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Writing My First Novel

My first novel is officially published. I’m calling this one my ‘learning’ novel because while I love the characters and happy with the way the plot came out…it’s the one that I’m going to learn from and make my mistakes on when it comes to publishing and marketing.

First thing I learned was: publishing ain’t cheap. I am fortunate enough to have a well-paying day job, so that has been funding my publishing journey. But I feel for beginning authors trying to do this as their main source of income. Trust me, folks, you need a job first. Get a few books out there to start bringing in income before you consider quitting to write full-time. Or supplement with paid writing gigs like professional blogs or newsletters.

But there is also a lot more involved with self-publishing than you’d think. Formatting the finished product was a major learning curve for me. Deciding on trim size (the physical size of the book), the font to be used and what font size to make it. Then there are style questions such as do you want text separators (those little centered characters or graphics that appear between the scenes of a chapter) or graphics at the start of a chapter? How about drop caps (the larger first letter some books have at the beginning of each chapter)? Do you want new chapters to always start on the right-hand page? The decisions seem endless.

I have also learned that all of this formatting should be done before you contract your cover artist if you are planning on offering a printed book. The artist will need a finalized page count in order to properly size the spine of your novel. And with each change in formatting, the number of pages in your book will change, too.

Also affecting page counts are the ‘front matter’ and ‘back matter’. This includes a title page, the copyright page, and any other pages such as dedications and acknowledgements. The back matter is usually an ‘About the Author’ and maybe some pages about an upcoming sequel.

It has been a wild, wonderful journey so far. One that I’m glad to have taken, even if no one actually reads my novel.

But I also hope that people will actually read it – which is why my next learning adventure will be in the dark, scary woods known as ‘marketing’. Trust me, for someone as severely an introvert as I am, that word strikes terror. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it. Onward, into the fray!

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