Elle Says Stuff

So you wanna be a self-published romance author?

I’m starting this post on the evening before my first self-published book comes out. I wish I could say the month of January flew by and I just can’t believe my book release is already here! But January was half a year long and I’ve been an anxious mess with impostor syndrome burning hot every day.

I figured I would learn some things about myself in this process, so this first part is more about the mental experience as a new author going through the self-publishing process:

  • As of this writing I have 14 pre-orders, plus a few friends I know for sure will be reading via Kindle Unlimited. Having pre-orders is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because wow, people are interested based off a cover, a blurb, and my sparse attempts at “marketing” over social media! And some have even said as much through social media and that is just the coolest fucking thing. But also it’s daunting, because I am terrified my book will be a disappointment, even though I have written, revised, edited, and prepped the shit out of this book multiple times since I first submitted it for pre-order at the beginning of January. In fact, I was still making small changes to the manuscript a few days before the Amazon cut-off, mostly to convince myself that no, this book is not as terrible as your bar self-esteem demon wants you to believe.
  • What did help with some of the self-doubt was having a few early readers (I hesitate to call them ARCs because the process was a lot more casual than that). So I did receive external feedback before setting the pre-order date. The feedback was mostly positive with a few things that weren’t effective. Now did I have the chance to resend my early readers the revised version so I could get a “yes that’s better”? Nope. But if I can’t trust myself to absorb feedback and execute rewrites that fulfil the need, self-publishing is going to be a pretty difficult venture moving forward. Especially because I may not always have early readers, and at the end of the day, the onus is on me to tell my story well.
  • While we’re on the subject of forcing my work on friends: in my times of doubt I had to trust in the people who know me, who tell me what I am doing is good. Get you some people like that, people who will shower you with compliments and people who will be kind with their honesty. Both will get you through the rough days.
  • I think this process solidified more than anything that I want to write things from the heart. I don’t want to chase tropes or niches necessarily, though my work is not free of them. The good stuff comes from the heart. There are attributes to this story that anyone who knows me well will say, “Ha! That’s totally you!” Some of my own experiences live and breathe in this book. But I also had to do a lot of research. A lot of half-sentences abandoned in the early draft so I could figure something out with some quick (or not) googling. Take the time to do that. It’s very exhausting to come up with everything from scratch.
  • The best erotic romance I have read makes me feel things on a personal level. This is not what all erotic romance does, but it is the kind I enjoy reading and the kind I want to write. I wanted my characters to be truly good for each other with a promise that would grow as people together. I hope this book connects with people the same way I have connected with other stories. But I also hope you enjoyed the sex scenes too.

Now for some more process-specific notes:

  • Make backups. Date them. Make them often. Then set up a Google Drive and have it sync and back up your stuff some more. Google Drive has built in version history, so you’ll have backups on backups on backups. I cannot stress this enough. Only sync your Google drive to one computer; from experience, this fucked me up a couple of times before I realized it wasn’t worth it to have it synching two computers at once (probably not an issue for most of you out there these days, but hi, I come from a family of many gadgets).
  • I made my own cover. I designed the inside of my book. Those are things I wanted to do because I have a stupid amount of experience, both personal and professional, in making documents Pretty™. You do not have to do all of these things to self-publish your book. The cover is important to draw in potential readers, yes, but your work doesn’t need flashy chapter headings and intricate section dividers. The magic is the words themselves. It just makes sense to me and my perfectionist self to have a book design that I think is worthy to footnote my work.  
  • Since apparently I am super high maintenance when it comes to self-publishing, a cool revision/editing thing I did was send my drafts to Kindle (with some preliminary formatting of course) and read through them that way. It is a lot easier to spot things with less words on a page. That way I could pretend to experience it as a reader, too. Admittedly the built in “highlight and note” feature isn’t my favorite to notate necessary changes, but I made it work. At the very least, it made me slow down and focus on improving the work.

In closing, this might have been one of the most challenging and difficult things I’ve ever done. Clearly I am not unique in that, but I might just ignore the internet for a week and hibernate. See y’all on the other side. ✌

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