Self Publishing: My Process So Far

Quite a few months ago a friend asked if I could write a blog post about my self publishing process once The Edge of the Woods was out. So here we are! My heavily summarised journey from person-who-would-quite-like-to-write-and-publish-her-first-novel to person-who-is-now-an-author-yay.

Note: most dates are approximate as my memory for time is completely rubbish.

July-ish.
WRITING.
Deciding to write a book. Lots of feelings were felt, optimism and joy at the forefront. Sat down at computer and vaguely remembered a romantic short story I’d written as a much younger person that even younger persons had reacted well to. I used the setting and conflict as inspiration. Assumed it would probably only be a novella.

My drafting process was pretty straight forward. I made a schedule: I had to be sitting down and writing by 2pm every day (I’m useless in the mornings) with two days allowed off per week (they could coincide with weekends but didn’t have to, and didn’t have to be consecutive) and I wasn’t allowed to write after 10pm. This ensured I didn’t burn out if things were going well and that I didn’t feel overwhelmed if they weren’t. I also wasn’t allowed to go back and edit, and I wasn’t allowed to read further back than a page or two or jump ahead and write out of sequence. It worked, and in August-ish I…

August-ish.
DRAFTING AND DECISIONS.
Finished the first draft! It was only 26k words, but I was very proud of myself. Of course on reading it back I felt a lot less proud. It was much heavier on the romance, and the story and my protagonist hadn’t quite found their focus. It was much more woods based, which wasn’t working.

Around this time I came across a blog about self publishing via Amazon and decided to read more. After researching, I decided it was the best option for me as I didn’t think any publishers would be interested in a novella.

September/October-ish.
DRAFTING AND COVER DESIGN.
Worked on the second draft, which was about an 80% rewrite. Many of the same ideas were kept but expanded, re-ordered and reworded. I grounded the story and pushed the supernatural element back a little, concentrating on my protagonists real life. The story clicked, and the characters flourished. However I still hadn’t settled on an ending I liked and I hadn’t made the supernatural element make sense to me. My supernatural love interest was much more of a black hat villain, but his motivation wasn’t working for me. This draft came to about 45k words.

I came down with the flu sometime during this period and decided to use it to find my cover design. I hadn’t yet stumbled across the kboards or any other self publishing community, so I had no idea where to start. Google only turned up Damonza (who is very good, but was out of my price range) and a few designers I didn’t really take to. So I decided to run a 99designs competition which, although the process was stressful and honestly not very fun, I found a small group of covers and designers I really liked, and whittled it down to one I was very happy with.

800x1100The cover as it emerged from the competition. 

November/December/January-ish
SELF EDITING, DRAFTING AND PROCRASTINATION.
After draft two was out of the way, I spent a very long time going over everything with a red pen and a lot of post-it notes. My goals at that point were to track character consistency and development, sort out the supernatural storyline, go deeper into the world I’d created and come up with a satisfying ending. It was easier to identify the problem areas and restructure some chapters than it was to write the solutions, but I got there in the end. Some areas of the manuscript remained entirely untouched, some were rewritten, some flat out deleted and one character I was very fond of but served absolutely no purpose and actually messed up the plot was cut and absorbed into two existing characters (Nicole and Roslyn). 

With this draft coming in at 68k words it was officially a full length novel, but after all the work I’d already done myself I decided to ride out the self-publishing experience. I was already learning a lot of interesting things about the publishing industry and, however I decided to publish future books, I felt a well rounded knowledge could only benefit me.

January/February-ish
PROFESSIONAL EDITING AND BETA READERS.
Satisfied as I could be with my draft, I scouted out various editors and editing services and decided on BubbleCow (who now offer free pre-made covers from FAB cover design site GoOn Write with every edit). They took just over three weeks to edit my manuscript (one week earlier than they predicted) and I spent that time working on my blurb and starting a YA zombie dystopian novel I like a lot but can’t quite figure out how to crack. The editors report I got back was really detailed and positive, and I accepted most of the suggestions. It made the novel much stronger.

Next I sent the novel out to my trusty test readers (I hate the term beta reader, and no, I don’t know why) who each took two weeks to read through and send me their notes.

March
EVERYTHING WAS TERRIBLE
Went though a family tragedy. March sucked. Nothing was achieved.

April
PROOFREADING, COVER FINALISATION, FORMATTING AND GOODREADS.
I eased back into productivity with the final proofread, which a friend and I did independently and compared notes. Between us, the editor and my test readers I’m confident we picked up 99.5% of errors and if you show me one now (I do know where one is in the manuscript) I will actually spear tackle you.

