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What to Expect as a First-time Author

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Many authors prepare for their first book launch without researching what to expect. While having a book that connects with your audience and strong marketing efforts can drive book sales, setting realistic expectations can help you stay positive about your sales and potential as an author. In this post, I share what to expect as a first-time author for writers working with publishers and self-publishing authors and provide some information regarding sales expectations.

What to expect as a first-time author

Learning what to expect as a first-time author can help you adjust your expectations and marketing efforts. We function better when we hit the goals we set for ourselves, so it’s important to set goals that are realistic. Here’s some valuable information regarding expectations, whether you’re:

Publishing with a traditional publisher

If you’re working with a traditional publisher, anticipate a longer turnaround time (the time from when the publisher offers a book deal to when your book releases). For example, the turnaround time might be as soon as four months or as long as three years, depending on the publisher. Why? Well, publishers can plan release schedules up to three years in advance. They may choose to push the book out to coincide with a particular season. For example, they may choose to wait until fall for a book that has strong sales potential. They can also hold a book back to coincide with a holiday, such as Mother’s day.

While the publisher’s release schedule can affect the turnaround timeline for your book, so can the publication process, as there are many steps that take place internally. Some steps include:

  • the editorial boards approving a book prior to acquisition

  • presenting the book to the sales team (around nine months before publication)

  • working with an editor to determine the direction and structure of the book

  • the editor going through the manuscript for copyediting

  • meeting with the marketing team (around three-to-six months before publication)

While your publisher is likely to handle editorial and distribution, ask them what they can provide in terms of marketing support, as these efforts vary by publisher. For example, one publisher might offer you a lot of marketing support while another expects you to handle marketing efforts. Even if you’re working with a publisher, it’s up to you to promote your book to the right audience. Readers don’t buy a book because of the publisher, they buy a book because they connect with the author and their message.


If you’re self publishing your book, you’re responsible for all editorial, distribution, and marketing efforts. While these responsibilities might sound intimidating, know there are educational resources available which can teach you more about these processes. Personally, I’d recommend the Book Rockstar All-Access Pass, where I share comprehensive strategies and tips that can help you have a successful book launch.

If you have the financial resources, consider hiring freelancers who can help with different parts of the publishing process. When you self-publish, it’s entirely up to you as an author to promote your book and find ways to connect with potential readers. For example, you can create a strategic timeline for your marketing efforts and book launch.

Sales expectations

Researching common sales numbers for books can help you set realistic expectations so you don’t become discouraged during a book launch. Here are some percentages I like to provide authors I work with:

  • 1-2% of your audience is likely to preorder your book

  • 5-10% is likely to order in the first several weeks

While these percentages may not seem exceptional, you can achieve decent numbers if you have a large enough audience. Plus, you may find that with targeted and consistent promotion these percentages will be higher. Don’t become discouraged if your book doesn’t sell how you hoped it would at launch. If you put forth the efforts, it should continue to sell months and even years beyond publication.

Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.

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