So in the course of a day, I dropped 7 books on the world. SEVEN. Granted, three of them are technically the same book (Books 1 and 2 of Generation Z, plus a volume with both books included), but that still leaves five then that I released in one day. The other four are from the Gutter Dogs series.
I decided to make a go at the self-publishing world because I love to write. For a long time, I wanted to be a writer/director like the Coen Brothers, or Tarantino, or Chris Nolan etc. but I lack patience. Well, patience and money. I feel like I have so many stories to tell, so many ideas to express, so many things to say, that film making wouldn’t be able to satiate them all. It takes a long time to make a film. Sure, it takes a long time to write a book too, but even longer to make a film, and so many other parts and people need to be involved to do it.
I’ve always felt the urge to tell stories, so while I was backpacking through Vietnam, I decided to write my first novella while in a coffee shop. I didn’t have a laptop at that point, so I wrote it by hand in a notebook over the course of a week or two. I’ve always preferred to write as much as I could by paper and pen before I needed to put it into a machine. That novella was “Summer of 94.” It was an idea I had been toying with in my head for awhile; the focus on how a kidnapping would effect a community, not just the victim, with plans to write it and try to pitch it as a TV series. The differing format took some getting used to, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing it. A great joy of writing comes from exploring different avenues of ideas, so what better format to do that than the traditional format of a book?
During the time of writing Summer of 94, I also started to research self-publishing, since I heard that’s a thing now. That’s how I found a program called Kindle Select. It’s designed for short reads, I think less than 30 000 words, and if selected, you get some promotion from Amazon for the book. Needless to say that since I don’t know how it works, exactly, Summer of 94 was not selected. But during that time, my girlfriend and I had settled in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I had already begun working on another novella, A Life Untold. I also decided to buy a laptop.
A Life Untold was adapted from another idea I had for a movie I wanted to write. This idea had been with me for awhile, since I went to film school at the New York Film Academy back in 2001. During that time, I tried to write many versions, dusting the idea off every couple of years to try and take another stab at it. None of them worked out until I decided to write it as a novella.
At this time, I learned about Kindle Direct Publishing, so I threw both those books on there. Superfly! I’ll just write and throw them up on Kindle and I can do my own thing. I’ll just keep writing and these puppies will sell themselves! Oh, right. I have to make a cover page. Okay.
KDP has a cover page generator you can use with templates and all that, so that’s what I did for Summer of 94. While doing this, I had also been doing more and more research into self-publishing and most people recommended to design the covers outside of Kindle, so that’s what I did with A Life Untold, and redid the cover for Summer of 94.
Just when I thought I could just sit back and write and the books would find an audience…
That’s when my foray into self-publishing really started.
I can’t afford to pay anyone to do anything, so I have to do everything myself. To design covers, I had to learn Photoshop. I thought I had a rudimentary understanding of the program to begin with, but now that I’ve learned more, I think I finally reached the level of beginner. Never judge a book by it’s cover unless it’s actually a book. It’s the first thing people see and will make a potential reader interested or not, so apparently, covers are important.
Then came this website. Scouring the web, it’s pretty common knowledge that authors in this day and age need a website. They need a mailing list. They need a blog. So while learning Photoshop, I have to learn how to put together a website, and hopefully make it look cool.
But it also has to showcase your “brand.” Your “brand” is what a reader expects of you. The genre you write in, the style you right in, basically what they can expect. Okay, cool, so then I had to decide what brand I wanted to have and how the site would reflect that on top of learning how to build a site in the first place. (The brand I went for was “cool and mysterious” if you couldn’t tell)
There’s not just the website though. Nuh uh. There’s SEO (search engine optimization) you have to learn about, there’s Google Analytics, there’s an e-mail subscription service. Look at me sounding like I know what I’m talking about!
There’s marketing you have to learn about and how to do – marketing of your books and your brand. There’s social media that you have to be aware of and use as a tool. Marketing is a whole other beast that I’m just starting to get into. There’s advertisements, book reviewers, free giveaways, countdown deals, pricing, forums, writers groups, sites that guarantee sales and on and on and on.
And then there’s blogging which you’re supposed to do.
Plus, you want to write. You want to get better. You want to tell stories.
I want to make a real go at this, so I’ll spend an entire day tinkering around in Photoshop learning how to make a shadow or wrap a picture around a book so it looks presentable. I’ll spend a day researching plugins or learning how to tell Google that my site is here for people to find. I’ll take the time to properly format an e-book so you don’t notice anything in the work to take you out of the story.
My intention wasn’t to write a post saying “woe is me.” It has surprised me how much work going into the self-publishing world has been. It was a lot I never expected. Even though I spend every waking moment either writing, thinking about writing, or doing the peripheral work of writing, it still doesn’t seem like work. As frustrating as it can be, I will continue to do it, and I will continue to enjoy it.
I will do it because I want to write. I want to get better. I want to tell stories.
Thank you for going on this adventure with me.