Having decided later on, and at the insistence of friends and family (and a deep desire to have my own book on my shelf) I decided to publish a paperback version via CreateSpace. This required me to get back in touch with my cover artist and work on a wraparound cover. While we were at it, I’d noticed that the title didn’t pop as well as I’d like in thumbnail and we decided to make it white. The result was kind of perfect. I decided on a 5×8 book size as opposed to their default/recommended 6×9 as I find 6×9 books a bit clunky and hard to shove in your bag (if I could have gone smaller I would have), and cream paper over white as I wanted a more authentic reading experience. Both options increased the production cost, but I’m happy I chose them.

Cover KINDLEFinal cover. Very poppy. 

While we worked on the cover, I contacted Polgarus Studio and they very quickly came up with a simple eBook format and a very pretty paperback format. I needed a finalised paperback word count so my cover artist could figure out the width of the spine.

Finally, I set up a Goodreads page for the book, an author page for me, and began my giveaway. As I wasn’t sure when exactly I’d be publishing or when I’d have paperback copies with me, I set the giveaway to run until May 31st. It was slow going at first, but now has over 1700 entries and is on the front page of the most requested giveaways. Pretty cool!

May
PROOFING AND PUBLISHING
Despite a month long internet blackout (the previous months work was all done on my tiny phone screen), everything was finally ready to go! I uploaded the files to Createspace and ordered my proof copy. When that came the following week (perfect!) I decided on an official release date: May 20, the week following. This allowed me time to upload the files to Kindle Direct Publishing and let the paperback and kindle versions sync up, and time for the other platforms (iBooks, Kobo and Nook) to publish my books as they take a little longer. This way by Launch Day everything was ready and working.

And here we are! I ran a Facebook ad during launch week, and will run another sometime soon. I had an article in Birdee Mag and my hometown’s online newspaper, and am going to attempt sending out some press releases to local newspapers and radio stations, and I already have some really lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

And what have I learned?

So much, and probably still nowhere enough. I can say that I fully respect what publishing houses do and what they offer – this has been an expensive venture and I’m terrible at numbers and keeping track of things and figuring out this marketing stuff is kind of doing my  head in.

Will I self publish again?

Absolutely. I might still be figuring it out, but I’m having loads of fun doing it. And I’m a published author now. I can’t even tell you how much that means to me.

And now, back to it!

x

4 thoughts on “Self Publishing: My Process So Far

  1. It’s a difficult and hard slog to self-publishing, but definitely worth it in the end!

    It’s amazing to look at the process and realise just how long and how much energy it takes to produce a book. Well done! 😀

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  2. I love reading posts like this — very interesting! What kind of edit did you get from Bubblecow? A full structural edit or just a line edit? If a full one, did they find anything substantive that needed changing? (Just curious about how much value they added to the process.)

    I’m also curious (hope you don’t mind me picking your brain) about why you went to them before beta reading. I’ve done it the other way around, on the theory that I want to get the book as good as I can make it on my own before showing it to professional editors. Now I’m wondering if your way might be better?

    Loved the heading “Self-editing, drafting and procrastination”. Know exactly what you mean — I’m there at the moment!

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    1. Hi Marina, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      I got a full edit done by BubbleCow. My editor Caroline really enjoyed the manuscript (yay!) and her main suggestions were where to better break up my chapters, which scenes could have stood to be expanded (I tend to write too briefly, which is why my drafts got longer as opposed to shorter!) and pointed out some logical flaws. In the long run, maybe the manuscript would have been adequate without her input, but if I had to do it over I’d have still hired them. She really helped me elevate the quality, and it was really nice for me to have the peace of mind that her feedback gave me.

      As for editing before beta reading, it was a little influenced by my discomfort in letting readers see my work before I feel confident about it, but also I decided I’d rather have the editor work on the bones of the book and then use my test readers to let me know if anything jumped out as not feeling right to them without having to worry about (hopefully) structural problems, plotholes or too many typos. I know it’s traditionally done the other way, but this is what I’m more comfortable with 🙂

      Good luck against the procrastination! I was knee deep in it until yesterday!

      x

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  3. Didn’t realise you’d been blogging over here instead of your old site. D’oh! Looks like I missed out on your giveaway.

    This was a super interesting post to read about your self-publishing process, and I’ll be passing it on to friends who plan to do that in future.

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