By: Noelle Sterne 


“There’s a lot more to publishing a book than writing it and slapping a cover on it.” Vince Flynn

Just when I thought the hard part was over…

When your first book is finally accepted (miracle one!) and published (miracle two!), you may think, like I did, that all your writing problems are solved. But I found that publication, like finally losing those stubborn ten pounds, isn’t the Nirvana I imagined it to be.

On the road to publication of my first book, I learned some important lessons. I hope these nine (and I’m sure they’re only a fraction) help you cushion your own publication shock—when it comes—and plan your counter attacks. Beyond my experience, I’ve included other helpful links.

1. Tell everyone.

Perfect your elevator pitch—a one-sentence explanation to rivet the person who’s getting off at the floor ahead of you. Here’s mine:

In Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, I apply practical spirituality to help you let go of regrets, relabel your past, and reach your lifelong yearnings.

Then I mumble something about AmazonB&NBooksAMillionKindleNook and whip out my bookmark, which coincidentally displays purchase and website information.

For nonfiction pitches, see Ann Brandt, “Marketing Your First Nonfiction Book,” Writing World. For fiction pitches, see AuthorBuzz.

2. Once you broadcast the news, accept congratulations. 

Don’t deflect: “Aawww, it’s only my first. Don’t compare yourself, either. I bet you know a successful author that’s five years younger than me with twelve books.”

Instead, reply like a seasoned author: “Thank you so much for your kind words.”

 3. Climb on your platform.

When you’ve finally finished the last revision, or, as experts counsel, way before, concentrate on your platform.

This is everything you can think of to promote your book: book launch, ads, press releases, blogs, websites, social media, articles, interviews, bookstore appearances, book tours . . . .

Post your book notice on Facebook, tweet about it, Pinterest it. See, for example, Clary Lopez, “The Ultimate Book Launch Party.”

4. Watch out for promotion envy.

Someone always does it bigger and better. Larger launches, finer wine, catered mini-cakes with the author’s initials in buttercream, a pyramid centerpiece of 350 copies. And more blogs posted, excerpts published, ads placed, reviews acquired, book clubs toured, interviews given, TV shows graced, emails blasted, friends liked, tweets twittered.

Remember, a lot of the publicity that you’re teeth-grindingly jealous of results from others’ early investments of big bucks with professional publicists.

Do what you can—sanely.

For inspiration, good judgment, and gentle stretching of your comfort boundaries, see Christina Katz’s excellent article on platform-publicity-building, “50 in Five Minutes a Day.”

5. Guard against losing focus and feeling overwhelmed.

Staring at an endless list of bloggers inviting guests, radio shows inviting interviews, or excellent ezines for excerpts from your book, you can feel like you’ve been handed a shopping list for newborn double septuplets.

Regain your bearings by sorting out your priorities, and, just for today, choose one.

6. Prepare for website shock.

If you’re mounting a website as part of your publicity plan (and of course you should), the experience can be exasperating. Writers love words, and for many of us the visual is secondary.

That’s why we’re not artists, photographers, architects, or graphic designers. When you design a website—by yourself or with a professional—you must trigger, or learn, visual sensitivity to photos, color, graphics, proportions, layout . . . and supply the content.

Hiring a professional won’t give you easy answers or an instant and gorgeous website. A good designer will ask you for samples of sites you like, descriptions of what you want your site to look and feel like, possible banner photos or illustrations, color combinations you prefer and hate, fonts you love and can’t stand, and many other issues that require your input.

NINE LESSONS RELUCTANTLY LEARNED FROM PUBLISHING MY FIRST BOOK marilyn l davis noelle sterneBefore my web designer (an extraordinary professional and saint) rendered one virtual pixel, she sent me a multi-page “thinking paper” to elicit my thoughts, feelings, visualizations, and best-imagined purposes of the site.

As I labored to complete the questions, they forced me to decide what I really wanted and also happily provided much promotional material.

If you want to take the time (I didn’t and was a novice) and maneuver through the learning curve, create your own website. Search in your browser for “design your own website” and explore. Many ways to start are available: Google Web, WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and others. Ask friends for their experiences with templates, ease of setup, maintenance, and content changes. Maybe one will be charitable enough to help you, or do it for you.

7. Write about what you’re experiencing.

If you have the urge to write about the entire process, do it! Spilling can help frustration, worries, and engulfment. I kept a “Book Journal” for the first ten days after acceptance, and the writing channeled much of my anxiety. A journal may seem like it’s taking you away from revisions or yet more promotion. But do it anyway. You’ll feel better, and you’ll have the makings of a blog.

8. There is writing life after publication.

When your book finally appears, in print and multi-e-forms, and you’ve got the publicity on a decent schedule, go back to your writing routine.

Get to the next writing project you left hanging or pine for. You’ll feel more balanced and, paradoxically, despite your first-book publication, more like a writer again. Click To Tweet

For my next project (admittedly publicity-related), I excerpted passages from Trust Your Life into articles and guest blogs for appropriate markets. Of course, I had to make judicious cuts, rework, and write snappy endings that didn’t segue to the next chapters.

9. Take a break.

If you want to and if you can. Your break can be as long or short as you wish—an afternoon, a day, a week. One writer I know took a month off after her fifth(!) book was published. Another went on a cruise. (When I did, the highlight was sitting with my laptop or clipboard working on a current piece in a deserted lounge.)

Usually, though, we feel best not careening down the monster water slide, shuffling through museums, or even snoozing on the sand but getting back to all those other projects.


I learned these lessons from uncomfortable experience. Let them help arm you in advance to better ease the shock of publication, handle the disenchantment, and regain your writing routine.

And at the same time, keep you glowing with the wonder of publishing your first book.


Bio: Dr. Noelle Sterne

Author, editor, writing coach, writing and meditation workshop leader, spiritual counselor, Noelle has published over 400 writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, short stories, and occasional poems in literary and academic venues. 

An academic mentor, editor and coach, and with the Ph.D. from Columbia University, she guides doctoral students wrestling with their dissertations and publishes guest posts on academic websites.

Continuing to pursue her writing dream, Noelle’s mission is to help other writers reach theirs and create the lives they truly desire. As she takes her own advice (hard as it may be), she is completing her first novel.

Noelle’s books:

Author, Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles. Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2015.

Author, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams Unity Books, 2011.


Dr. Sterne’s Published posts on Two Drops of Ink


Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

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  1. Your articles are always so helpful. Thank you for the steps and the ideas for how to manage websites and other things writers don’t really want to do. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi, Michelle–

      Glad to know you are helped. I too need to learn the steps (we teach what we need to learn). And it’s always a little tussle to do what we don’t really want to . . . Comments like yours make the difference!

  2. Hi Noelle,
    Thank you for you generous, informative post! It is just what I need right now as I am in the process of trying to “slap together” a cover and the pages of my first book. I am discovering that the publishing process is much different than the writing process! Completely foreign to me! I have saved your post as a guideline for publishing. Although my plan at the present is to self-publish, your post still contains valuable information. Thank you!
    BTW, I am a writer who is also very visual. And designing (anything) is my passion! I didn’t realize that that might be an advantage to me when it comes to publishing and marketing – so I appreciate that newfound realization from your post!

    • Hi, Terry–

      I appreciate your comments and insights. Great to get to know ourselves and acknowledge our talents (your design passion). Please–resist slapping. Ask your inner voice and follow. And take your time. You will know when it feels right.

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