How I Published My First Book
Monday marked my first month as a published author, so I thought I would share my experience with self-publishing 🙂
My writing process for Shards of Glass was not typical. I came up with my characters back in 2003. I know the year since I originally made Rachel 13, my age at the time. I started with random snippets of her life, such as conversations with her siblings and an essay that reads like a diary entry.
I discovered Nanowrimo in November 2014, so I decided to make a book out of Rachel’s stories in July 2015. The campnanos don’t have a word limit, so I set mine at 75000 and surpassed it. I started editing it that year, but as soon as I sent it to my mother, I discovered that she is actually a very objective and unbiased alpha reader. She didn’t give me a lot of notes, but their implications were substantial. Like removing a bunch of characters. I am really not a fan of Killing Your Darlings. That’s probably why I spent the next few years casually editing it, but never getting to a point that I felt ready to publish it.
Finally, after years of putting “Publish a Book” on my list of resolutions, in 2019 I took it seriously. I spent way more time than I should have on creating a publishing schedule and planning insignificant things. I reread my latest version, made notes on what needed to be fixed, and gave myself the arbitrary deadline of August 11th.
There was a point where I wanted to publish the book anonymously because I didn’t think I would ever be confident enough to publish it under my name. I met with a friend, J.F., who is a published author, and suggested I instead focus my energy on making the book the best it can be, so that I can publish under my own name and be proud of it.
I eventually bit the bullet and set up a pre-order for Shards of Glass on amazon, with a publication date of August 9th because I felt confident that I had a final version that just needed some proofreading. I sent it to my mother, thinking she would give me some final notes to fix it, and then I would send it to an editor and it would be wonderful. Instead, my mom told me it was great, but there were too many characters and it got confusing and I basically had to rewrite the whole thing. She didn’t tell me that last part, but it was the only way I could fix her notes.
Usually, when I am writing a new draft, I copy and paste a lot of the original one. To avoid that (especially with the character removals), I wrote a new draft in a notebook, made a list of everything I needed to fix, then typed it up for a final draft.
I did the editing myself, then my mom and I spent a week reading it out loud to fix any mistakes we didn’t see.
For the formatting, I used some that looked like the ebooks from a decade ago. The Reedsy one was very nice, but there was something about having it say that it was formatted by reedsy.com that made me feel like it looked self-published. After lots of research and debating (meaning I asked my mom to tell me what to do) I decided to invest in my career (and myself) and purchased vellum. It’s over 300$, but it was very easy to use, the inside of my book looks like a real book and the ebook is beautiful. Plus, I plan to write a lot of books, so it will eventually pay itself off.
A lot of marketing programs will tell you to have somewhere to send your readers so you don’t lose them, so I put my next book up on pre-order and put a link at the end of Shards of Glass. It’s intimidating and terrifying, but I work a lot better with a deadline than if I am left to my own devices.
The last piece was the cover, which my friend JF did for me. I made a placeholder version for amazon, but had absolutely no idea how to do anything more than that. JF literally had to send me about a dozen files before I figured out the bleed and the spine and all that suff. You live and you learn, right?
Publishing and sales
My goal was to sell the ebook exclusively through amazon’s kindle unlimited for the first 90 days to see if that was a good fit. KU is a program where your ebook is sold exclusively through amazon, but you get the run promotions and make a higher royalty rate. For the paperback, I wanted to use amazon and ingramspark. I decided not to go exclusive with amazon because I felt like bookstores would rather order books from someone other than their main competitor.
Since it was a pre-order, I had to have everything uploaded by August 5th. I made the paperback available immediately so that the pages could link and the book could launch with reviews, but that didn’t happen. It nearly took 2 weeks for the ebook and paperback to be linked on amazon, and my first review was from someone I don’t know who got her ebook on launch day. She read it in less than 24 hours and gave me 5 stars, so she is now one of my favorite people.
The ebook went live on Friday, August 9th and that is when I started posting about it. I made my author page on goodreads and filled out my Author Central profiles for Amazon in Japan, Germany, France and the UK in addition to the U.S. site. I posted about it on Facebook and Instagram, made a blog post and sent out a newsletter. I was shocked and amazed by the response I got. SO many people shared the post or commented congratulations and how they were excited to read it. I was beyond touched.
I knew my immediate family would buy a copy to support me, but in one month I sold 85 copies (33 of them were free ebooks, but they are still readers and I am so grateful). One was even purchased from Germany!
I had issues with the cover on ingram, then it was released as an ebook when it shouldn’t be and I was removed from Kindle Unlimited, but everything is fixed now.
Currently, the ebook is solely available on Amazon. The paperback is available on amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as to any bookstores or libraries that want to order it.
There are a million things I could have done better, but this was my first attempt. This was me proving to myself that I could do it. And I did. I have the most amazing family and friends and am floored by all of the support I have received. Shards of Glass was a resounding success. Thank you to everyone who made it so. I can’t wait to share more stories with you.
P.S. Some podcasts I really enjoyed listening to were The Creative Penn, Author Like a Boss and the Self-Publishing Show (among many others). I listen at the gym or when I am driving, so I am never taking notes, but I feel like it’s more about the motivation and inspiration that I get from them. To hear about other people who’ve made it and how they did it. Listening to them every day was part of the motivation that got it done.
P.P.S. I tried not to go too in-depth for the people who have no interest in publishing, but I can also go step by step, like a how-to, if anyone is curious about the publishing process. Or we can chat over tea/ice cream. This is all just my personal experience though, and Amazon makes it really easy with lots of videos and tutorials.