Being a first time self-published author!
Hi everyone, welcome back to the blog! Today we have yet another guest writer featuring on Chronicles & Coffee to cover a topic that will surely reach many of our realities! Becoming a self-publishing author comes with peaks, valleys, various conversations and debates, but from everyone I hear about it more from, is such a great experience!
Today we have Rachel Donnan on the blog to talk about her journey at being a first time self-published author. Rachel is a debut author of a romance fantasy novel titled On Bladed Tides!
Make sure to check out her Instagram @ rachelc.writes
Plus, read to the bottom to get amazing teasers from On Bladed Tides!
Enjoy this post!
Okay – well the first thing I learnt on this mythical and magical journey is that doubt is the number one obstacle to overcome. Being on Instagram, making friends and seeing so many other indie/self-publishing authors who are successful and have achieved their goals is amazing, but it can be quite daunting. The doubt that my book will never be that good, or will hit the success that others have, is always in the background. But I learnt that silencing that voice is the only way to keep going.
The truth about self-publishing a book is that it is both hard and rewarding. Everything you do, everything you put into your book, it’s all on you.
To be honest, I thought it was going to be simple as I write my book and then upload it to KDP (amazon) and that, bam, that’s it done.
Oh boy, was I wrong.
Writing the book is actually the easiest part of the process. What no one prepared me for was, getting an editor, finding beta readers, getting a cover design done, formatting the book to meet certain website specs, self-promoting my own book, arranging presales, proofreading.. the list felt endless.
Getting my book written took around a year. I work full time (mon-fri) meaning that I had to learn to set time aside to get my book written. Weekdays were the best days for me, as well as even one hour after work every weekday. I found setting targets – realistic ones – was the best way to push through to the finish line. Something simple like finish 1 chapter every week, or write at least 500 words each session.
Don’t set unrealistic goals, because we as humans strive on succeeding – so if we don’t meet our own targets we are likely to give up easier.
ALSO, REWARDS – little bit of chocolate, a big cup of coffee/tea, or heck guilt-free binge-sesh of your favourite trashy TV programme. Whatever it takes to get you to the end of your daily goal.
Once the book was out of my hands and in the hands of my beta readers, which I have to thank the Instagram community for – without them I doubt I would have found beta readers who were willing to read the second draft of my novel. I turned my attention to getting a cover design sorted.
Beta readers are super important – after all they are the first readers who will read the raw edition of your early book. Getting people who you trust, who you believe will be able to help you along the journey is important. Trust being the main element, because it is super hard letting people you don’t physically know read your work and offer their thoughts and criticisms.
Google doc’s is perfect for this – it allowed me to read the comments from my readers. And this is actually the most fun I had during the entire process! Seeing the readers' reactions, what they liked, what they loved, and what they didn’t, it gave me a new perspective on my own work.
The cover design, I was very lucky, I found a good group of artists (Ever after cover design) who were straightforward to deal with.
I will warn those, especially if you are a control freak like me, sometimes waiting on people to reply to emails is different form of torture – but remembering that everyone you work with is doing their best and running their own business.
You can design your own cover if you are savvy enough – but I am not. And with copyright, I didn’t want to take any risk. Plus, if I tried, it would likely look like something a toddler designed. So, I trusted a designer to bring my book cover to life while sticking within my budget.
I am in a very lucky position that I work full time, meaning that I have a steady wage coming into my home every month, as the truth is self-publishing a book can be expensive.
Writing the book and uploading it is free – but the services like cover designs, editors, proofreaders, all cost money. And to ensure that the readers, the people you want to fall in love with your story, have the best product in their hands ( after all they are spending their hard earned cash on your book ) I wanted to put everything I could into making sure they received the best version of my book.
Budgets are definitely something that should be considered, setting yourself a budget on how much you are willing to spend on each thing. I knew that I wanted to save money, not wanting to completely bankrupt myself, but at the same time I didn’t want to cut corners.
Use your friends if possible for proofreading, beta readers, a third set of eyes over something – whatever you can to help.
