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Blurry Forest

What I've Learned In My First Year As A Published Author

Author Marcy Dewey Mahoney holds two versions of her novel, Archwilde.
My first draft and my final draft of Archwilde.

Today is Archwilde’s one-year-bookaversary, and I’ve been thinking about everything that I’ve learned in the year that’s gone by. (One of those things is the term “bookaversary,” haha - thanks Instagram!) I’ve learned a lot about publishing, marketing and growing my small business. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, my creative process, and my goals and boundaries.

Being a writer is a lot more work than most people think. (And if you don’t believe me, ask the folks protesting with the WGA right now!) The time, brainpower, creative inspiration and – yes – even physical exertion it takes to craft stories for others to enjoy is like the bulk of an iceberg, submerged in the ocean with only a tiny bit of it visible. When you read a book in a few days or binge watch a series, you’re experiencing the finished product in a super-condensed amount of time. But the hours, days, months and even years of drafts, rewrites, and edits are what make that book or series so bingeable.

When you couple the amount of creative work it already takes to be a writer with being independently published instead of traditionally, it’s a much bigger workload. Now you’re also handling all the marketing, sales, distribution, and public relations that a traditional publishing company would handle. Of course, you can hire others to do that for you but when you’re getting started as an indie author that can eat up your budget fast. It’s more important to hire a good editor (Thanks Elisabeth! ❤️) than a PR manager. If you’re careful about it, and you’re willing to learn and put in the work and time, you can do it yourself. It’s also important to manage your expectations and not get discouraged. It’s not likely you’ll be a bestseller out of the gate, even if you’re traditionally published. The publishing process is a marathon, not a sprint, and whatever forward motion you can make is still progress.

And sure, you could go through the query process and try to get picked up by a publishing house. A traditional publisher is still going to expect you to do marketing for your book, but you’ll be making far less royalties per copy with little creative control or say in the process. They also expect authors to already have a platform and a presence in the market by the time you query them. At this point in my career, I’d rather put in the work myself and be paid fairly for it.

Business aside, putting Archwilde out into the world has been incredibly transformational for me. People always tell you to “get outside of your comfort zone” to grow, and sure, there was an aspect of that with publishing my book – (these characters and this story are part of my soul, and now the whole world has a view to it, haha) – but this process has been far more powerful than just being “uncomfortable.” It’s been an evolution of something I started a long time ago.

I’ve always been a writer. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t paid to be a writer, or I didn’t have the “professional writer” label. I’ve been practicing the craft of writing for over thirty years. It was never a hobby. It has always been my purpose. For a long, long time I thought I needed someone else to validate that for me; the only way I could call myself a “legit” writer was to climb some rickety ladder designed by some powers-that-be just so that some other entity can tell me I finally proved my creative worth.

But I’ve learned the only thing you need for verification is to just do the work. Tell your story, hone it, make it the story what it should be, then share it. It will resonate with someone at some point, which is the goal of course, but if you put the work in it will resonate with you. And in the meantime, keep writing. Because you’re a writer and you have more stories to tell.

So that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I spent years in other careers, putting in the work and dues and what-have-you, but I was always working on corporate things while my creative projects went unfulfilled. The burnout and chronic illness from that life was a wake-up call to stop giving everyone else my energy and put it into my own purpose. And I have to say, it’s been 100% worth the hard work and risks it took to step away from my old path and onto this one. Getting to share my stories and talk about them with readers is such incredible job satisfaction, and I am beyond grateful for it.

So, if you’ve read Archwilde, thank you. If you’ve dropped me a comment, DM, text, email or call, thank you. If you’ve left book reviews or shared one of my posts, thank you. If you’ve just thought about reading Archwilde but haven’t been able to yet, thank you. Even if you just bought that chonkin’ paperback in solidarity and are using it as a doorstop, thank you. Seriously – thank you for any and all of your support! And for those of you who’ve been around since before Archwilde was published and encouraged me to keep going, thank you.

Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

Archwilde’s a year old, and I am a year wiser. I’m changed, beautifully, for the better.

And I’m already writing the next chapter.

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