It’s been a year to the day that I self-published my first book, so I thought it would be a good time to look back and reflect on my writing journey so far and some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
Pursuing traditional publishing
This all started in the summer of 2016, when I first decided to seriously pursue writing as a career. I’d been writing stories my whole life, but I had never tried to get published or even really considered it. At the time, I was completely burned out and mentally exhausted from working in journalism, so I decided to leave my job and spend the summer taking some time for myself. I was fortunate enough to be able to go and live with my dad for a few months, and during this time, I wrote my first novel. I was able to treat it like a 9am-5pm job, and in the space of three months, I’d completed my first draft.
The next few months involved moving back home, getting another job to support myself again, and working hard on editing. This whole period moved so fast—to give you a sense of time, I wrote the book between May and August, edited it between August and October, and then started querying in November.
After lots of rejections and reworking my query letter dozens of times, I finally got the news I’d been hoping for in June 2017—an email from an agent requesting the full manuscript. A couple of weeks later, I got ‘the phone call’ offering me representation. I’d never been so excited about anything. Only a year after writing my first book (and just six months of querying!) I’d landed an agent. It was a dream come true.
Or so it seemed. But if that story ended up in me getting a book deal, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing about my year’s journey in self-publishing, would I?
The end of a dream
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that getting an agent isn’t a guarantee of getting published. It’s a huge step forward and gets you through the first major obstacle, but I (perhaps naively) thought that it was only a matter of time before I had that dream book deal.
My first book was on submission for around a year, from late-2017 to late-2018. I got some lovely feedback from one editor who loved the writing, but the story didn’t go in the direction she was hoping for. I also got a lot of what my agent called ‘silent passes’, where the editors/publishers just didn’t respond. I was disappointed, but I didn’t let myself get too upset about it because I was already well on my way to writing a new book and told myself that even if the first book didn’t sell, surely the next one would.
Well, the next book went on submission in April 2019, and it didn’t get any interest either. I wrote yet another book, and that went on submission in April 2020. Unfortunately, it was the same story.
Switching to self-publishing
By the time January 2021 rolled around, I realised that I was waiting on something that wasn’t going to happen—at least not going down the traditional route. After almost a year of living through lockdowns and everything else happening during the pandemic, I wanted to take matters into my own hands and make publishing happen for me. So I parted ways with my agent, wishing her all the best for her support over the years, and set out to research the world of self-publishing.
The rest, I suppose, is history! On this day a year ago, I released The Exodus Betrayal. Six months later, I followed it up with Those Left Behind. Then, a few weeks ago, I released the sequel, Those Once Forgotten.
One year. Three books. An incredible amount of work. But seeing them on my bookshelf now? Totally worth it.
Self-publishing isn’t easy, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. There is a lot to understand—it’s not just as easy as sticking a book up on Amazon and crossing your fingers. I had to learn a lot of different things, including commissioning a book cover designer, writing a blurb, marketing, building a newsletter and website, finding reviewers…it’s a lot. It’s a full-time job on top of already having a full-time job, and it doesn’t leave me much free time for anything else!
(Plus, it can be expensive too—I’ve had a fairly decent number of sales and I’m still quite a bit away from breaking even with the money I’ve put into this venture!)
Having said that, I am glad I decided to take the leap. Getting a traditional publishing deal was always a long shot, and I am proud of how close I came, even it I didn’t get there in the end. Self-publishing is a lot of hard work, and it can feel lonely at times, but I have complete control over my writing, my covers, the timelines I want to work to, and a lot of other things that would be out of my hands in a trad publishing deal.
In the past 12 months, I’ve sold more than 500 books and have hit more than 55,000 page reads on Kindle Unlimited. I’m absolutely thrilled with the start to my self-publishing career, but that’s all it is—a start. I’m determined to write more books, reach more readers, and hopefully build the kind of career I was dreaming of through traditional publishing.
This is the perfect time to say a huge thank you to everyone who has bought or borrowed one of my books so far. The support has been incredible and I am so grateful to those people who have taken a chance on an indie author. All the ratings and reviews, all the kind words, all the page reads—they’re all helping me get to where I want to go, so I just want to say thank you.
Looking to the future
So, what’s next on the horizon? I’m aiming to finish the Waystations Trilogy later this year, with the final book due to be released in the autumn. After that, I’m returning to my first book—the one that got me my agent. The one that remains unpublished. The one that got away! I love the core concept and ideas of it, but I’ve matured as a writer and come a long way since 2016, so I want to rework it into something better. Stay tuned for more news on that!
In the meantime, I hope this blog post has been helpful and given you a bit of an insight into the life of a self-published author! I don’t have all the answers, and I still have so much to learn, but if you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below or give me a shout on social media – you’ll find me at @scrimscribes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads and TikTok.
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