Guest Posts

I Wish I Knew Then

Today’s post comes to you from J.D Cunegan, who is here to talk about one thing he wish he knew before he published his first book.

I Wish I Knew Then…

By J.D. Cunegan 

In June of 2015, I published my first novel.

That book, the superhero mystery Bounty, had been a labor of love, a story years in the making starring a character I’d had in my head almost my entire life. The jubilation of seeing my work available for the masses – and a few of those people actually buying it – was almost indescribable. But to say I was naïve would be a massive understatement.

The thing about self-publishing is, unless you know a lot of other self-published authors, you’re almost exclusively learning as you go. Trial-and-error is the name of the game; as of this writing, Bounty is on its fourth (and hopefully final) cover, and it seems like I learn something new with each book I publish.

But the one thing I wish I knew two years ago… marketing.

Not necessarily the how-to of it – though that would have also been nice. When I first published Bounty, I didn’t realize just how exhaustive and time-consuming truly marketing a book is. This isn’t just a case of occasionally posting to Twitter or Facebook pushing your book – there’s an actual strategy to it. What seems like shouting into the ether is actually a carefully-calculated step in a process that will (hopefully) lead to increased sales and cultivating new fans.

That’s the lesson I wish someone had shared with me before I hit that publish button for the first time. Because even now, two years later (and with four novels to my name), I’m still trying to determine what my marketing strategy is.

How much of it involves social media?

Just how good do I have to be at Photoshop?

What paid services are worth my time?

How do I market online as opposed to in-person?

Unfortunately, you only learn the answers to those questions by doing – and the answers are different for every author. What worked for one writer might not work for me, and vice versa. Genre mashups can make great stories, but sometimes, marketing them can get a little fuzzy. Take my Jill Andersen series (Bounty, Blood Ties, and Behind the Badge), for example…Do I market the mystery, the science fiction, or the superhero aspect?

Notna is a little more straightforward, as a prophecy-end-of-the-world urban fantasy. But even then, I’m having to cater to an entirely new audience in some ways. Sure, I have readers who will buy anything with my pen name on the cover, but this is a genre I’ve never written before, which means there’s a potential fanbase I have to reach somehow.

One thing that helped was, upon publishing Bounty, I discovered a tight-knit community of self- and independently-published authors online who welcomed me with open arms. They offered advice, support – and along the way, I discovered some really good books. And sometimes, talking about those books gets me more impressions than talking about my own.

Book marketing is ethereal, constantly changing. What worked for you might not work for me. What worked two weeks ago might not work now. What worked for Bounty might not work for Notna. Even now, with all this experience under my belt, marketing my work is still a process in trial-and-error.

Which would be true regardless of if I had known all this before publishing Bounty, but still… the heads-up would have been nice, because realizing just how involved marketing is for self-published authors has been the biggest wake-up call. In some ways, marketing is every bit the full-time job writing is.

I love being self-published. I love the control it gives me; I can tell the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them when I want to tell them. I love the sense of community with other self-published authors; we’re in this together in a way I’m not sure is the case for those who go the traditional route.

That said, it would have been nice to know what I was getting myself into, marketing-wise.

About the Author

J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV. His latest, the urban fantasy Notna, is currently available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and Google Play. Follow Cunegan on Twitter @JD_Cunegan and visit his website at

Thank you for the great post, J.D! Don’t forget to say hi on Twitter, and check out his website! As always, keep making magic, word weavers.

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