Fiction Friday: Lessons about self-publishing my first novel

A Story to TellLast week I published my first novel on Amazon Kindle. I self-published, something often looked down upon by authors, writers in general and the culturally elite. But I did it anyhow because I figure life is too short to sit around and talking about writing a book, or how to write a book, or talk about other writers and how they write books, and then talk some more about how to get a publisher to publish your book, how to find an agent, how to get a contract, blah, blah, blah and then NEVER do it. (Yes, I realize that sentence was a run-on!)

For this week’s fiction Friday I thought I would share some lessons I’ve learned from delving into the world of self-publishing.

I’ve seen a lot of those writers who talk about how and what they want to write, but never write it, – especially on Youtube – and last week I turned 42. I’m really tired of talking about it and just wanted to finally do it –  for the heck of it, I guess you would say. Of course, now I wish I had taken a more time, but, so far, it’s fun and I have other novels I am working on and will be taking a lot more time on.

Do I hope to make money from the book? No, not really. Would it be cool if I did earn some money from it? Sure. But I’m not counting on it and that makes it a lot more fun. I’m definitely not counting on selling paperback books since the process of uploading one and having it formatted correctly on Amazon is very difficult and, so far, is driving me crazy. The paperback is definitely not formatted correctly, but I’m hoping I can remedy that this weekend.

Formatting a book for Kindle isn’t as difficult because there is an app you can download for it from the Kindle Direct Publishing, which you sign into using your Amazon account, if you have one. If you don’t have one, you can obviously set one up. You can also add an “add-on” to Word to help format the book for paperback but that’s where I got confused because I am stumped on how to add headers and page numbers. Hopefully I will figure it out for future books.

We live in a broken world, Blanche. Only God can mend us. We just have to pray he mends the broken hearts because that’s the only way to mend this broken world.”

First,  a little about online writing forums. Writing forums can be both good and bad. Writers get a lot of advice from other writers in writing forums, some of it good, some of it bad and some of it completely bizarre. I’ve found a lot of advice in writing forums to be negative and discouraging honestly. They encourage you to write, but then they set up about a hundred hoops you need to jump through before you ever do anything with that writing and they tell you all those hoops are required. If you don’t jump through the hoops, you’ll never make it as a real writer. Sometimes I think maybe it is okay if I’m never a “real writer” if there is so much drama to be one.

After you’re in one of these groups for awhile you could start to lose sight of everything you loved about writing and if you’re not careful you will be like me and question everything you’ve already written and everything you’re going to. When I starting writing A Story to Tell I just enjoyed seeing where the story was going and looked forward each night (which is when I find the time to write) to “telling” (writing) another part of it. Then I made the mistake of sharing part of it in a writing group.

“This is so cliche,” one person wrote.

“This is laughable. You can’t be serious,” another one wrote.

Not exactly encouraging. I almost wanted to give up, but then I remembered this is supposed to be fun and I’m writing it for people who need a distraction from life, not for literary critics.

Other advice in the writing forums included writing then rewriting, rewriting, rewriting and rewriting until your eyes bleed. After you rewrite you share it with strangers, called beta readers, and those beta readers tell you everything they hate about it and what you should fix. So you rewrite to please the beta readers, according to the people in the writing forums. And then you give it to another beta reader who says what they don’t like so you change what you wrote. Apparently, in the end, your book is no longer yours but written by a ton of beta readers. I’m being sarcastic, of course.

You really don’t have to take the suggestions of all the beta readers, but it is a good idea to have someone else read your book and help you with possible plot holes or errors. They are simply suggestions and usually are meant to help you improve. I learned with this book that in the future I need to be very careful of the beta readers I choose and to give them plenty of time to read said book. Otherwise, I will receive an angry (though warranted) message from the beta reader and when trying to explain myself will stick my foot further into my mouth. Not that I speak from experience. Also, beta readers should be strangers but friends and family can help catch typos and grammar issues (like missing commas, which I always have an issue with). I’ve learned through this experience to choose beta readers who are familiar with and enjoy the genre you write, as well. Otherwise you may completely bore your beta reader or have them provide suggestions that wouldn’t work for your book.

