My Self-Publishing diary: Creating an author platform

I’ve spent the past week preparing to publish Tilted, and from all that I’ve learned so far, it seems clear that the non-negotiables you need in place when you publish are:

  • An author website
  • A mailing list

That’s it. Social media platforms are a bonus. On which note, a quick slide sideways:

Me, myself and social media

Gah! I really struggle with it, I’m not going to lie. Is it just me who finds being online generally a fraught and strange experience? I really value my privacy (in-person over-sharing aside) and I feel weird having a lot of stuff about my life on a public platform. Also, WHO HAS THE TIME?? Seriously! Especially when you’re meant to be writing at the same time. The only platform I use is Instagram, because I enjoy the visual medium and I’ve made some fantastic writing friends, but a single post generally takes me about 30 minutes, not including the time spent fretting over whether I should be posting more, and if so, what the hell I should be posting. Twitter would just suck me into a never-ending wormhole of despair, and Facebook just… No. I don’t want Facebook. So I’m just going to have to hope that not having a presence on every damn platform isn’t going to doom me to (further) obscurity. I’ve heard really mixed opinions – some say social is essential, others say it’s a nice bonus but not a deal breaker. I’ll have to find out the experiential way.

What’s the best website option for authors?

There are some really good resources out there. David Gaughran (my go-to on all things self-pub) wrote a good article about it here. He uses, and is a fan of, a website theme called Parallax V2 designed specifically for author websites. It does look really good. It’s also $399 (which does include installation, so that’s a bonus, but still.) On top of that, you’d have domain name costs, self-hosting costs and mailing list service. Here are my rough notes on costs and some recommended providers (not linked, just for info):

Platform: WordPress.org (flexibility, own domain, needs host) – free

Hosting: Flywheel (WordPress hosting service – £18 p/month, £216 a year)

Theme: Premium theme – (Parralax 2.0 £315 one off)

Domain: iwantmyname.com – £10 yearly

Mailing list service: Mailerlite – Free (up to 1000 subscribers then c. £10 a month)

Total – £541 to set up, c.£230 per year ongoing

So… Yeah, I’m gonna be honest, the editing wiped my savings. I have about £500 left to spend on my book(s), and I don’t think that right now this is the best use of it. It’d be slick, sure – but it would be overkill for one book and – let’s be honest – minimal -to-nil traffic. It’s something I’ll seriously consider when I have three books out, a working sales funnel and a better idea of what the hell I’m doing.

So I went the free-er, easier option.

Using Wix as an author

I set my site up with Wix, lured in by the slick registration process (I already had a website set up by the time I realised I’d been stealthed into creating an account). The basic plan is free – though I upgraded so I could connect my own domain. Wix has an Editor function that allows you to have fantastic levels of control over every aspect of your site – but I’m not good with too much choice. I need limited options in order to get anything accomplished. THANKFULLY they have something called Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) which creates a website for you based on your needs and preferences. It’s a good system – and it saves a LOT OF TIME. Seriously, so much time.

You can choose from a number of pre-set themes and styles. They are simple, but get the job done.

And the costs were appealing:

Wix – basic upgrade £3 per month

Domain – £10 per year

Total – £46 a year

That makes me a lot happier. And though I haven’t published it yet – it’s going live along with my book – I’m really happy with it. It’s visually pleasing and it makes me feel – I’ll say it – legit. And as any wannabe writer knows, that’s half the battle.

If you want to check it out, keep your eyes glued to my Instagram account – I’ll let you know when it’s live…

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My Self-Publishing Diary – Part 1: Side-eyeing the starting line

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Well, as it’s the end of the month (and has been a big one for my novel) I thought I’d do a round-up of my self-publishing journey in diary form  – the nitty gritty of what I’ve been doing and how far I’ve still got to go. Not to mention what I’m actually aiming for…

Editing and formatting : DONE

So. This month I had my novel edited, and received the final manuscript, all clean and shiny and void of clangers. I have to say, I’m not entirely sure what I expected from a full copy edit, but I definitely thought there would be more changes. I was surprised by how light on red pen it was, and I don’t know if that’s testament to my writing or just a misunderstanding on my part regarding the scope of the edit. In any case, I’m thrilled with it. It definitely wasn’t something I could have done well myself. There were so many style points and grammatical nuances I just wouldn’t have picked up on. I’m going to study my edit like my life depends on it when it comes to self-editing the next novel though, partly because my editor is booked up about 6 months in advance and partly because it’s not cheap!

