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