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Lessons from my Self-Publishing Journey

Eric Swanson
Eric Swanson

The following is a guest post by Eric Swanson, author of  The First Candle. If you would like to write a guest post on my blog, please send me an e-mail at

In the beginning, there was an experienced science writer who dreamed to write a story, so he began his first book of fiction. Being a newbie, I elected to use an experienced self-publishing company in order to learn to use various tools quickly. This decision taught me some excellent and valuable lessons and some expensive mistakes. Here are a few of my most valuable lessons learned:

Use professional services. Do not skimp on editing, book layout, and graphics design if you want a professional final book. No matter how well or how poorly you write, you will need a good editor to reign in the absurd and save yourself from your own crafted embarrassments! Most of us are aware that the actual publishing of a book is not the expensive part, whether you do only eBooks or multiple formats. The great network and experience in my publishing company was invaluable. They understood the genre, which expedited the professional editing, graphic design, book cover, and final layout. Recommendations were generally excellent and of speedy value. I recommend using this experience.

Set realistic expectations. So where were my most costly mistakes? Marketing! My own ego let the marketing arm of my publisher convince me that my book could become a rapid international success. It is not going to happen!  Avoid being vulnerable to this self-deceit—it is expensive. It is unrealistic to expect that someone can separate your work from the 5,000 other works that came out on the very day yours did and will come out every day afterwards through well-placed international marketing. There will be no miraculous international successes—save your money and take it slowly.

Market locally. My most important lesson from a multitude of low-result marketing plans and expenses may surprise you. Go local! Various marketing tools can be valuable in local bookstores, marketing posters, signings, radio talk interviews, book clubs etc. My network had 100 times the impact of my international marketing. The lesson from this is – any extensive international marketing comes later. Some targeted inexpensive web marketing can be great. Also, use your personal networks and don’t be shy!

The First Candle by Eric Swanson
The First Candle by Eric Swanson

Pursue interviews. Radio interviews are fun, but take some time to practice as I found it was not easy to be a good radio personality. A good host can serve you well, especially locally where they may know who you are!

Work on retailing. Don’t let the local bookstores put you in the wrong section – like ‘new authors’ – this section is a dud, and has no traffic. Get put in your genre section, and get your front page exposed even if you have to do this yourself. Takes time but is effective, especially if you spent that extra time on your cover.

Make a book video. Find a vendor group familiar with your genre and save yourself much pain. In this case, once again my publishing company had fantastic connections. My video team did a first-class job quickly and professionally (this is not for the faint of heart and requires thousands of dollars for a good piece). Is it needed to sell books?  I don’t really know, but I love the way it summarizes my book so I was greatly satisfied. It can capture the essence of your book in 60 seconds or less.

About the Book

The First Candle is set in the wastelands of the post-apocalypse, where a minstrel troop gets caught in the middle of a titanic battle between a dark demon prince and the Brothers. Martin Longbow is a naïve minstrel, unaware that the millennium battles were spiritual. His dark mission journey will destroy flesh and blood, but lead to his discovery of how to resist the demonic evil set on world dominion.