On May 12th, my debut novella, Cutting the Bloodline, was released. This was my first adventure in self publishing, and there have been a lot of lessons to learn along the way.
Self publishing is a steep learning curve, but if you’re willing to put the time in, it’s such an amazing feeling of accomplishment when you have your final book, and you know that you did it all. It’s like assembling complex flat-pack furniture, or baking a cake. It also gives you complete control. You’re not left waiting for months, wondering how things are progressing, scared to ask because you don’t want to be that angsty-control-freak-writer that no one wants to work with.
One big thing I’ve learnt is this: I thought that writing the book would be the hardest, most time-consuming part. It wasn’t. Things that are harder than writing the book:
- Writing the blurb. Never before in my life have I tweaked 100 or so words so many times. Or over such a long time period. Weeks after writing it, I was still changing the odd word, changing it back, changing it back again.
- Starting on edits. I avoided my manuscript for two months before I dared to tackle the edits. Turns out, edits aren’t as bad as I always thought they were.
- Holding my bladder after my thirtieth cup of coffee, and trying not to binge-eating chocolate.
And while I’ve learnt a lot of new things along the way, I’ve found that I could call on assets I already had:
- While there are easier ways to code an ebook, I used Sigil, which gave me greater control over what my book would look like. Turns out all the basic coding I learnt from the days of MySpace came in very useful. Who knew?!
- And the network of writers that I’ve been building up over the last few years, they came in useful too. Knowledge, experience, support, promotion, blog space. All of that. So, even if you’re a long way off writing your first book, it’s never too early to start building your network.
- Likewise, your writer’s platform. I already have a solid, well-established platform with my website and blog, and my social network profiles. I wasn’t starting from scratch, promoting my book to a following of zero.
- While my friends and family may not be able to beta read to a technical level, or have a blog with thousands of followers in a suitable niche, they have championed me and my book so much. And that has actually been really important. All the way, their approval, their pride in me, that’s spurred me on.
- I am so lucky that I have a very talented illustrator and graphic designer for a brother. Not only did he create the cover, but he created all my promotional banners too. (All done at family rate!) You can check out his work here: estragonhelmer.com
And don’t think that hitting ‘publish’ on Amazon is the end of it all. There’s the blog tour to organise, the launch party, the ongoing promotion (all while planning your next book). I can see why a lot of writers pay people to do this stuff for them. Seriously, it took me three days just to organise announcing that my book was ‘coming soon’.
I wish I was a better organiser. I’ve approached all of this with my usual make-it-up-as-I-go-along attitude. This has probably made it all a lot harder than it really needed to be. But having that network already in place, having spent years paying it forward by promoting other indie writers, I had a lot of people willing to return the favour. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learnt through all of this, is this:
There are people out there ready, and willing to help you. It won’t necessarily be the people you expect it to be, in fact, it probably won’t. But all you need to do is ask.
Cutting the Bloodline
Not everyone is born innocent.
A generation of defective children were abandoned. They grew up on the fringes, without rights, without a way to change their fate.
Journalist Kenton Hicks is driven to tell their stories, but these are not stories everyone wants told. As he digs deeper, he finds that the discovery of the criminal gene, the foundation of their crime-free utopia, isn’t quite the salvation it promised to be.
Armed with a book that could bring down the government, Kenton finds the country’s future in his hands.
Some see him as a saviour, others as a traitor. It’s time for him to choose which he will become.
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