Today we welcome Sheila Smith, author of The Birthday Dragon, which she proudly self-published this year. Sheila candidly shares her experience of launching her own business, and the mistakes she learnt from along the way. Thanks for joining us, Sheila! Emma
As I prepared to self-publish my first book, The Birthday Dragon, I thought (rather smugly) that the business side would be easy. Experienced in publishing and in business generally, I wasn’t going to do anything silly. Yes, that’s the sound of my forehead hitting the desk.
Not only did I do it all wrong, I didn’t even do what I already knew! What was I actually doing when I should have been getting the business side squared away? Well… mostly coughing while I formatted until my eyes bled.
As a one-person business, there was only me to get things done. And I simply wasn’t all there. I’d come down with the flu, which was the topper to a ghastly six months for me. So, right as I published my book (in a fever-dream), I spent a couple of weeks in a state of semi-collapse.
If I could do it all again, I’d do plenty of things differently. Here’s my top five mistakes.
1. Don’t forget your launch plan. You need it where you can see it. Consider having it tattooed inside your eyelids, or on the forehead of your beloved. I forgot to look at my plan. Completely.
2. Emotions are great fuel, but don’t leave your brain behind. Someone bought a copy of my book, emotion took over and my mind went completely blank. I forgot I was even launching a business.
3. Don’t be vague. I was planning to launch sometime in June, thinking I was avoiding pressuring myself. But sometime on May 30th, while in a flu haze, I became obsessed with publishing on June 1st. This is probably how the first edition ended up with an entire scene accidentally deleted from chapter one!
4. Even no-budget launches need marketing and PR. I made a few semi-hysterical tweets about my book’s debut. Sales went into double figures on the first day. I thought this might happen in a few months. In shock, I was convinced (in my delirium) that it would be arrogant to note who mentioned buying it. I did thank them though!
5. Without my support systems, I was fail. I ignored my friends. Several marketing and PR lovelies sent long thoughtful emails, to which I said mostly “Argh no!”. Instead of figuring a way to use what they suggested, I had knee-jerk reactions based on my current (ill, over-emotional, reclusive) circumstances. Part of my problem was an inability to see even simple solutions, and my plan – that I wasn’t looking at – needed an escape clause written in.
It’s my own fault. Excuses are symptoms of a deeper malaise. When I planned my book it was done with flexibility in mind. I even shifted my narrator from one character to the next, and the plan (with the flock of attendant spreadsheets) took it all. With inflexibility, and by ignoring good advice, I lost that golden period where a book has the gloss of ‘new release’ shining on it.
I’m confident about overcoming this shaky start, but I’ve made it hard for myself, and where’s the sense in that?
What lessons did you learn along the way when starting your own business?
Sheila Smith, Author, The Birthday Dragon