So, you’re getting published. Now what?

As a new writer, I feel like I’m a stranger in a foreign land. I don’t have a clue where I’m going, nor do I have any idea how to get there. I’m making wrong turns left and right, and am completely unnerved traveling these roads unknown.

Before I started writing; I was a confident, self-assured woman. Now, I feel lost, as if I’m (cringe) back in high school. And my high school experience was a little more traumatic than most. I grew up in private school, where the only thing that changed year after year was the room number. I had the same twenty-five kids in my class from kindergarten through eighth grade and knew all the teachers by their first names. We didn’t change classes, like most schools do today. We didn’t have a cafeteria to eat lunch in. We were nestled in between the same four walls the entire year, staring at the same faces, listening to the same voices, smelling the same smells—eww. The kids in my class were unusually comfortable with one another—maybe a little too comfortable. Admittedly, we shared a strange bond. When you can refrain from shaving your legs for an unspeakable amount of time and no one bats an eyelash, you know you’ve reached the “too comfortable” zone.

Then came high school. Public high school, no less. Where the teachers hung paddles on their walls to intimidate you, and the upperclassman ate freshman for breakfast. If you felt fearless going in, you quickly retreated with your tail between your legs. No longer were you king of the hill. You were a very tiny fish in a very big pond, and there were piranhas lurking around every corner. Scared. Alone. Longing for someone, anyone, to smile at you…even if it was the creepy kid you sat next to in math. You learned to navigate the chaotic teenage maze by making mistakes, trial and error, and some days it felt as if you were making more mistakes than anything else.

That’s pretty much how I feel right now. I am beyond excited to have this opportunity to publish my romance novel, but I can’t help but feel way out of my league. It seems like everyone around me knows what they’re doing. They know exactly how to revise their story, where to network to learn the most valuable information, and they work the several social media platforms like a pro. And then there’s me.

So, what mistakes have I made so far? Probably the same as every new author (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

Mistake #1:  So, you’ve written your first draft. The hard work is over!

Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha! Please child, the hard work is  only just beginning. That manuscript you think is pretty darn good for a newbie is about to be ripped to shreds. Everyone has an idea about how you should revise, from your best friend, to your Aunt Betty, to your editor. Listen to your editor, they know what they’re talking about. But don’t be afraid to have an opinion. It is, after all, your baby. You gave that story life, and you can certainly speak your mind (politely) and the editor will listen. With any luck, you’ll both be on the same page.

Mistake #2:  Setting up an author’s website.

Now, don’t go into debt creating a website. There are tons of “free” places where you can connect with readers. And while you may end up investing a little bit of moola to get it started, it should be relatively inexpensive. I recommend you find someone to help you who has either dabbled in websites before, or maybe even hire a local company to do it for you. From what I’ve been told, that route is not terribly expensive. Now, this is from my own personal experience – do not, I repeat, DO NOT do it all on your own UNLESS you have plenty of time, patience and technical know-how to sit and mess with it until you’ve gotten it just right. You will make mistakes – LOTS of mistakes. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into creating my website (not that it shows), and it still isn’t quite finished. That’s what happens when you have no clue what you’re doing. A big, fat “thank you” goes out to my supportive hubby for stepping in to help out when I was on the brink of insanity.

Mistake #3:  Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!

I had no promo strategy in place. And that’s because I did not actually believe I would win the writing contest. But I did win, and now my manuscript, Strawberry Wine, is going to be published. I seriously need a Promotion 101 class to learn about all the little things I should be doing, but I’m not sure there is such a thing. Instead, I’m learning as I go. I’ve discovered I need to take advantage of every single digital platform available. Marketing your book starts way before your book is published (who knew?), and the publishing house WILL expect you to do your part. Make certain you know what that is. Yes, networking is time consuming, and yes it takes away from the time that could be spent writing, but it’s necessary. Not only necessary, but vital.

Mistake #4:  Going solo.

You don’t have to do this all on your own. In fact, you really can’t. When you have to juggle the many facets of life, i.e. family, the day job, chores, homework, sporting activities/events, etc. etc., it gets to be pretty crazy. There’s going to come a point where you either do not know what to do or how to go about something, and you’re going to need to ask for help. Help can come in the form of a friend who knows a helluva lot more than you, reaching out to total strangers to ask for advice, or hiring someone to get certain jobs done for you. I’ve already had to step out of my comfort zone more than once to get the answers I need. Be prepared to call in the troops.

While my list of mistakes continues to grow and my confidence is somewhat shaky, I remain optimistic. I have been gifted an opportunity that so many writers only dream of. And I will persevere. Through the new and strange, through the scary and overwhelming. I will meet my goal.