Jumping into Self-Publishing

It is my pleasure to introduce a guest blogger today.

Drae Box

At the age of fourteen, Drae completed writing her first book, The Royal Gift, and didn’t stop. By the time she left college, she had gone on to complete six other books’ first drafts and was writing the scenes for another twenty-one books. This year she publishes for the first time, launching two books on 16th December: The Royal Gift and Kateti. Kateti is currently available for free download by subscribing to Drae’s email list, and a free preview of The Royal Gift is available at her website.

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Welcome, Drae. We look forward to reading about your journey into self-publishing.

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Back in 2003, I wrote a tale of a girl, slightly older than me, heading off on what appeared to be a hopeless mission. I didn’t realise it at the time, but The Royal Gift and it’s protagonists would continue to sit with me, on buses, in cafes, in boring theatre productions and terrifying dreams.

I was writing for fun. For my own pleasure. Nobody else was reading about Raneth and Aldora, I still write for my own pleasure, but it’s changed since 2003. Now, I also write to share my characters’ lives with others, and give others a small piece of entertainment that I hope, when they get to the end, only makes them want more.

In 2007, I was in college, and had written more books since The Royal Gift. I sent a few unsolicited manuscripts out to literary agents, following their requests of exactly what to put in those envelopes, but it wasn’t my focus. My focus was Raneth and Aldora, along with their friends and enemies, and characters from other books I was working on,
I didn’t get an agent, but I did get one possibly personalised rejection in 2009, with the at-the-time latest version of The Royal Gift.

Life struck after that, and the adventures of my characters slowed down as I sought jobs, moving home multiple times when I got them. My writing routine was broken. It wasn’t until 2012 that I kicked myself in the butt, reminding myself that Raneth and Aldora were waiting on me. That year I focused on writing again, hard.

2013 was the year I started seriously looking into self-publishing.

I read articles around the internet, watched live Hangouts and recorded Skype chats with self-publishing authors who shared their knowledge and experiences. I took a few notes. I bought ebooks on publishing and marketing, I watched more self-published authors talking about their experiences, listened to podcasts, watched more author interviews. I even bought a self-published author’s book to check the quality of a Createspace printed book.

Fast forward to June 2014 and I was fairly certain that I would be self-publishing The Royal Gift and the others of its series. I wanted to keep the rights and I wanted to pick the front covers. Just as importantly I wanted to have ultimate control over what happened to the characters I had created as a fourteen year old avoiding homework.

If I was going to do this, if I was going to launch The Common Kingdoms Series as a self-published series, I wanted to do it right. That meant an editor, and a decent book cover just for starters. I reread The Royal Gift from start to finish, then hesitated. Was it good enough? There had been scenes where even I went off to go and do something else. That wasn’t a good sign, was it?

What had I gotten myself into? Was I ready for this? Even if I wasn’t, I was committed, and soon the 2009 version of the story was in the hands of my editor and out of mine. She had it for a month, and I grew increasingly excited. What would she have to say about the story? How many things would we agree on?

When the month passed, I had a structural report, and I was chuffed. Yes, Raneth did go through too much, and less fighting would be a good idea, as would axing out a lot of scenes later in the book and even a few characters.

After a good deal of wondering how best to work with the structural edit suggestions, knowing my writing was different to what it had been in 2009, I decided one final rewrite from scratch would do the job. December came, and I was still writing.
I wanted to achieve a completed task related to The Royal Gift that year though, so off I went to 99Designs. It resulted in two covers I fell in love with. Several voters picked my second choice, and so I selected that one as the winner, and my book cover.

Things were picking up. I felt that I was making friends with other self-published authors, and a few hybrid authors (those that are both traditional and self-published – this is what I’m working towards). My fledgling author site was getting a good chunk of visitors every day, and I was finding that others around me were excited for me. I felt positive, energised, and excited. I was back in full writer mode, working not just on The Royal Gift’s final rewrite, but on some other books too.
Writing makes me happy. That everything was going well again was a good sign I was (am) on the right track.

I cut back on my hours at the office job, and did my best to keep on top of all the client commissions I was getting on the side for my web services. I installed LED lights around the flat so my energy bills would go down because I knew my income would be down for a while, maybe longer. I started hoarding free ebooks thanks to Bookbub, Booktastik and other reader lists that alert you to free or discounted ebooks. Cutting your wages is tough, but manageable with the right, “can do, will do” attitude that I learned not from myself, but Aldora. Who said you couldn’t learn something from your own characters?

I kept my editor and my little band of email subscribers appraised of The Royal Gift’s progress, and Kateti’s. Both books were to be launched on the same day. I’d decided to set a date they would share so they could help each other get more visibility, and work in unison to make more readers aware not only of my name (so my characters could piggyback off it), but also my website and email list, so the next books’ launches would go nicely with a bit of groundwork already laid.

My editor is amazing, and she soon handed me the line-edit suggestions. I looked over them, agreed with almost all of them (because I trust her experience and skills, but also because they made sense). Within two weeks, both books had their edits done, and I was loading them into Scrivener, ready for formatting and converting into epubs, mobis and any other formats I might later want or need. It took several tries to get each book looking right when I uploaded them to Kobo and Kindle.

My short story, Kateti (set in another world to that which Aldora and Raneth are in), is now available for free to my email subscribers. Sharing it with them was one of the most exciting moments yet in becoming self-published, though one emailed me back and said they refused to download it, because they wanted to buy it when it was released later, to support me. That was an unexpected but heartwarming email I didn’t expect.

My journey into self-publishing doesn’t end here. It may never end.

Both books are awaiting their release on the 16th December 2015, and will be followed by others in 2016.

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