My Self-Publishing Journey – One Year On

My Self-Publishing Journey

It’s not every day that you get to enjoy an anniversary. This post isn’t about any sort of relationship, though, it’s about my self-publishing journey so far. Several friends of mine suggested writing a sort of “one year on” wrap-up post, so I’ve put together some of what I’ve done, how I’ve done it, and what’s still to come in the very early stages of my author career.

 

What I’ve Done

Moroda went live on Amazon as an eBook 31 March 2017. The paperback followed about a month later, though I self-distribute these. And just yesterday, 30 March 2018, the audiobook of Moroda (narrated by the absolutely spectacular Georgie Leonard) went live.

So I’ve produced my debut novel in all three formats, which are available worldwide.

Sales

My total sales are 535 copies, split between 407 paperbacks and 128 ebooks. I do hope the audiobook sales will be as popular as the other formats have been, as it brings the World of Linaria to life in a way that words on a page simply can’t.

Whether you’d call me successful or not depends on your measure of success. Am I an award-winning best seller? Certainly not. But I have managed to introduce several hundred people to my world and characters, many of whom have enjoyed it. I’ve grown close to readers, writers, reviewers, bookbloggers (and booktubers!), and consider a great number of people my friends. I’ve learned so much about writing and reading and have been welcomed into this incredible community, and for me, that is definitely success.

Not only that, but I’ve attended a handful of Comic Conventions where I’ve sold and signed my books (and bookswag!), and met so many wonderful people. My “network” to use a buzzword, has grown, and my life is all the richer for it.

Extras

Since 31 March 2017, I’ve also had artwork commissioned of the eight main characters (you can see them in full here), which I’ve turned into bookmarks and artwork books in A4 and A5, and had a map of Linaria commissioned also. These are wonderful touches to act as companion guides and really expand the novel into something tangible. They’ve been hugely popular, and I hope to have more artwork created as subsequent books are published.

I’ve also created my mailing list (you can sign up to it here!). This has been on my to do list since this time last year, but I’ve given in to panic and procrastination, and it’s taken up until now to set it up. I now send out emails on the second Tuesday of every month, containing announcements, updates, news, and events, for those who want to know more about me and the World of Linaria. As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a high-res digital copy of the Linaria map, and there will be more freebies to come, so stay tuned!

My confidence has grown, mostly through meeting and talking to people at conventions (particularly other writers and aspiring authors), though with the confidence increase, the pressure has also gone up. Moroda is certainly rough around the edges, and I’m keen for the sequel to surpass Moroda in every respect. As such, my release date has been pushed further back. Currently it’s May/June 2018, and I’m keen to not budge on that.

I’m determined to produce a better book every time, and that perfectionism increases my fear of failure, too. By this time next year, however, Palom will be released and I hope to have book three – Amarah – well underway as well.

 

How I’ve Done It

I wrote a five-part guide explaining how I kicked off my self-publishing journey a while ago. If you’ve not read that, you can do so here

Once my manuscript was complete, uploading it to Amazon on KDP was simple. They have very good “how to” guides to help you through the process; everything from cover imagery to formatting is covered, and loading the manuscript was super easy.

Paperbacks

The paperbacks were a little different. I wanted to have stock of my books rather than use a print on demand (POD) service like Amazon’s Createspace. There were a number of reasons for this: I wanted to have control over the finished quality of the product, rather than be limited by any POD service’s pre-set templates. I wanted to ship them myself rather than pay a distributor to do so (publishing in paperback is such a huge investment that saving any money where possible is hugely important), and this would also enable me to sign copies or include extras in the package when I shipped them off. Additionally, Createspace printers are not in the UK, so if I ordered author copies for myself, I’d need to pay international shipping costs (extortionate when coming from the US) as well as wait three weeks or so for them to reach me. It lacked the control and convenience that I was looking for, so I discounted the option.

As such, I needed to find a printer whose quality, service, and price I was happy with. While it is a huge investment to pay up front – not to mention a risk in case you’re left with stock that never sells – I definitely didn’t want to go with a POD service. There were a number of printers recommended (found through a simple Google search and also recommendations on various writing groups and forums I’m part of – you can find several on Facebook), so I contacted a few and requested they sent a sample of their product. Most were happy to oblige.