The biggest lesson I learned from publishing my first book is that everything in life you want to accomplish is a royal pain the bottom, super complicated, and that sometimes it is a royal pain in the bottom and complicated because we let too many people in on the project, all of whom have their own opinions on our books, our photography, our creative project and our lives. We have to remember that we can’t please everyone and we shouldn’t when it’s our story to write.

Yes, make sure your work is proofed and maybe even ask for suggestions on how to improve, or tighten the story line, but in the end don’t let the opinions of others change the vision of the story you have.

I’m sure I’ll have more lessons to share later, including a lesson on how to set up page numbers on Word documents because I still haven’t figured out how to do that.

I am working on the second part of Blanche’s story now, but won’t be ready to share it for a while. Next week, I plan to introduce a character from another novel I’m working on, The Farmer’s Daughter.

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Lisa R. Howeler

As a writer, photographer and former journalist, Lisa R. Howeler writes a little bit about everything on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She's a wife and a mother and enjoys a good John Wayne movie and a cozy Jan Karon book. She's also a freelance writer and photographer who is a contributor to various stock agencies, including Lightstock and Alamy. Her photography work focuses on documentary and photojournalism. She recently released her first novel 'A Story to Tell' on Amazon.

24 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: Lessons about self-publishing my first novel

  1. Very informative Lisa, I am not looking forward to all the hassle of formatting paperback covers. And I thought writing the book was the difficult bit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it really wasn’t fun at all and I’m hoping to figure out a different option if I print there again. The kindle covers aren’t as bad (though I need to learn how to design one for the next book) but Amazon needs to improve how they offer self-publish services.

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    1. I have no idea but the one guy just wrote self-published mysteries so I didn’t consider him an expert. What bothered me is they were talking about what I wrote like I wasn’t even on the thread in the forum. It was my thread so obviously I was there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just did this with my first book. I tried an e-book first to dip my toes in KDP. It was a major process, but it feels good to take control over your dreams. I honestly don’t listen to other writers, because as writers, we can be the most critical people. I know criticism can be beneficial, but sometimes, people are just down right cruel. Sending you support!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, jenni. Sometimes I want advice but I think there are nice ways to give it and awful ways. Some of these people were awful. They talked about me like I wasn’t reading the thread. I found uploading it to kindle to be a easy process, other than formatting the breaks I had in the chapters. Uploading the paperback has been a royal pain, as I said so right now there is one for sale with two different font sizes and the page numbers screwed up. I uploaded what I thought was the corrected version but it wasn’t and I now have to wait 72 hours to fix it! I only had a couple people who wanted print copies anyhow so I was going to order it for them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sorry that people can be awful. It was very difficult for me too, especially because I’m legally blind, and my zoom tools didn’t work with their cover creator. You should be very proud though, because self-publishing isn’t an easy feat.

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  3. Go Lisa Go! 🙂 You should be proud of what you have written and accomplished. You went out and did what so many others (a lot on that forum I’m going to guess) want to do. You bit the bullet and just did it. Congratulations again! You took the first step, who knows what will come next? God Bless!

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  4. Congratulations Lisa! That is exactly what I did with my book! Self-publishing with Amazon KDP is a great way to go! I look forward to buying and reading your book! I like your advice too. There are always going to be people who are critical and negative about everything. They are haters and haters are going to hate! I think more authors should self-publish. It makes for a more authentic book because you don’t have a bunch of editors trying to change it. My book is my testimony, so nobody was going to be messing with that. I had some trouble formatting the paperback version, but it got worked out. I never did put page numbers in my book though. 🙂 I can always go back and change it, but my book is more like a letter and it doesn’t really need page numbers anyway. I just wanted to get my testimony out to the world because that is what the Lord told me to do. P.S. I turned 41 this summer, so I’m right there with ya! God bless!

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    1. I did. It’s still very confusing for page numbers and setting up a book cover was a nightmare. I’ll check and see if I set up the wrong template. I have to upload the print copy again. I’m glad I’m not really promoting this book widely. It’s a great learning experience for future books! 😉 thanks for the help!

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