(Side note – I’m learning that there is nothing more satisfying than discussing your novel with someone who loves words and gets your characters.)

With the manuscript essentially publish ready (I think??) I’ve been focusing now on formatting it and compiling all the bits and bobs I’ll need once it goes live on Amazon’s Kindle Store. For example, I’ll need a description of the book to hook people in, an author bio – and I’m thinking I need to jazz up the title a bit. You know how everything on Kindle Store is called ‘Mynovel: The best and funniest and amazing romantic comedy you’ll read this year! Unputtdownable! Amazing twist! Book 72 in the Mynovel Series.‘ Personally I find this upsetting. It feels like showboating and noise, and I don’t like excess of either. But if I just stick with ‘Tilted’ it’s really not going to stand out, or tell people what it’s about. So. I’m going to have to suck it up and call it something like ‘Tilted: A sexy romantic sort-of-comedy where some people get shot.’ Or something, I’ll work on it.

Also – the author page: ugh. Writing about myself in third person feels weird. Writing anything at all about myself feels weird, especially as I’ve only written (or am publishing) one novel. But as with many things, I’m going to have to get over myself and push on through.

For formatting, I’m going to use Vellum. Even if you don’t actually intend to self-publish, I’d recommend downloading the free software (Mac users only) and importing your manuscript to see what it will look like formatted, because it is rather beautiful and motivational. And after actually weeping with frustration trying to compile ebooks with Scrivener (and making mistakes every single time) it was the easiest process ever. EVER. It will cost about £200 to purchase the license to format ebooks and print books – but if I keep writing then I do think it will be worth it.

 

Next steps : One, two, two and a half…

I’m dithering, actually. Technically – technically – I could publish my book this weekend. I mean, the actual book and cover are there – all I need to do is set up an account on Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Direct and go for it, and then start telling people. But… I’m not sure. I feel like I need to build up a bit of a head of steam, first. I’d like to set up an author website, for example, maybe set up a mailing list (both things EVERY indie publishing guide tells you to do asap). But that takes more time, more money and more fiddling around trying not to be a perfectionist.

I know that generally, it’s never your first book that gets noticed. You build up momentum by creating a funnel – publish a series of books that all feed into the other and hopefully one day it snowballs into lots of readers buying lots of your titles. Some advice I’ve read has basically been to just get the first one published however you can, and then immediately get to work on the second/third/fourth at which point you can get more bang for your buck on any promotions because there are multiple products in the funnel. You see?

I’m going to split the difference and throw a little launch celebration for Tilted – probably in a month or so – and then really crack on with the sequel and the novella. Yes – I’ve turned my standalone novel into a two-and-a-half piece boxset. Why not? The sequel is all planned out (thanks, Save the Cat Writes a Novel) and I’m still dithering around in my off-message (dark, gay, twisted) novella born from an Instagram dark love story prompt. My plan is to maybe offer the novella as a freebie for signing up to my mailing list? We’ll see how it pans out. It’s still a little spicy for public consumption right now…

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Where’s this all going?

I don’t mean the blog. Jury’s still out on that, but publishing-wise I’d like to focus first on my books in the Tilted series, then switch focus to my mystery novels – I’ve written the first of a planned five-part series, and the feedback so far has been really good, so I’m feeling positive! If I can crack on with those (and streamline the process) then in a few years I will hopefully have seven full novels published. And I’d also like to work on a serialised project – a sort of book soap-opera where I release an episode a week/fortnight or something (like they used to do in magazines back in the day!). I have ideas, but no plan, so that will take some thinking.

I have absolutely no idea if that sounds too ambitious. Tilted has taken me almost four years to get to this point! I’ve learned a lot, though, and I’ll get there. Most importantly, I no longer have The Fear about it all, or worrying that people won’t like my books (they won’t! But some will!). I’m willing to put myself out there. You’re a long time dead, after all.