The printers who had the best product (not to mention friendly, helpful advisors and an excellent price) for what I wanted were Clays Ltd. They specialise in helping indie authors, and as they’re also based in the UK, their shipping times were fantastic. My first print run of Moroda was 150 copies. I chose the colour of the paper as well as thickness, the finish on the cover, and added some extra touches such as embossing the title. Although it was an investment in the book and myself, I’m utterly thrilled with the finished product. I do feel it would stand up against any traditionally published book, and I’m incredibly proud of how Moroda looks and feels.

I was fortunate enough to sell out of the paperbacks within a few months (not to mention giveaways), and my second print run was 400 copies. These are now close to selling out, and I’ll be ordering my third print run very shortly. I highly recommend Clays – even when there were some issues with a number of copies, they were quick to respond and only too happy to help put things right

Distribution

As far as distribution went, I wanted to do this myself for the above reasons. I use Royal Mail 1st Class, which ships anywhere within the UK in a day or two, and usually within two weeks if it’s going internationally, depending on the country. I’ve only had one book go missing, and that was to an address in Brooklyn, USA which I’ve since learned is notorious for losing post. I swallowed the loss and reposted it on a tracked service and it arrived without a problem.

Many people who order paperbacks like them to be signed, and I’ve made it simple. If someone orders a paperback through my website (a one-click Paypal button makes payment quick, easy, and secure), they drop me an email and I can write the dedication before it goes out.

Events

Convention Stand Convention Stand 2

The other thing that has really helped with my paperback sales are attending Comic Cons. There are a number of these throughout the UK, with MCM and Showmasters events being the biggest. I tested the water by attending the two-day convention in Exeter (you can read my wrap-up of the event here), and was lucky enough to sell 110 copies of Moroda. I also met so many wonderful people who have gone on to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and do keep in touch over email.

Following my success there, one of the other dealers sent me a link to a website with all upcoming conventions in the UK and Ireland for the next year. I’ve booked tables at a number of these conventions, with MCM Birmingham (a couple of weeks ago) and London Film and Comic Con (in July) the biggest by far.

I’m always on the lookout for conventions, so please do let me know if there are any local to you and I’ll see if I’m able to get a table!

Audiobook

Finally, producing the audiobook. It was something I’d wanted to do, particularly as people at conventions continually asked about it, but I was worried about the enormous amount of money that I thought needed to go into it. Considering I’ve already invested a few thousand in paperback printing and artwork commissions etc., additional funds weren’t something I had readily available. I used Amazon’s ACX platform, and was delighted to find many narrators accept a 50-50 royalty split, with no up front costs.

I followed the guidelines for creating my audiobook request, and waited for auditions to come through. Reviewing auditions was a lot of fun, as there are so many talented narrators out there. The audition by Georgie Leonard, however, blew all the others out of the water. After providing a few more pronounciation guides, Georgie began production on the audiobook, and here we are a few months later with it live on Audible and Amazon!

 

What I’ve Learnt

Publishing a novel is an achievement that can never be taken away, though it is a steep learning curve. I certainly don’t have a recipe for success down, and I’m refining my process as I go.

It’s not something you can do on your own. Certainly not for me, anyway. It’s collaborative – whether you’re bouncing ideas around others, critiquing writing, or need a bit of support (or a kick up the backside!), you need others around you to motivate you and help you grow. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a fantastic writing group called Garage Fiction. While we’ve not been able to record a podcast for a while, we still talk every week and critique each others work. The growth of our writing is clear to see, and my own has benefitted exponentially from their advice and help. My key bit of advice for any aspiring writer (other than the standard “read a lot and write a lot”) is to join a writing group. Preferably a smaller one, where you can all be responsible for helping one another. You’ll improve far more with your peers than you would working alone.

I do need to take my own advice. I mentioned my confidence has increased, but so too has the pressure to do well. I’ve always struggled with self-esteem issues (thank you, ACE score of 8), and my fear of not being worthy/good enough/stupid is never more prevalent then when it comes to sharing my writing. The panic attack I had when my debut novel went live is something I’ll never forget, and something I know I’ll experience again. However, never trying is worse than failure. At least if you put something forward, fail, and then re-visit it to improve it, that’s better than never putting anything down in the first place. It isn’t easy, certainly, and by admitting weaknesses and flaws, I’ve a better chance of overcoming them in the future. And writing novels is something I very much want to be doing long into the future.

