From dreams to reality, my self-publishing journey
Have you ever picked up a book, examined the cover, read the blurb, then escaped into the magic that is its content and think to yourself…hmm, this seems like it would be easy to do this myself? Okay, maybe you don’t really think that, but in case you did, I’m here to tell you that becoming a published author, more specifically a self-published author isn’t as easy as you may think. How do I know that? You’re probably wondering…Well, I am a self-published author. I published my first book December 2015, and my second just this past April. And let me tell you, those wonderful accomplishments did not happen without some trials and many errors.
Let me give you a little back story. I was seventeen years old and was getting ready to graduate high school in a matter of months and college was on the horizon. I couldn’t WAIT!...Did I just yell? Yes, yes I did, that’s how excited I was. I was ready for new possibilities, a new atmosphere, and new peers. I’m going to be honest, my imagination and day dreaming capabilities are crazy. So I was sitting at my grandmother’s computer and of course, I was picturing a whole new life; a college life and BAM! That’s how my book series was created…Well, I did a little more than just picture stuff, but you get the point. Throughout my remaining high school months and my tenure as a college student, I completed the first two books of the series. By the way, my major in college was Computer Science. Yes, Computer Science, not English, not Creative Writing, like I enjoyed doing. A word of advice to any future college student; please major in something that you love and not what you think is going to make you money because you will not be happy, trust me.
That needed to be said. Anyway, I wrote because I loved it, I wrote because it was the one thing that brought me peace when things got hectic. I wasn’t even writing for anybody, it was only for me. Writing became something that I had to do. Fast forward to my twenties, I was out of college, not working in the field that I majored in (told you), and still writing. By that time I had finished the third book of the series and started on the fourth. It was around that time that I thought, hey! Maybe other people would enjoy reading my books just as much as I enjoyed writing them. Well, I sent two publishers sample chapters of my un-professionally edited manuscript and yep, you guessed it; I was rejected. I became discouraged and just as quickly as I started, I gave up. I started a new relationship and was so blissfully occupied, that my mind was no longer filled with the overflow of scenes like it normally was. Then, the scenes completely stopped. Well, hello writers block. (Yes, it is very real). Fast forward, let’s say five years later and I started getting ideas again. Hello imagination! How I’ve missed you and all of your funny, sad and drama filled scenes. I started writing more of book four. Not much, but it was something. I was just happy that my creativity was returning. Then, after I got married, I had a career crisis. I was working in a position that I—let me see if I can put this nicely…hated…Sorry, I couldn’t find a nice way to put that. And I started thinking about what I wanted to do in life. The one thing that my mind came back to, was the one thing that I have always loved to do, that I was meant to do…writing.
That same year, (2015), I decided to get serious with my writing career. I finally hired an editor, who by the way completely helped me perfect my writing style. I am not above saying that my pre-editor writing style was terrible. Now don’t get me wrong, my story concept was good, my characters were and still are amazing, but…the style was just…so bad. In the process of having my first book overhauled, I finished the draft of book four and started book five. Then throughout that summer, I queried more agents, while I completed book five. Now, I expected to get rejections; that’s the nature of this business. Top agents and publishers are very selective. I know that my genre of New Adult contemporary is something that is new. Also, I am a black author who writes fiction for a black ensemble cast of characters; but my books are not the typical “urban fiction” or “street lit” book, which isn't too heard of nowadays, either. Last but not least, my series is long as hell...nine books long...It's doable and totally works for my concept, but yeah, no publisher wants that, and no agent wants to try to sell that. With those factors, I knew that self-publishing was for me. Self-publishing also allows me to have the control that I want. These books are my babies and someone telling me that I can’t have control over my content, cover, title, etc, just doesn’t sit well with me. Now, don’t get me wrong, if one of the big five publishers happen to want me, then I’ll be up for talking, hehe, But for now, I’m content with being Indie.
Now, once I decided on what to do, you’re probably thinking, piece of cake huh? No, no, no and more no....Just no. First off all, the amount of information out there on self-publishing; from figuring out if you want or need your own ISBN's, to deciding what publishing platforms to use, to formatting, to cover designers, hell, to picking a catchy title….it’s so much and can be overwhelming at times. Writing the book was the easy part. Coming up with a catchy title that will work throughout the entire series was freakin' hard. How do I sum up the entire concept of this series? The storyllines of these characters? Ooh…light bulb “The College Life series” Boom!...or should I say Bam?....well, anyway, I had a name for the series and knew what each book title would be. Mission accomplished.
Next up, cover. Now researching a cover artists was pretty simple, I asked around in an author forum that I joined. I took their suggestions and did my own research before deciding to work with my current artists, who is just amazing! Finding another editor was also pretty simple, found her on the same forum....Side note, researching is soooo important. You can't take people's word for jack. Do your own research. Seriously, it will save you wasted money and disappointments.....Anyway, back to the process.....me being the control freak that I am, I wanted to learn formatting on my own. That was “fun”. There were nights when I was up until midnight and beyond....on a damn work night. Just staring at the laptop with blurred eyes and a short temper, trying to figure out how to format my word file for kindle upload. God! I can’t count how many times I almost flipped my desk over and threw my laptop out of the window...and threw my fat ass cat out after it....okay the cat part was a joke. But, through trial and much error, I figured it out. Same goes for formatting the print file, which is a pain as well.
In the beginning of 2015, I set a goal. That no matter what, my first book would be published by the end of said year. I cut it close, but by the end of December, “College Life 101: Freshman Orientation” was published. Whew! From there I kept going. I started and finished book six, started book seven, redrafted books three…oh and redrafts are the worst. Especially when your writing style has completely changed from when you were in your twenties. Sheesh. (If you read my blog post titled; "redraft hell" you get the picture.) I published book two; “College Life 102: Social Learning” this past April, finished book seven, started book eight, and am set to release book three in November. I’m promoting myself, scheduling literary events, book signings, etc. And I am doing all of this while working a full time job and being a wife.....Needless to say, it gets tough at times, but it's rewarding. I know that I have a long journey ahead of me before I become that bestselling, famous author who has the TV show and movie deal. But I’m miles from where I started. The lesson that I want people to take from my experience, is that no matter the age or circumstances, if you have a dream, a passion, take the steps that you need in order to make that dream a reality. I never wanted to be that person, who at old age looks back on her life and regrets not taking the road less traveled out of fear. I know of someone who has done that and I refused to follow that same pattern. I know my capabilities, I know my gifts and I know that eventually, with hard work, faith, patience and determination, that I will achieve every goal that I set. And so can you.