You can do it all for free if you think you can – but let’s be frank. The self-published book market has exploded over the years. People are turning their back on traditional publishing (for many reasons), and fulfilling their dreams of being a published author through self-publishing. However, that means the market can become saturated with poorly edited/designed books.
I needed to remember that I want my book to stand out – that I want readers to enjoy it without having to read through my very poor grammar/spelling mistakes.
We are always told never to judge a book by its cover – but let’s be honest, we all do it. A good cover draws the eye, it pulls the reader in, and gets them to lift your book off the shelf or click on it.
Cover design and editing is something I personally felt strongly that I did not want to cut corners on.
Again, the bookstagram community is amazing, and having previously had a bookstagram account that I turned into my author account, it meant I had found good businesses who I wanted to work with.
Looking around, reaching out to artists and editors, asking them for price lists – honestly, I took a couple of the self-published books I have bought over the years off my bookshelves and looked into who those authors used for their services.
I found my editor through this method, seeing that she edited fellow indie authors' work and their books I love. To be honest, that is where I expected to pay most of my money. But again, having looked around and reached out, I had sort of put a number in my mind on how much I wanted to pay.
It can be expensive, but I recommend looking around and not jumping at the first person who offers their services. At the same time appreciate that editors/designers are artists too, and they are within their right to charge what they believe is fair.
Boy, the thing I didn’t expect to be the biggest concern was the lack of control. I am a major control freak – I hate not being in the loop. I get angsty not being involved in things – but whenever you hand your book baby over to an editor that’s it for a good couple of weeks. There is nothing more you can do (writing wise) while that is away.
I struggled with that a lot.
But it’s all about trusting the process (as much as it killed me ha-ha.)
The pitfalls I fell down with was not releasing how much of a pain formatting was. Oh boy oh boy, does amazon and Ingramspark (the two POD self-publishing sites) make it difficult for you.
My editor was perfect in helping me try and figure it out – but the stress I felt towards the end was something I hadn’t felt since high-school.
YOUTUBE IS YOUR FRIEND.
Watch as much YouTube as you can. I watched everything from formatting tips to how to upload correctly on KDP, to how to set-up pre orders! TikTok is also amazing for this, quick videos to guide you through whatever questions you have.
Turns out if I had a question – someone else had the same one and made a video on it (YAY!)
During my self-publishing journey I was approached a couple times by vanity publishers who I believe sniff out indie authors – especially new ones. I had done my research about them and honestly I would always tell people to be very wary of them.
You should never have to pay an agency/publisher any more for them to publish your book. Amazon/Ingramspark/B&N whatever way you go about publishing your book, they do not charge you to sell through them. They charge you for printing the book and you receive royalties for each book you sell through them.
Same goes with spam – because by goodness do I get about 20 spam emails a day. Setting up an author email is great as it keeps things separate, and clear cut, but whenever certain ‘companies’ get a hold of it it can become very tiresome. – People offering to read the book and review it for a small cost. No. Amazon can ban you for doing this – but the truth is I think a lot of people prey on new indie authors, trying to get money from you for the only reason to just get money from you.
The Instagram community is an amazing place, yes there is sometimes the darker side, but honestly the people I have met on it have helped me get to where I am today. I have met fellow indie authors, who are the most helpful people. I found myself turning to them a few times with questions about self-publishing and never have any of them turned me down on handing out advice.
Being social media smart definitely helps. Because oh my gosh do you need to be on that thing a lot. Instagram, TikTok, Threads – whatever you got, you need to be as active as you can. Being self-published means having to spread your book out there as much as you can.
Naturally I am a very shy and reserved person, I hate being the centre of attention. I am an introvert through and through – but I am learning to push through my natural shyness as much as I can.
I think no one can be prepared with how much extra work goes into self-publishing a book. It’s stressful as hell, it’s mind bending confusing at times, and sometimes it is downright defeating.
But the moment you see people reading your book – your first 5 star review, your first social media tag – boy is it all worth it.