One Week Before My Book Release: Lessons Learned So Far | Author Denise Grover Swank One Week Before My Book Release: Lessons Learned So Far | Author Denise Grover Swank
Denise Grover Swank

One Week Before My Book Release: Lessons Learned So Far

One week from tomorrow, my debut novel Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes will officially be released. I announced in May that I was going to self-pub my book and received far more support and encouragement that I could have hoped for.  But let me tell you, it’s been a LOT of work.

I had no intentions of publishing a half-ass book. I’m sorry, but I have a reputation to maintain. I wanted to portray myself as a professional which meant professional copy editing and a professional cover. I had the option of seeking a professional to format my eBooks but opted to do it myself. (I’ll address this more below)  I’m also smart enough to know that I can’t just click publish on the Amazon website and expect to make sales. (More on this later too.) I needed to market and promote my book. This took LOTS of time and planning.  Honestly, I underestimated how long it would take to do EVERYTHING.  But if I’m going to do this, by damn, I’m going to do this right.

I also know I have a lot of people watching me, watching how I’m doing this, how well I will do.  They’re considering taking the leap into self-publishing and are watching to see how it goes for me first.  That’s okay. I can take the pressure. 😉  But in light of this, I’ve decided to blog updates of my journey through this process.

Once I made the decision to self-pub I immediately began to search out a copy-editor. I had no idea what kind of lead time I as looking at or price.  I emailed a few that specialized in novels and/or self-pubbing and ended up using an editor I knew on Facebook. (He was a friend of a friend– networking people!) I’ll be really honest. I was kind of scared to send it to him. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy and gave me the impression that he would be very meticulous, which is what I wanted.  But I was also worried he would pick it to death. And he did to some extent. We ended up having different ideas where the book should go (he wanted me to take out some of the more romance/chick-lit aspects and focus more on what he thought was an awesome mystery.)  After talking to my crit partners and some of my early readers, I decided that the great thing about Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes was that it contained these elements. That’s what sets it apart.  My crit partners nearly went into spasms at the suggestion, but here’s the thing: Jim made me think about my book and what was important and what wasn’t and what my ultimate vision of it was.  And he also made some very helpful pacing tightening suggestions. I can say without a doubt that Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is a better book because he looked at it. That and he fixed all my lay/laid/lyings. (Gah, I suck at those.)  Cost? $500

Book cover. They say don’t judge a book by its cover but no one actually lives by that advice. Even my fourteen-year-old daughter who’s an avid reader will look a book and refuse to consider it if the cover sucks. So I knew this was important and began to search for a cover designer even before I made my announcement.  Prices ranged from $60 (simple ebook cover, not print wrap-around) to $800 and the author supplied the photos.  I had a very specific cover in mind and there just weren’t pictures out there that portrayed it.  Here’s where networking also came in: My dear friend Lori Baerg (and who also happens to be my neighbor) owns a production company. She LOVES Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes and was so excited it was getting published that she  offered to design the cover for me.  She took the cover photo (the model is my daughter Julia) and I met with her creative director who not only made the gorgeous cover, but also created a brand I can put on all my books to unify them.

Isn’t it pretty?

See the little brand on the spine? Love.

(This was not the completed cover. It was the first proposal. The title and back copy have changed.)

This is the completed cover!

Give me a moment. Okay, we can continue.

Lori and her team made me think about long term goals and planning, in addition to creating my cover. They encouraged me to look farther into the future than a single book release. They made me think of myself as a business. Cost: $0 Lori gave it to me as a gift. (I am so incredibly blessed.)

I gave my copy editor and cover designer deadlines of when I needed the completed projects. I gave myself three weeks padding between their completion and the release of the book.  This ended up being a very tight deadline on the print book end. My print book is through Createspace. After you upload files for the interior and cover, they approve that the files are formatted correctly and you order a proof. Once you get the proof (your real book! In your hands!!!) you read through it and make sure everything is okay.


The proof can come Priority (2 day shipping at $15.30) or standard, which they said would take 5 days. I think it was around $3-5. I figured I built in enough time to order 3 proofs if necessary.


First, there were issues with my cover and it’s approval.  By the time it was corrected and approved, I lost a week.  Also, copy editing review took much longer than I expected (see above.) I had to give some proposed suggestions more  thought than I anticipated and based on Jim’s comments, I actually made some minor changes.  I went through the book two times. I had very little sleep. I lived on coffee, Diet Coke and Cheez-its.  I also planned my daughter’s birthday party/slumber party to occur the night that I got my copy-edits back. (Please don’t do this if you have a tight deadline. Trust me on this.) To say those several days were stressful is the understatement of the century.

Bottom line, I ended up ordering my proof almost a full week after the deadlines given to the copy editor and cover design. Then once I got the proof, I read through the entire book and found a couple of track change issues that slipped through the cracks. And two chapter headings had NUMBERS instead of it written out. WTH???  So I read through my book AGAIN with a highlighter, pencil (to pencil in changes) and ripped up post-it notes to mark the pages. THEN I made changes to the manuscript. AGAIN. Upload again. Wait for file approval again. Order proof. Again.

And here’s what I didn’t factor into my three week work time: Fourth  of July. Yeah, I lost a shipping/printing day.

One other thing  I haven’t mentioned  is that you have to format your print version to look like a book. Yeah, they don’t do that for you. YOU have to set the page size (5.25″ x 8″ in my case), set the margins and gutters, change your manuscript to the font you prefer (I used Garamond 12 pt, standard font for books), create spacing between lines (I used multiple, 1.17,) create headers and footers– opposite sides, make sure the headers aren’t on the leading pages, set up the title pages in whatever font you decide, make your chapter headings how you want them to look. (Mine were centered, one line down written out and in Lucinda Cursive font, with a Wingding 2 curly-cue using the lower case f underneath)  Honestly, this was easy. And actually kind of fun. It just took time and diligence. Thank God for the Find feature on Word.