Anyway, that’s May done!

Come at me, June.

How do you know when you’re ready to self-publish? Part Two

You can find part one of this thorny question riiiiiiight here. In it I offered two questions to ask yourself before self-publishing. To summarise, if your story is complete, positively received by betas and well-written then you’ve probably got a good wind behind you for publishing the thing. (Actual LOL! That may be the shittest piece of ‘wisdom’ I’ve ever shared.)

But for the final two questions, I’m moving onto the less obvious stuff. The stuff that relies on inner fortitude and ability to develop a thick and impenetrable skin. Basically:

3. Are you ready to fail spectacularly–or more likely, fizzle out with no fanfare whatsoever?

We’re all biologically wired to fear abandonment. OBVIOUSLY few of us are going to be thrown out of our tribe for not being an incredible author (if you are I STRONGLY encourage you to find a new tribe toot sweet), but there’s still something within us that makes us want to shy away from putting ourselves out there, to invite scrutiny, ridicule, pity…

For me personally, this is an inexplicable barrier that I’m really having to push through. Like most things holding us back in life, it doesn’t make any sense but that doesn’t make it any easier to ignore. However, if this is holding you back, here are some things that are helping me push on through:

–          Write yourself the worst review for your work you can possibly imagine. Really go to town. Just drag that baby through the mud and then stamp on it. Then read it, and breathe it in. Then write yourself your dream review. The kind of praise that would make you weep with joy. Again, go wild. Then read that and let it sink in. If you publish your book, and tell the world about it, are you ready to read reviews like this? Are you ready to accept that both reviews can be true, and that both can be false at the same time? Can you step back and acknowledge that other people’s opinions will generally tell you more about the reviewer themselves than the book being reviewed?

–          Find your favourite books and go read the worst reviews. There’s bound to be at least one crappy review for every book. Which just goes to show that you can’t please everyone, and it’s not personal. Also, that some people just get great joy out of being angry and disappointed by everything and who are you to ruin their fun by giving them a book they might actually like? Puh-lease.

–          Embrace your insignificance. You might knock a bestseller out of the park on your first book. But more likely, not that many people will read it. Or, lots might, but they won’t tell you about it. A tiny percentage of readers actually leave reviews. And I know from experience that even people you think would be dying to read something you’ve written (ie, your family or friends) might not actually get around to it. Or they’ll just casually forget that you’ve done something as astonishing as write an entire book. It happens. And though it sounds a bit sad, I find it quite comforting, because it boils down to this: nobody is going to care if you don’t get it exactly right. Readers don’t know how many books you’ve sold, fellow writers are too wrapped up in their own creative quagmires and your friends will know whatever you choose to tell them. So relax. Do your thang.

If all of this still feels a bit terrifying – and you really can’t imagine embracing the fear and doing it anyway – then maybe you’re not ready to publish. No-one in authority is going to pat you on the back and give you a big sticker, after all. (Though I will totally celebrate with you! Hit me up with your achievements – tiny and tall!) In reality, the worst that will probably happen is that nobody will care either way, and is that so terrifying?

4. If you don’t do it, will you regret it?

Finally, this. You can talk yourself out of a lot of opportunities and put a lot of things off forever – out of fear, self-doubt, discouraging family members, whatever. But if you feel happy that you can positively answer all the questions above, and there isn’t anything left to do, then what’s stopping you? Everyone has to start somewhere – and anyway, it would be weird if your first book was your best. Weird, and really annoying – I mean, where is there to go from the pinnacle of your career except down? This is just the first step to bigger and better things.

I’m reminding myself that book one is an experiment, a fun foray into self-publishing, and that if the whole world turns on me for writing a terrible book (I flatter myself with my own importance) then I’ll just take it down and start again.

Hope this helps anyone in this strange, exciting and slightly nervy position that I’m in. And if you’ve already reached the giddy, dizzying heights of self-publishing success (whatever that looks like to you) then please comment and share your experience so that we may learn from your wisdomosity. I bow at your writerly feet.

