What I Learned from Publishing a Book at Seventeen

When my family members ask me what I’ve been up to, I’ve been telling them, “My hand slipped and I published a book. Oops.”

Then they laugh and ask what I’ve really been up to.

But really. I published my first novel exactly a month ago today, after weeks of formatting and editing and screaming. I’m extremely proud of it, despite knowing it’s probably the third worst book ever to exist (behind Twilight and Fifty Shades, of course). It’s my baby and now it’s out in the world, on people’s bookshelves and tablets and their minds. And that means a lot to me.

My book is that green one on the second shelf down with the blank spine. Yep. That’s mine. I called dibs.

There is a side to being young and (somewhat) accomplished, like the fact that no one believes me until I pull the book out of my bag and show it to them. I’m pretty sure that for a solid month leading up to my book release, my dad was like, “Suuuure, you’re publishing a book.” And then I did.

And then after they see that you’ve actually written a book, there’s something even worse that comes after: “Oh, sweetie, a young adult novel? That’s nice.” About half of people think it’s adorable that I wrote a book for and about people my own age, as if it isn’t a real genre. But if I wrote a noir murder mystery or a historical drama, I would still be chastised because “I’m too young to know about those things.”

Yeah, I’m eighteen. I’m young and pretty stupid sometimes, but writing is one thing I know how to do. So without further ado here’s a rather brief list of the things I’ve learned in the past month:

  1. Formatting sucks, but there’s no way to get around it. If you self-publish a novel, you will sit in your office for two days straight just trying to get page numbers to behave. You can’t avoid it.
  2. Editing sucks, but there’s no way to get around that either. You’ll also spend two months in your office proofreading and still find typos in the printed version. It’s awful, but it’ll happen.
  3. Advertise your book before it comes out. I didn’t learn this until about a week until after my book came out, so I kind of screwed up. Part of that whole ‘young and stupid’ thing.
  4. Have a book signing and invite all your friends to just stand around in the bookstore. It’s fun bonding time, and crowds draw people in. Plus you’ll probably make money off of it.
  5. Go to book festivals and hand out your card to anyone who will take it.
  6. Don’t stand on a street corner and throw your book at people. I’ve learned from experience.
  7. People aren’t going to believe you when you say you’re publishing a book. Then they’re going to think it’s ‘cute’ no matter what genre you pick. And even after they read it, they’ll tell you all of the things you should’ve done instead of that scene in chapter three. It sucks.
  8. Find people that don’t do all that stuff in number seven. You probably already have a couple.
  9. Tell everyone. Don’t be shy. Guy checking out your groceries? Tell him. Lady who cleans your neighbor’s house? Tell her. That ex-boyfriend? Throw it at him. You’ve done something awesome, and you deserve to brag.