I will do an entire post on this at a later date because I had a HUGE learning curve with some of this and I’m more than happy to share what I did and how I did it.

Formatting for ebooks is a whole other issue I’ll discuss in another post. It can be its own post. Seriously. Same thing about a HUGE learning curve. I’ll post about what I did, the mistakes I made and what I’ll do next time.  I formatted books or Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Oh, and a PDF file to email to reviewers.

So, I’m close to having this awesome book but it doesn’t do me any good if no one knows its there.   I’ve heard some people publish a book and never sell a copy. (Really? Do these people not have at least ONE friend? Or a mother?)  And while I was sure I could sell a few, I want to sell more. Call me greedy.  I’m not very pushy. I hate pushy people and I hate rejection, although I’ve learned to accept it to some degree during my querying process.  I knew lots of authors  had blog tours when their books came out but I didn’t know the first thing about them.  I investigated some places that will coordinate them for you but you need 2-3 months lead time. I was late to table on this but most charge several hundred dollars. Several epub authors I know on Twitter encouraged me to coordinate my own.

So a couple of weeks ago (I think, the weeks are all blending together) I posted on Facebook that I was hosting a blog tour for my book and was hoping some people would take part.  I’m also part of a small writer’s gmail group and posted the same message on there, saying I expected nothing from them so not to feel obligated. My secret hope was to have 10 people agree to host. I knew I had Eisley Jacobs and Trisha Leigh signed up already. They’re both my crit partners so they had no choice in the matter. (Joking. They were both excited to participate.) So that only left 8 bloggers. What I didn’t expect was the number of people who not only offered but did so enthusiastically. At this point, I have blogs posts scheduled from July 12, the release date, until August 3.  That’s a post every day, Monday through Friday, with one post on one Saturday with an excerpt of my book.  And I still have people emailing ASKING to participate.

I left the topic and format up to the blogger but offered a list of suggestions, although they weren’t obligated to use. Most have opted to interview me, some on various topics. One is interviewing a secondary character from the book, Mildred,  Rose’s 82 year old neighbor who is president of the Neighborhood Watch, otherwise known as the Busybody Club. One has requested me to vlog. (Be careful what you ask for, I can get a bit zany) I have three reviews at this point, and a couple of guest posts.  Some are hosting giveaways. The pure beauty of this blog tour is the diversity of the bloggers. I used to post frequently on my family blog There’s Always Room for One More and a lot of my blog readers are my friends on Facebook. So while I have other writers hosting, I also have my blog readers, many of whom are adoptive parents of Chinese and Vietnamese children. (Three of my children are adopted from China and Vietnam.)

Still, while two of the hosting blogs regularly do book reviews, I knew I needed to throw my net wider. I really needed a book review blog tour. You can set these up yourself,or so I’ve heard. I started to investigate but was overwhelmed. Honestly, I’ve had enough trouble coordinating dates with people I know, I can’t imagine coordinating it with people who would essentially be doing me a favor. After some investigation, I found Chick-Lit Plus Blog Tours.  They are coordinating a ten day blog tour with book reviewers at the end of August. Cost: $99

I’ve also contacted a few book review sites on my own, asking if they would be interested in reviewing my book. These will occur sporadically. Cost: free I send an ebook file,usually PDF.

Added: One thing you won’t see me doing is selling my book on Twitter. I’ll eagerly post about my book cover, my release, my blog tour, my reviews, but I will NEVER Tweet Buy my book.

I plan to publish the first book of my paranormal thriller trilogy, Chosen, in September. I’ve already started working toward that goal. I plan to send the manuscript to the copy editor this week and have asked to have it back by August 8.  I’m working on cover designs for not only the first book of the series but also the two other books. I’ve written the first draft of the second book, Hunted so I am working on revisions and editing for it and hoping for a late October/early November release. After that, I’m unsure whether to start writing the third book of the trilogy or write the second book of the Rose Gardner Mystery series. At the moment, I’m leaning toward finishing the trilogy. I also have a completed young adult manuscript, a YA romance about an alternate universe. It’s also part of a series.

Soooo… that’s my progress to date. I’m working hard at this. In reality, I’ve been working hard at this for the last year and a half. I’m just finally seeing a reward for my efforts.

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12 years ago

This is interesting to read, and I’ll look forward to your other posts about self-pubbing. I’m sort of half hoping I get an agent and a traditional book deal and half hoping I don’t so I can self publish and include all the value-added stuff in an ebook that I’d like to, so I’m watching carefully what others are doing!

12 years ago

Thanks so much for all the info, Denise. It’s a very interesting–and involved–process. It’s educational to see it from soup to nuts. I’m looking forward to getting my Kindle copy on the 12th. Good luck.

12 years ago

You have worked long & hard to get here and now you are seeing all those hours pay off. I’m so happy to be a part of all of it & excited for what it is to come!

12 years ago

This is all so exciting Denise. Very happy for you!

Bill Cameron
Bill Cameron
12 years ago

Congratulations. That’s a lot of hard work, but I believe it will pay off. I’m really enjoying it. Looking forward to my print copy!

12 years ago

OMG And I still need your help with twitter. How in the world did you have theguts to do this? YOu are amazing. I’m very proud of you and will help you all I can to see this work for you. Awesome.

Elle Strauss
Elle Strauss
12 years ago

Thanks for sharing your publishing journey–so interesting and helpful!

12 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing! You have given me a lot to think about as I start this journey myself! I can’t wait to hear how the converting to E-book process went for you!

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