Powerful Bloody Women

I’m open about most things. To the point of oversharing, definitely. But I don’t think I’ve ever written about periods before. Or, for that matter, been able to use the phrase ‘menstrual cycle’ without embodying the spirit of my uptight Year Nine sex-ed* teacher who didn’t understand the concept of lesbianism and seemed awfully uncomfortable telling a class of teenage girls what this menstruation nonsense was all about.

(*It wasn’t called sex-ed. I’m British; it was called Personal, Social and Health Education which is much more repressed and unhelpful.)

Anyway. Times are changing, my friends, and here I am, using the phrase ‘menstrual cycle’ on a publicly open platform. I don’t even care if you cut me out of your life for such a transgression! Gosh and cripes.

It’s just, I’ve only just realised how much power there is in really knowing what’s going on with myself every month. Physically, mentally, energetically… When I discovered that there was a pattern to the madness of my life – and one shared by practically every woman – I had a total ‘aha!’ moment. Except…that makes me sound like Alan Partridge.

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We’re actually quite similar, facially…

More of an ‘Oh!’ moment, then.

I can’t help but suspect you won’t be interested in the history of my period (why not, though?) so feel free to skip the next paragraph. I provide it only for backstory.

When I was about 27, I came off the pill after more than a decade and found myself battling really shitty skin again. That was why I’d gone on the pill in the first place. But now I just wanted to have some control over my body and my skin – I wanted to be well and function properly without having to rely on chemicals that were having fuck knows what effect on my body and fertility. I tried a lot of things: veganism, supplements, psychotherapy (on myself, I should add – I read a book called Skin Deep that was all about the psychology behind having acne. It was a fun read), affirmations, meditation, keeping a cycle-diary. I was desperate for my period to return so I could see what effect my hormones were having on my skin. When I got to day 245 of my cycle, though…I started to think something was up. At some point in all this, I did have a period, and then it went away again. When I got pregnant with my first daughter the midwife asked for the date of my last period. I told her it was 9 months ago; it was a weird moment.

Fast forward to this year – and I finally got back in the flow (as t’were) after pregnancy and breastfeeding etc. I had three cycles, at which point reflecting on my behaviour caused me to pause for a moment and squint into the distance. I asked myself, ‘am I dealing with a split personality, or is this somehow…normal?’

Because, seriously. Let’s (wrongly) assume I have a 28 day cycle and take an average month. For half of it, I’d be a motivated writer, full of ideas and confidence and – crucially – the ability to sit down at my keyboard and write. Then for a quarter of it, I’d be unable to do anything but critique everything I’d written and snippily edit my work, finding fault with it all. Then, for the final quarter I’d be able to do NOTHING AT ALL. No words. Words would not happen. I wouldn’t even want to open my laptop, let alone muster up creative energy and pour it out.

That happened several times, and each time, that ‘dry’ week made me question everything. (As did the annoying critiquing month, but as least then I was still sort of writing).

And it’s not just writing. You should see my wardrobe. It’s the wardrobe of someone who doesn’t know who the hell they are. It’s mostly grey and black, and sensible boots and tights. But there are weird things in there. My pink fur coat. Suede pink platform sandals I can’t walk in. Tropical print skirts. Sheer shirts. Crop-tops. A jumpsuit! Cute, quirky slogan tees that I put on then immediately replace with something less controversial.

When I purchase those things, I’m desperate to wear them. But by the time they arrive and the weather is right for me to do so, it’s like I have no idea why they are in my wardrobe. It’s like someone else ordered them for me. A fun version of me. The version of me I like to think I am, but frequently turn out not to be.

I make social plans that just two or three weeks later I dread the thought of, despite my excitement at the time. I make plans to decorate my house in pastel colours, only to find a week and half later that I want to paint everything navy and embrace low-lighting.

I kind of rolled with it, but all along I wondered… Is it just me? Am I really just so insecure that I can’t make up my mind who I am or what I want? Because I don’t feel insecure. I like myself a lot, even if I never know quite which version of myself I’m going to wake up to.

Then I downloaded an ebook called Adore Your Cycle, by a women’s coach and author called Claire Baker. I’d followed her for a while via her blog, and something kept pulling me back to her and her approach to women’s health and periods. I made the decision to download her book – and just as I went online to do so, she sent an email with a 50% off code. Winner.

