Lessons Learned from Publishing my First Book

“You should write a book. You should publish this Bible Study,” my friends told me over and over again.

For years, I did nothing. First, I didn’t know where to start. Not knowing anyone who had published a book, I had no one to help me. Furthermore, I didn’t believe I had anything to add to the current array of books and studies already available. While I appreciated praise for my writing, I still didn’t believe it was good enough. Fear also deterred me. Fear of publicity, criticism or conveying a false message. Fear of being proud. I thought authoring a book would promote myself.

Then I started studying Mary of Nazareth and found someone my faith tradition had ignored. Mary had to be shared. These new and profound discoveries ignited a passion in me great enough to find a way to share them.

I was in a quandary. “I want to write a book, but I don’t want anyone to read it,” I told my husband.

So I prayed, asking God to guide me. Gradually the roadblocks I gave myself began to fade. My husband’s eagerness to attempt new ventures showed me that while it’s easier to remain comfortable, growth comes from embracing challenges. One of my mentors taught me that “Humility is the God-given self-assurance that eliminates the need to prove to others the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do.”1 I started to believe I could actually do this.

I kept praying. God began to lead and I simply followed. I received some monies from my father’s estate eliminating any financial excuses. Then I saw a flyer at a retreat center for a one-day workshop entitled, “So you plan to write a book in 2019.” I could not ignore such a direct invitation and my project was officially launched. That was eleven months ago.

One thing led to another. I joined a facebook writing group.2 These women had published already and knew what they were talking about. From there, I found a free virtual writer’s conference.3 Both groups eagerly shared their knowledge with me and I soaked it up. I dedicated most of my days off (I only work part time with Christar) to this project. And now it is done. Favored, Blessed, Pierced is published!

So because I benefited so much from the the stories of others, I’m sharing some of what I learned on my journey:

  • Anyone can publish a book, making them an author (quality is another matter).
  • Authors don’t make much money on the sales of their books (that comes from side ventures like speaking).
  • The internet, and Amazon in particular makes it possible for anyone to self-publish. The stigma this previously carried has diminished with the improvement of the quality of self-published books.
  • Being a novice, self-publishing made more sense than going the traditional route for my purposes.
  • It doesn’t take tons of money to publish a book, but it does take an investment to produce a good book. You do get what you pay for in this case!
  • Hiring a professional editor and cover designer ensures you get the best product you possibly can.
  • Using a pre-formatted template (or hiring someone to do it for you) makes the product more professional and saves many hours.
  • Following a manual (such as the Chicago Manual of Style) helps with all the fine points of grammar, punctuation and more.
  • “Google it” is actually true! You can find out everything on the web.
  • Authors have to market their books even if traditionally published.

I also learned so much personally from this experience. Writing and publishing kept me studying, reading, watching webinars, thinking—using my brain. To my surprise I discovered I like formatting, working with a word document (I used Pages for Mac) and making it look attractive. I also don’t mind marketing, making image quotes, and advertising. The most difficult parts for me were the editing, discovering I need to learn where to put commas (!) and the technical side of things.

Writing and publishing has also increased my courage. The more I believed in the message of my book (Mary’s story), the braver I grew to ask for help, to keep going and to not let perfectionism and fear hold me back. I now accept that no matter how hard I try or how many times I have gone over the manuscript, there will be mistakes in it.

I was so inspired by the many people who willingly empowered me. When I courageously asked, they happily answered. Their generosity has challenged me to be less stingy with my message or my new information (hence this blog). Giving away my secrets doesn’t mean I lose out. Promoting someone else doesn’t mean less for me. If someone purchases another’s book and not mine, I have helped advance the Kingdom of God.

I am still nervous and have no idea where this journey will take me. Will I publish more books? Probably. Will I become famous or inundated with mail? Probably not. Will someone misunderstand and criticize? Most likely. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely yes.

So I will keep praying and following the leads. As my book finds its way into the hands of readers this Advent, this quote I saw in the comments of a another book review sums up my feelings:

We are engaged in the delicate dance of becoming known, but not to become known, rather to make Him known.

Damon J. Gray

1. Dr. Jackie Roese, I’m EnoughLearning to Live Confidently in Your Own Skin, (HIS Publishing), 44.

2. Word Girls

3. Flourish Writers

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