When I was 16 years old, I wrote two things on my New Year’s Resolution List. Number One was to pass my GCSEs. Number Two was to publish my book.
I don’t usually stick to New Year’s Resolutions. But I did that year. During the summer, I took a total of 19 exams within about a two week period and received 11 GCSEs for my efforts. Boarding a plane on a family holiday, I brought along a massive stack of paper and my pencil case. I had a lot of editing to do. Somehow, I managed to self-publish my book Blind Love on August 31, 2014. The same year.
Yes, self-publishing your book doesn’t have to take years and years.
But is it really the best way to publish a book? Can you cut out the publishing house and still be successful?
Well, yes and no. Nobody holds your hand and guides you through it. I signed up for something called Amazon KDP Select, which is where Amazon helps aspiring authors self-publish their books. There a tons of helpful links on how to upload your book. When it comes down to the process, it’s not that simple. I will try my best to break it into useful steps.
1. Write Your Book
I wrote Blind Love when I was 12 years old after a recent trip to Turkey, where the poverty in some areas struck me somewhere deep, right in my heart. The first draft was written in a month. I rewrote and carried on writing the book on-and-off until I was 16 years old, when the itch and the drive to do something with the story became almost unbearable.
2. Computer Edits
Ideally, you first edit on your computer. I had already done this step. Read through your novel and make any needed changes. Be comfortable knowing that you’ll inevitably have to come back to this step many times.
3. Print Edits
With my New Year’s Resolution in mind, I googled- yes, google must have the answer for everything- ‘how to edit your book.’
Next, you edit with your book in print. My poor printer must’ve hated me. But I still had the same excitement of when I was young and printed two page stories out to proudly read to my parents.
4. Objective Revision Of Print Edits
The problem is, when sharing a book you’ve written and edited for years, with the sole aim of tearing apart and analyzing all the nitty-gritty mistakes, one can get quite protective.
This is why you need to have someone else edit and read through the paper version. Now, really you shouldn’t ask anybody like your parents who cannot be objective. But my mum’s good at that sort of thing. She spends a long time phrasing an email so it reads politely but still conveys the message she wants. I knew I could count on her but gosh, I must’ve been difficult to work with.
5. Reading Aloud Edits
Surprisingly, reading my novel aloud helped a lot, as there were still words cropping up that shouldn’t have been there. Some phrases took a while to settle on, as it was difficult to know what was grammatically correct but still conveyed the general message I wanted. I think the biggest change to the drafts was character names. The two main lovers were originally named Emine and Ymir. During the editing process, I realized that Ymir is not how I was pronouncing it, so changed it to Emre. The problem then was as a rule, generally, having two characters with the same first letter in their name can sometimes confuse the reader. So, Emine became Myra. There is a handy “Find” and “Replace” tool on word that does this for you. Even in the final weeks, some scenes I scrapped completely and wrote different ones in their place, ones with more purpose and character depth.
6. Format For Kindle
The next step was formatting my book for Kindle. Dear God, I hated that step. It was extremely tedious. Amazon, to their credit, tries to make this easy for you with lots of resources for writers to access for free. As Kindle is an e-book format, this meant hyperlinking headers on the content page and using the show/hide feature in Word to delete any unnecessary paragraph markers. There were a lot. A book I highly recommend for this is Kindle Publishing Format, Publish & Promote Your Books on Kindle by Dr. Andy Williams.
7. Creating A Book Cover For Kindle
Now, of course, you have to put a good amount of detail into the cover art for your novel. Amazon requests for you to upload a book cover picture with the right pixel dimensions for Kindle. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was amazingly good with Adobe Photoshop and was more than happy to create a cover for me. I used two original photos: one of some scenery from our family holiday to Turkey and one of a girl from my ballet class, who looked exactly how I pictured Cemile, the blind character in my book. Blind Love is a fictional YA tragic romance, which the cover had to reflect in its style and color.
8. Convert Your Novel To The Correct File
It is worth warning that you cannot upload a Word file directly to Amazon. Your Word file should be converted to an MOBI file before you can upload your book to Amazon.
9. Uploading Your Novel To Amazon
To actually upload your novel to Amazon is quite simple. You login to your KDP Select account, go to your “bookshelf” and click “create new title.” You then fill out an online form which will ask for your cover image and the file you wish to upload.
Then, with one click of the “save & publish” button at the end of the form, you’re officially an author. That moment is pretty surreal. I think my voice temporarily went up a few octaves in excitement. With my family gathered round me in our computer room, I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. What I’d accomplished.
10. Promote Your Book
It would be easy to end the process there, but self-publishing a debut novel doesn’t finish when you press that “publish” button. You need to get the word out, promote your book and yourself as an author.
I was featured in an article for the Keynsham Voice and also for The Bristol Evening Post. I will admit it’s scary to approach big companies and magazines like this but if you don’t take the initiative, who will? The photos for The Bristol Evening Post were actually taken in my Sixth Form with The Director of Sixth Form overseeing and talking to the photographer. I always look at that photo and think it doesn’t look much like me. But I suppose I was trying to smile for ten minutes whilst holding the book at the best angle the photographer wanted. I had previous work experience with Keynsham Voice, so contacting them wasn’t so daunting. I took a picture in my bedroom of myself holding the book, with a friend’s help, and sent it to them. I prefer that photo.
Then, there’s the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook promotion, which is constant. I responded to comments on my normal Instagram plus my Bookstagram, replied to messages and tweets and also shared the news on Facebook, so everyone I knew would know about my book. Amazon also has some pretty cool features; Go to “Promote and Advertise” on your published book, in your “Bookshelf.” You can choose to run a Kindle Countdown Deal, Free Book Promotion or pay towards an Advertising Campaign. I received around 300-400 downloads when my book went free for a few days. Gradually, the sales have dropped. Admittedly, I don’t always tell people about my book anymore. Namely because my writing has changed so much, as I have as a person. Most writers find this, and even Blind Love was no exception; if you look back at your old writing you may cringe a little.
Next time, I think I’d go the traditional route. Finding an agent, finding a publisher, waiting years to see my book in print. Spreading the word about your self-published book can be difficult and I’m not afraid to admit this is where I will need help next time, when I begin the journey of publishing my second novel.
I am genuinely proud of Blind Love. Despite not being an overnight bestseller, or even close to my writing style now (I’m eighteen years old) I am proud of the achievement it marks; how it embodies a schoolgirl penning her first novel; how publishing so young can and is possible. I’m proud of the hope it gives me as a writer, for my career.
Just today, I received a notification from Amazon KDP to say that someone from the USA and someone from the UK had bought my book.
I think that knowing your novel is being read around the world makes all that writing and editing worth it, don’t you?
YouTube Channel: Amazon KDP
Featured image via Authority Pub