Honestly, it is transforming my life. I mean, I only read it last week, so it’s probably too soon to say, but the RELIEF and understanding that I experienced when I read the book was immense. She explains how women’s cycles follow different seasons – withdrawn, silent winter (when you’re bleeding), outgoing, flirty spring (up to ovulation), proactive and motivated summer (after ovulation), then reflective, critical autumn (pre-menstrual).

It explained all of my tropical-print skirts (bought them in my ‘spring’ phase). It explained my writers block (ALWAYS when I had my period, why did that not click sooner?!). It explained my drive to edit. It explained why for a week or so each month I’d suddenly want to change EVERYTHING ABOUT MY LIFE and do all the things I’d previously lacked confidence to do.

Ugh. Why did I not know this from the start? WHY? I can work with this knowledge! I know when to sit down and write, and when to expect my inner-editor to come out. I can plan for that! I can make peace with the fact that – for seven days or so, while my uterus decides to just fall to pieces – I’m actually not gonna want to create much, thanks. Just going to want to sit here, in silence, and watch chick flicks and cry about very small things. The book will wait.

And I know when to make life changes, and when to hold back. I know when to start trying to save the world, and when things are likely to overwhelm me and make me feel like my actions won’t be worth the effort. I know when to try and change my diet and make it stick. I know when to accept that I won’t be able to fight cravings, and to not give up just because I have a bad few days.

There is so much POWER in this knowledge. I can’t tell you how energised I feel by it. (I mean, I can tell you. That’s what I’m doing right now.)

You might relate to some of this, or you might relate to none at all and wish I’d stop saying ‘menstrual cycle’ already. I know when I mentioned it to my colleagues, they said I was sounding dangerously close to being someone who uses a Mooncup.

And you know what, I probably am. Maybe. (They are actually a lot bigger IRL than I imagined and that frightens me, so….it’s not a definite no.)

But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about being a hippie, earthy, ‘I am woman hear me roar’ do-gooder (I can only aspire to such giddy heights). This is about realising that we hold power in different ways at different times, and that if we learned to work with those powers instead of sucking it up and carrying on as normal, then maybe we’ll all be a little bit…better? Happier? Aligned with ourselves, at least. Empowered, definitely.

I’m going to be reading so much more into this. I’m quite excited about what else I might discover about myself. If you’re in any way interested, I’d recommend you check out Claire Baker’s website and see what resonates. Her free resources are a good place to start.

After a bit of experimenting, I’ve finally found the right week in the month where I can actually wear my red lipstick without feeling utterly ridiculous. I might even graduate to my jumpsuit, next cycle….

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Look lively, lads.

 

How do you know if you’re ready to self-publish? Part One

Long answer below. Short answer: You probably don’t, and that’s okay.

When you’re going the indie route, you don’t have an agent reading your work and deciding it’s worthy of their time. You don’t have a publisher bidding for your book. You don’t have a team of people validating your decision to write the story you’ve written, or approving the quality of your work.

You are, in this respect, alone.

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But never lonely! So many people have trodden this path before us and if there’s one thing you can count on with authors it’s that they LOVE to share their experiences. Which is good news for us newbies!

I don’t actually claim to know any answers here, guys. I’m exploring this with you. But I am reading and researching and absorbing everything I bloody can, and by jove I’m starting to understand a few things. I’ve been jumping on and off the fence about publishing my first novel, Tilted, later this year and I’m tired of all the jumping. I’m tired, and like every other sodding Brit right now (for different reasons) I just want to know one thing: am I in or am I out?

Putting our totally normal and human insecurities and self-doubts aside, there seem to be four key questions any wannabe indie publisher should ask themselves before making the decision to go go go. But first, ask yourself:

Is it obvious you’re self-published?

Because if it is, then you’re probably not ready. Is your formatting shonky? Is your cover done in MS Word (and if your title is in Comic Sans then NO. BAD WRITER!) or very obviously home-made? Does your story actually work or is it full of plot-holes? Is your writing polished and accurate? It’s unlikely you won’t know the answer to any of these but if you don’t, then chances are you’re not ready yet. Research the market. Read and learn from other indie authors. Get eyes on the project. And not your mum/spouse/best friend’s eyes: impartial ones.

