Updated: Apr 21
A year ago today, I didn't dream I would publish twelve books within twelve months (or sell more than ten books altogether, ha!) But guess what? I've sold over 500 physical copies over the past year and just entered the Kindle Vella publishing world this month! So, wish me luck. And keep reading; I hope this post helps your publishing journey!
Lemme start by saying: there is no "easy" way to self-publishing - mainly when you start a business without any money to invest... But it's possible! Keep believing in yourself, work hard, be a part of the community, take baby steps, and work even more!
Let me start by telling you a little bit about me:
I studied Design, and then I specialized in video games. After years of working as a game designer in multiple countries, I was let go in mid-2021 due to a company cut. Some other facts? English is my third language. I'm also a mom and wife.
When I was let go last year, I was going through a difficult phase of my life: I had just lost a baby. So I talked to my husband and decided to stay home enjoying my firstborn before I went job hunting. But that didn't mean I stopped working, I started a printable business on Teachers Pay Teachers and Etsy [which failed miserably for a few months lol], so I thought about giving up, although I wanted to be home with my daughter... That's when the magic happened! I met Carli Valentine (author of 'Extra Special Heart'), a thoughtful, supportive, and incredible woman, who told me about POD:
"P-O-WHAT?" - I asked.
"Print on Demand," she said.
I learned more about KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and the fact you don't need to pay a ton of money upfront to print books in bulk. POD companies take a big cut out of each book sold, BUT you don't need a considerable investment to start, which was the only thing I could try because I had no money to invest in this.
At first, I was SUPER skeptical. But I googled the heck out of POD. Then I learned about IngramSpark, Lulu, Draft to Digital, and more. Right then, I decided to transform one of my printable packs into a book! "Tracing Letters: ASL Handwriting Book" came out on December 22, 2021 (exactly a year ago today!), followed by "Tracing Numbers: ASL Handwriting Book" on December 28, 2021. I got fantastic feedback from educators, the Deaf community, and parents, which was super exciting but not much financial return... However, that didn't stop me from keeping on going.
I can't say how many weekends I spent typing away on my computer. Or how many days I was up until 3 or 4 in the morning (I go work on my books after putting my toddler down, so days are extra long). What about all the gigs I did to pay the bills? Clients like S. E. Richey (author of "Lulu and The Missing Tooth Fairy"), who hired me to create activity sheets and reformat her books, or Misty Black (author of "Can Quilliam Learn to Control His Temper?"), who hired me to translate one of her books... Each one of my clients gave me just enough hope (and money) to keep pushing through. I hope I helped them grow as much as they helped me.
Being a writer means having critique groups, editing your manuscripts over and over, and maybe even illustrating if you are also an artist (or paying someone to do so - and if that's the case, PLEASE SIGN A CONTRACT and avoid future problems). As a self-published author, you also need to deal with book formatting, social media management, or even advertising lol I've never worn so many hats (and let's be honest, I'm not good in all of them, but I try my best).
"Along Came Oliver" is my biggest seller so far! It was covered by the media and released in multiple languages - it even has an activity book to go with it that I'm proud to offer for free (which brings me to: do work on a good lead magnet to get subscribers!) Teaching kids about jealousy, friendship, and social skills is a dream coming true, and having a book that sold made me believe in myself again.
That's when another incredible, kind, and caring author (yes, the support of the self-published community is essential to your success, you all, so help your peers!) was a bridge to get to Barnes & Noble! BARNES & NOBLE, YOU ALL! Jennifer Decker (author of Oliver and the Wishing Star) and I were soon hosting the First Storytime at Barnes & Noble in Sugarhouse (Salt Lake City, Utah) after the pandemic: HOLLY MACARONI! My stomach filled with butterflies!
I've learned about the magic of Publisher Rocket with keywords and categories, lol About IBPA (membership to get discounts when buying ISBNs or uploading books on IngramSpark), ALLI (another membership that also gives IngramSpark codes to upload and edit books for free), and how to request an LCCN. I've joined more critique groups than I can count lol Somewhere in the middle, I started two YouTube channels: @mamaishere2021 (for books & crafts with an inclusive - ALL VOLUNTEER BASED - Storytime parents and teachers can use) and @writerversejourney (to help authors with publishing processes and questions).
I've learned that marketing takes even more time than writing and publishing together, lol, And that growing a newsletter takes time & patience (again: don't forget that special lead magnet to draw people in!). Did you know that launches are better if you push as much as possible before the publication date and maybe have a launch team to help boost the algorithms?
There are tons of things I would have done differently, and also some I would stick with! One way or another, please feel free to ask me questions. And check the list of author resources I have on my website, scroll through, and see if anything in there can help you (:
Are you telling me to publish 12 books in 12 months?
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Lol I'm sharing my own story. Each author's journey is their own: respect your own pace. I'm definitely slowing down next year (and I'm also delegating some book illustrations this time, so cheers to trying something new!)
Some self-publishing with POD tips to get publishing your books:
ALWAYS, I MEAN ALWAYS work with a contract (for illustrators, translators, book editors, etc.). It might sound easy to work with anyone other than yourself, but it is not! Setting expectations will avoid bad blood lol Just a tip (;
Start advertising waaaay before publishing your book. Set up your social media accounts, share illustration processes and character sheets, and work up to the cover reveal... Create as much hype as possible, even if the process takes a month or a year. It doesn't matter.
Start a website (honestly, I couldn't afford anything and still have a free Wix website because I still don't make enough money to host a paid one). You need a spot to give information about your books, promos, etc. Start your newsletter, even if you have only one subscriber <3 You will grow!
Plan on publishing in places other than KDP, but you can always start in one place and grow from there. baby steps (;
I recommend having an eBook of your book on KDP and creating free day promotions. If people like your book, they might buy it (; One way or another, you can get reads & reviews. Also, explore other formats and see what works for your audience (paperback, hardcover, audiobook, etc.)
Plan each step, and try to put due dates for yourself (and give yourself more time than you think you'll need). But don't freak out if you can't make it, life happens, and sometimes we need to adjust things. Just do your best.
Be a part of the author community. Genuinely support your peers; they might do the same if they are good people.
Don't fall for scammers or vanity presses (if someone asks you for money, GOOGLE THE HECK OUT OF THEM). Ask peers if they have ever heard of them, etc.
If you can afford it: hire people to do things you are not too good at doing - or maybe you don't have the time to. Remember: illustrations and covers are as crucial as the story itself, so make sure they look good. I know more than most people that sometimes you don't have the money to invest; that's why I got in so many critique groups and asked friends and family to review my manuscripts repeatedly! But if you have little to invest in, try to plan your budget and use it wisely to help your book succeed.
If you can choose, go for a series! Each book will boost the previous ones, helping you with marketing.
You will likely NEVER be 100% perfect. My rule of thumb is: if I'm 80% happy, I will stop working on it and publish it. Otherwise, you will get stuck on the project for too long.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and for being a part of mine! Let's celebrate this 12-month mark together and... Don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter; there is a giveaway coming!!!
⭐ BOOKS YOU'LL LOVE ⭐
And feel free to connect with me on Instagram/TikTok/Facebook: @writerversejourney