Launching a book is hard. Like, really, really hard. And, it’s especially hard when you are going the DIY route. Amazon, mercifully, has made this process as seamless as possible for indie authors like me, but even this incredible platform can only take you so far. Here is the journey I have been on for the past 15 months:
The idea for The Lost Girls is something that’s been percolating in my head for about three years. I never felt ready to start it before I’d self-published my first title in June last year, called Serenade. Serenade was a retelling of the original Little Mermaid. Not the Disney version, I’m talking old school dark fairy tale. I’d spent the preceding year studying mermaids, myths and Hans Christian Andersen as a person (as he was a character in the book, a ‘fairy godfather’, if you will). I had to learn about him a lot – but it was worth it. By all accounts, he was the most fabulous man of the age.
The research for The Lost Girls was different. Here I immersed myself in a combination of psychology books, and books of magic. Equally fascinating topics, and when combined, helped me start phase two – the creative part – writing.
For me, sitting in front of a blank page is the most motivating thing in the world. It’s a blank canvas waiting to be shaped, formed and given life. It took me a year of writing, scratching out, rewriting, creating and recreating character arcs, printing a million images for my ever-evolving story boards, more reading and researching. It goes on for almost a year, and I tend to become a social recluse during this time. It’s not always easy on my family, but they’re amazing, understanding and supportive. And the man in my life is my rock, keeping me calm and on the ground when I have a tendency to float away on a bubble of madness. Finishing the book, writing the end, is the hardest part for me, and takes the biggest toll on my sanity. But, in the end, I get to take a deep, deep breath, and smile that I put in the effort.
This is where the tough work starts. You have to switch from creative-brain to grammar-nazi brain, a tough transition, especially when you’re mind is still swirling with imagery from the story you’ve just completed. These swirling images are my friends, they help me stay connected to the story so I don’t lose touch with its core. So that I can maintain levels of consistency, and make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together properly, and in their correct order. I also enlisted the help of a professional editor and proof-reader, my first time working with one. He was great at picking up redundancy and flaws in reasoning. I am grateful I decided to go with a pro editor this time – he helped me see things I might not ordinarily have seen.
Once I have read, re-read and re-re-read (I’m talking reading the book cover-to-cover at least 15 times), I am finally satisfied. This is when I start to engage with Amazon. These include Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace.
As I mentioned before, Amazon makes it easy to self-published. Their Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace platforms are user-friendly, reliable and helps you learn about your market while you’re publishing.
With resources like these, self-publishing a title is easy. The hardest part – the part that makes you really want a traditional agent and a traditional publisher – THE MARKETING. Oh lordie… all the marketing. I chose Twitter as my primary launchpad, but I’m also doing a Facebook and YouTube promotion. It’s tricky to market when you don’t have a nice big audience ready and waiting for your content to be served. No. You have to engage with the existing communities, build up slowly, steadily, and keep momentum going. You can’t take a step back. You can’t stop promoting. And everything falls to you. You don’t have an expert standing behind you telling you not to tweet that, not to take it personally, to jump in or pull back when necessary. It really just rests with the author, and any wonderful handle out there willing to retweet. I’ve spent the whole of launch day doing this, and I’m not close to finished. I wrote the book. Now I have to put it in front of people and hope they like stories about overcoming bullying with a magical twist.
A case study in success. No it’s not me.
Amanda Hocking’s journey has always fascinated me. She’s known in the publishing industry as the greatest self-publishing success story, and a true testament to what perseverance and a thick skin can do for you. Amanda was frustrated with the traditional publishing route, which was not getting her closer to seeing her dream of being published come true. Guardian Books wrote an article on this and stated how Amanda wanted to go to a Muppet convention eight hours away, but couldn’t afford the petrol and accommodation needed to attend. She announced to her roommate Eric that she is going to self-publish on Amazon – and once she had, she not only raised the money she needed to go to the Muppet show, but then some. She was 26 when this happened. And this did not happen overnight. Amanda worked hard, she probably had to be tough as nails to get where she did, and I do not think luck or timing has anything to do with what she achieved (this in reaction to comments Ive come across that she was lucky that she got in at the right time) – I see what Amanda does on social media (and can only imagine what happens in the background). Hard work is the only way she could have achieved a feat this incredible. Now, she’s a household name when it comes to YA fantasy titles, and her second series (Trylle) has been optioned for a movie. That’s a pretty amazing story – and I’m holding it close to me as I embark on my self-publishing journey.
The road to publishing a book is a long, coiling one – but there’s this really beautiful moment when you’ve reached your destination (the day we like to call the book birthday) where everything is crystal clear. Something you have created, put your everything into, has been given life, and a set of wings to fly off with. Today is that day for me, and I’ve spent half of it on Twitter engaging with the community in hopes that they might engage back, and the other half obsessively checking my dashboard for downloads. I am going to stop doing the latter because I’m tethering to sanity, and ramp up the former because I love playing in Twitter.
To those brave souls out there who want to self-publish, I dedicate this post to you. And also to Amanda Hocking, the rockstar who got it right. You’re an inspiration to us all.