1. Is your story ready?

The question isn’t ‘is it perfect’, but is it ready. It will never be perfect. The story idea might be perfect, the hook impeccable, the characterisation sublime – but there’s simply no such thing as a perfect story. It’s too subjective and too abstract, and there’s freedom in that. What started out in your head felt mind-blowing, ground-breaking, akin to a spiritual revelation, possibly – but getting it out of your imagination and into something as restrictive as language is really, really tough. The thing you felt and the thing you read will never be the same, but it doesn’t mean that the finished product isn’t absolutely worthy of being published. And once it is published, it has a chance of finding its way into the hands of the one or two readers out there who actually will think it’s perfect.

So how can you tell if your story is ready?

–          Do other people like it?

–          Are plots tied together?

–          Does it have a satisfying beginning, middle and end?

Readers are crucial – beta readers, critical partners, editors, friends, family, colleagues—whatever. Just get your story in front of people and beg them to be kindly honest. Don’t just say ‘do you like it?’ Ask them if it made sense, if it flowed, if it dragged, if characters were logical and believable, if anything confused them, if they wanted to stay up all night reading it or could quite happily go several weeks between chapters… (that’s always a red-flag for me, though as most of my beta readers are working mothers it’s not exactly conclusive…or so I tell myself).

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A developmental edit – while pricey – will really help with this, but my advice to those starting out is to start with beta reads, then progress to a professional beta read when you’ve taken on feedback and made obvious changes. This is usually a lot cheaper than a full developmental edit and will give you a good, overarching sense of whether or not the story works, and if not why not. Then you can decide whether you need professional help or can go (almost) the rest of the way on your own.

Takeaway – your story doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be a complete and compelling story.

2. Is your writing good enough?

Again, ask your readers. I remember my first ever reader – my dad – telling me in surprise, ‘it was so beautifully written!’ Looking back at that draft, it was gauche and clichéd and in need of serious editing—but that comment gave me the confidence that my writing had the potential to be beautiful.

I really believe you need an editor, though. Or at least someone who can perform the role of an editor, and I sense that it’s not as easy as it looks. I pride myself on my writing skills, and have even trained as a copywriter to really improve myself – but I’m still making basic errors and creating tangled sentences all the time. Sometimes I spot them, but mostly I don’t because you can only read your own work so many times before you just stop connecting with it. So pay as much as you can afford to get the best editor for your project.

And to be clear – you don’t have to be bloody Dostoyevsky. I maintain that Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most annoyingly-written books I’ve ever read, but I’ve still read it at least twice because something about the story and characters unexpectedly grabbed me. And the woman knows how to pace a novel, fo’ sho’.

Of course a novel will survive the writing not being devastatingly profound and heart-piercingly astute – but it does need to be accessible and clear.

Takeaway – grammar, spelling and sentence structure are the bare minimum – make sure your writing is enjoyable (only readers can tell you, and ideally ones you don’t know) and if you can get a pro to hone it, all the better.

That’s the technical side of things; in Part Two, I’ll dig into the mindset stuff. Are you ready to handle the reviews? Can you live with yourself if you chicken out of hitting publish?

CAN YOU??

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Until next time, players.

Girl, Wash Your Face (and get out of your pyjamas while you’re at it)

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I’ve only recently got into audiobooks, thanks to a free trial of Audible, and I’ve gotta say, they’re a real game-changer when it comes to livening up housework/playing peek-a-boo, with the baby/drinking wine secretly in a cupboard.

My second ever audiobook was Rachel Hollis’s Girl, Wash Your Face, and I feel that for slightly flustered, confused and inadequate-feeling mothers everywhere, this book has a lot of appeal. It’s read by the author, and she’s got a great, conversational tone. You feel like you’re having a heart-to-heart with her after an inhibition-lowering glass of wine. Plus, she’s so honest. She talks about shaving her toes, for crying out loud, not to mention the many other oft-hidden aspects of being a woman, wife, mother, worker and all the rest of it.