Develop a thick skin. Many people tell authors they need to let poor reviews roll off their back. It isn’t easy. We’re opening our inner workings to the world. It’s a very vulnerable position. While reviews are for readers, not authors – there’s little that’ll convince someone to try out an unknown book/author more than rave reviews of someone whose opinion they value – it’s difficult to not be affected when readers dislike your work. Not everyone will like your work, that’s part of art being subjective. Learning to focus on the critique, not the criticism, and improve on those points in subsequent writing is the only way to deal with it, unless you ignore reviews altogether. (Of course I love those four and five star reviews when they come through!)

 

Prioritise. You can’t force good writing, especially if you’ve had a bad day/week/month. But you can still dedicate a portion of your time to it, even if you’re in a creative slump. It can be extremely difficult to deal with when you sit down to find the words won’t come, but you must prioritise your writing time and persevere. Be aware of what works for you, whether that’s writing early in the morning or late at night, whether you’re in a silent room or have music, whether you have a cup of tea and biscuits or treat yourself when you reach small milestones.

Stop wasting money. My background in marketing gave me a small advantage, however it’s wrong to assume I’ll do well because of it. I wasted a lot of money on Facebook ads that I simply didn’t need to. Having more than one book before you start delving into paid ads is definitely a good piece of advice that I ignored, to my loss. Take a step back, and breathe. Rushing never helped anyone, and especially not when it comes to your hard-hearned money.

 

What’s On The Horizon

I have been incredibly busy, and it’s definitely a juggling act when wanting to write and market my author life around working full time. But there are some awesome things coming up!

I’m going to get my webshop live in the next couple of months, so you’ll be able to not only buy the Moroda paperback, but also bookswag including bookmarks, character artwork books, and maps!

World of Linaria Series

Book two in the World of Linaria series, Palom, will be finished soon. I’m working on the final edits (unfortunately my previous editors have dropped out so I’m hoping to sort something out soon), and I’m putting together a small ARC team. If you’d like to receive a copy early, please get in touch! I do request you leave a review of the book on Amazon on the book’s launch day, however.

I’ve written a spin-off novella called Rise of a Sky Pirate, which follows Amarah some twenty years before the events of book one in the main series. This is a taste of my writing for anyone who’s just discovered me, and also a nice way back to the world for those who are patiently waiting for book two! I’ll be giving this novella away for free to everyone on my mailing list in May, so if you want to delve back into the World of Linaria sooner rather than later, please sign up and you won’t miss out! You can sign up to my mailing list here:

Here’s a sneak peak of the cover:

Rise of a Sky Pirate

Once Palom is released, I’ll touch up book three, Amarah, and work out when this will be published. It’s likely to be some time in 2019.

Other Writing

I’ve also outlined a new YA urban fantasy series that will be kindle-only. Much shorter than the World of Linaria novels, these will be released in late 2018 as a new flavour of my writing, and to branch out to something slightly different. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll be the first to know about this when I have more information to share!

Here’s a sneak peak of the cover of book one:

Crimson Eyes

 

Additionally, my writing group Garage Fiction is putting together an anthology that will be released on Amazon in Autumn this year. I’m contributing at least one piece to this, so I’ll definitely post an update once that is available to pre-order/has gone live!

Final Thoughts

Goodness, this post is a LOT longer than I thought it would be, but so much has happened in the past year, I don’t want to miss anything out!

If you have any questions or want to know more, please do leave a comment below (I have to approve all comments due to high quantities of spam, please don’t be put off by this!), or you’re welcome to email me on lauren@llmcneil.com, or contact me through my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.

Thank you for reading and following my author journey!

Happy reading!

 

P. S. If you’re interested in grabbing yourself a copy of Moroda, the links are below!

You can buy Moroda in paperback directly through my website.

You can buy Moroda as an eBook through Amazon.

You can buy Moroda as an audiobook through Audible.

Read the book? Please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads!

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