What I Wish I Knew Before Writing A Book

Author Alicia Tenise Chew with her book From Harvest to Home

In case, for some reason, you missed this — I wrote a book, and it was released last summer. (P.S. — you can buy it anywhere that books are sold!)

I never thought that starting a blog would lead to a book deal, but here I am. After being a digital creator for over a decade, it was awesome to see my words in print, and I’m hoping this isn’t the last physical product I put out into the world.

But, man. Writing a book was definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I didn’t share much of the book writing process on social media, but there were some good days and some awful days with producing this book. 

If you’re a first-time author or are thinking about writing a book, here’s what I wish I had known before I started the book writing process!

You Need to Budget Accordingly

When I was offered my book deal and saw how much my advance was, I thought I had hit the jackpot. In reality, I didn’t actually make anything off of the advance.

For starters, I had a manager that took 15% off the advance. Since my partner was going to photograph my book, my publisher included both my advance and his creative fee in the advance — and I needed to use the advance money to produce the shoots. Basically, this means that I used the advance to pay for every single photo shoot you saw in the book, plus a photographer, food stylist, and prop stylist. I also rented out an inn for a week for my team to shoot most of the recipes and traveled to the Northeast to get atmospherics for the book as well.

Most first-time authors don’t get a marketing budget separate from their advance, so I hired a 3rd party PR group to help me snag some publicity appearances and paid to ship out six influencer boxes. My publisher sent copies of the book to dozens of other influencers outside of the six I had budgeted for, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the means to send out a swanky box to every single one of my influencer friends.

So: how much did I end up pocketing from the advance? $0, once you factor in all of those expenses. However, I will make royalties off book sales, so this entire venture isn’t unprofitable. Honestly, if I were to do it again, I’d still hire the best of the best to help me produce and promote the book!

Take Time Off to Write Your Book

I landed my book deal at the end of 2020 and officially started the writing process in January 2021. I also had a cross-country move from Virginia to Los Angeles planned for spring 2021, right when my publisher’s first complete draft of my book was due. Pro tip: I wouldn’t attempt a move and write a book at the same time unless you’re insane.

If I were to write a second book (and this is a strong if), I would take a month off of blogging to really get into the zone and create without distractions. I really couldn’t do both of these things well, and honestly, I stopped blogging consistently in 2021 and 2022 because of it. Next time, I would try to pre-schedule some content to go live throughout the month I’d be taking off, but really try to focus and get as much writing done for the book and not have to worry about anything else!

Digital Media > Print Media

This is a hot take, but even though I did land some awesome TV appearances with my book, I didn’t see many conversions from those segments. However, I am trying to do more camera work, so having those TV appearances really helped with building my reel!

Where I saw the most conversion was digital. I’ve been blogging for over a decade and have made many great connections in the influencer industry, and it was awesome to have such supportive friends with platforms cheering me on. 

If I were to do it again, I’d love to have more budget to send more influencers proper mailers to celebrate the book launch — this was honestly the best way for me to generate more book sales, IMO. 

Book Tours Aren’t Really Necessary

Another take that’s a little hot — book tours. You don’t need them.

My publisher suggested hosting some events to celebrate the book launch, and I envisioned a grand, luxe book tour. That is until they told me they had zero marketing budget for the book.

As I stated before, most first-time authors do not get a marketing budget unless they’re a high-profile celebrity. Despite that, I still tried to make it work, but honestly? I just couldn’t pull it off. 

Budget-wise, I was completely dried up. I had spent every dime of my advance into book production and promotion, and I had no more resources left. These were costs that I didn’t factor in when I first got my advance, so I was at a loss.

I also didn’t want to make people pay for a launch party either, so I just scrapped all of my “tour” dates. And, it might have been for the best — most authors admit that book tour attendance can be low. Even some of the world’s most famous authors have hosted events that only a handful of people show up to. 

I’m not 100% sure if I want to write another book — all I know is that I’m still tired from this last one, and I need time to rest and really think it over. However, I learned so much from this experience and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. And I thank everyone who has bought a copy and made it a successful release!

Want to buy a copy of my book? Learn all about it here!

Photo by Tom McGovern

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  1. Christine S. wrote:

    This is super interesting – I knew a ton of work went into your book but it’s really cool to get some more behind-the-scenes details here, even if depressing about the advance.

    And for a fun “FH2H in the wild” story, my brother and his girlfriend were visiting us this past weekend and his girlfriend immediately picked up your book the second she saw it (it lives on my coffee table). She was so excited reading through it. Apparently I should have been giving it to all the fall lovers I know for Christmas last year. 🙂

    Posted 4.18.23 Reply