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In Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis debunks a number of lies we’ve been told about how we should feel or what we should do, in the hopes that we will shake off the shackles of societal pressures and reclaim our authentic, glorious selves. Hollis is a Christian and refers to her faith frequently throughout, but in a way that I found relevant to people of different or no faiths. (I know a handful of people who instantly go on the offended offensive the minute the G word is mentioned, so I guess for those, this ain’t the book.)

She covers a really wide range of topics with easy-going humour and frankness, touching on sex, relationships, career success, grief, parenting and appearance and much in between. I liked the chapter on achieving your dreams, on being a good writer, and particularly the final chapter: The Lie – I Need A Hero.

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These books often find me at the time I need them most, and I finished listening to this book on a chilly Thursday when I’d spent the whole day at home with my baby, a day when I hadn’t fully bothered to change out of my pyjamas, merely throwing a jumper over my PJ top and scraping my hair back into a messy, unwashed half-bun. I’d managed some writing while Little Pixie napped, but I was doubting my abilities, second-guessing my future and I definitely stank of fish courtesy of a jar of absolutely gross-smelling baby food.

The final line of the book is the titular ‘Girl, wash your face!’ and as I heard that, I realised that’s absolutely what I should have done that morning. It made me determined to do several things:

  • Throw away all of my slobby looking pyjamas-slash-leisure wear, so that I am no longer tempted to pretend that I have actually changed out of my sleepwear. Opening the door to the postie in a pair of flimsy button-down jammies, or a silky nightie, is a line I am not prepared to cross.
  • Wash my bloody face in the morning! I might not always be able to stretch to a morning shower (sometimes I just can’t deal with the crying and whining and baby clinging on to the edge of the bath and screaming every time a droplet of water hits her) but I can splash myself awake, slather on some CC cream and pucker up with some tinted lip balm.
  • Move this body. Writing is not a healthy hobby when it comes to posture and exercise. I bought a book on beginners Tai Chi several months ago with the intention to start in the new year. However, we’re now into February and I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of the book, plodding through a chapter on how to breathe properly. I need to set aside some time to speed-read it so I can stop making excuses and get to the step-by-step actual Tai-Chi bit. Also – I’m weirdly craving some sort of boxing/kick-boxing class. This must be a passing phase – I didn’t really enjoy learning karate that much in my twenties. I think I just want to feel strong and capable (as though I’m not already, after three years of carrying a child in one arm whilst hefting washing baskets up and down stairs).
  • Give my writing the credit it deserves. I’ve come so far, and absolutely no good can come of doubting myself now. My instincts have always served me well (when I’ve followed them, anyway. Who knows what kind of yacht-owning, mega-wealthy influencer I could be today if I’d followed that urge to start a make-up review website back in the early-noughties heyday of personal web pages – anyone remember Moonfruit.com??)

In summary – if you are a woman, and you ever doubt yourself or are holding onto any resentments over your past, your body or your abilities, then this is a really uplifting, honest and inspiring book. Run a bath, pour a glass of wine and listen to it on your bluetooth speaker. We all need a bit of tough love and gentle truths.

 

What does it cost to self-publish your book?

Here’s the thing: I don’t know. I have yet to actually publish my first novel, Tilted, but I suspect that by the time I finally press ‘publish’ on Amazon, I’ll have spent close to £2000.

And that’s without any actual marketing.

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Yikes! I mean, the dream is obviously that your book instantly sells 500,000 copies, makes you a millionaire and that initial outlay is as insignificant a memory as the steam that wafted up from yesterday’s morning coffee. But I’m only a part-time fantasist, and I think it’s probably sensible to hold off from putting an offer in on the country mansion and assume I’ll make diddly-squat from my (wonderful, marvellous, you-should-definitely-buy-it-when-it’s-released) novel.

So, I guess the first question should be:

Can you self-publish without spending anything?

For sure. For sure. But you’d need one of two things:

  • A really good network of readers and fellow writers/editors/graphic designers who can make sure you’re putting out a solid, good quality product; or
  • The ability to be happy with turning out a potentially (and noticeably) sub-par product.

