author’s reviews, and then find their friends which is a list that will continue indefinitely. Pretty soon you have a list of hundreds. Spend time reading their review requirements to see if they even review self-published books or are open to receiving new ones, and then reach out to them. Set as many reviews as you can prior to your book being released. Most often, they will share your novel on their other social media accounts. But don’t get greedy. They don’t get paid to do this so please be considerate of their rules and time just as you would an agents.

4. Set Up Editorial Reviews

Months prior to your book being released, you need to set up your editorial reviews. Sometimes this costs money so plan accordingly. Las Vegas Clark County libraries prefer that a novel has credible reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and other reliable sources. It takes time for professional reviewers to read and respond, so get these out to your top picks as soon as you have a final copy of your book. Also, don’t be afraid to enter writing competitions. The more eyes on your novel the better.

(Headed to a conference? Learn how to approach an agent.)

5. Make a Timeline & Be Patient

All of the things I've listed so far move along a timeline. Check dates and times for a launch party, writing contests, length of time to get an editorial review, and so on. Make a chart starting six months prior to release date with all these important dates. It could even include when you need to send an email out or go to the post office so your novel arrives on time to the reviewers. Whatever it is, write it in your timeline. This way you can ensure you won’t forget anything that you want to accomplish.

And lastly, be patient. All good things take time.

GIVEAWAY: Dela is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. (UPDATE: Debbie won). 


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