Believe me, I researched self-editing tools and techniques for hours. I attempted to design my own cover on Canva. I’ve sent my book to about 6 friends to beta-read for me, and received great feedback. I absolutely could have just considered that a job well done and published.

And maybe I would have, were it not for another two things.

Firstly, I’ve read a number of self-published books on my Kindle, and I can usually spot the ones that haven’t had a thorough edit a mile off. And it PISSES ME OFF. Even though I’m a writer, I’m actually not that inclined to cut my fellow writers much slack when it comes to sloppy mistakes like getting character’s names wrong halfway through the book, or poor formatting, or just bland characterisation and plodding plots. In a draft? No problem! But a book you’ve published for the world to read? Nah. I wouldn’t put up with them in a traditionally published book, so why should I have to with an indie book? In most cases, I’m paying exactly the same amount for them.

(Aside: I’m by no means suggesting my novel is perfect, or that readers might not find all of those flaws in it should they be so inclined. Also, I’m a really picky bitch when it comes to stuff like that, I can’t help it. It’s a curse.)

Secondly, I saw the impact that a professional eye could have. I paid for a professional editor to beta read Tilted for me when it was at the third or fourth draft stage. The advice she gave ran to 4 pages and covered marketability, characterisation, pacing and the kind of constructive feedback I’d been craving from my other readers who, understandably, didn’t know enough about the nuts and bolts of writing a good novel to identify the areas I was weakest on/nailing. Then I had a couple of sample copyedits done on my final draft and boy, is there room for improvement. I thought my manuscript was tighter than my toddlers fist when someone asks for one of her raisins, but there was so much scope to improve and tighten and refine. (For example, I used 3 words there that all meant the same thing – they would not have made the edit.)

How much does it all cost?

I guess it differs for everybody, depending on budget, time and whether you consider your novel to be a means to a financial end or not. I don’t. I’m lavishing treats upon my novel in the same way I throw gifts and food and clothes at my kids in the hope that they’ll thrive, without ever expecting to break even. (How do you break even on a kid? Hope they become Oprah, or something?) I love writing, and producing a novel is all I’ve ever really wanted to do. People spend a lot of money on their hobbies, right? This is my hobby.

Also, it’s a pretty public hobby – once my book’s out there, anyone can judge me on it. It’s like doing a dance competition in front of everyone you’ve ever known; you’re not going to want to do that without some lessons, spray-tan and a seriously distracting costume, ammiright?

So I’m anticipating that my costs will end up looking like this:

Beta read: 200USD (about £160)

Editing: c. £1450 (could defo get it cheaper if you shop around and aren’t fussy on the style of feedback you get (and write a shorter novel…!) but I found a great editor I connected with and went with my gut)

Cover design: I’ve budgeted £150, but you can get pre-made covers for a total bargain. I purchased one I plan to use for a future YA novel for £30 and it’s gorgeous.

I also purchased Scrivener a while ago which has made the writing process a lot easier, and might consider using Vellum to format the book, so that could run to another £200 or so.

Total – c. £2000

Is it worth the investment?

The answer to which has to be that you’ll never know unless you do it. Like I said, this book and any future books will be my creative babies, and even if they never earn me a penny back, I’ll consider them totally worth the cost.

Having said that, I’m hoping that by splashing out on my first novel, any future books will benefit from my increased understanding of the process, of what a strong edit involves, and hopefully a good stash of pre-made covers that I’ll snap up as I see them.

If you want to quickly start making out of writing, then maybe this feels like too big a hit. If I sell my book for £2.99 then I’ll have to sell 1000 copies to make back my money. I don’t know 1000 people, and don’t have any money for marketing, so let’s just say I’m not pinning all my hopes on it.

I’m still dreaming big, though. Miracles happen every damn day.

And it’s worth saying, too, that I saved up a pot of money for this exact purpose, which makes the decision to spend it a bit easier.

In conclusion

Unless you are an editor yourself (and I suspect they still need outside editing) I think that you have to spend at least a bit of money on your manuscript if you want it to be the best it can be. You don’t have to. But having read the ones that chose not to, I think I’ll always feel better having done so.

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