This week marked a major milestone in my writing career--I published my first indie book, Unwritten Rules. Those of you who are old hands at self-publishing, try to remember your first time. It's a lot like going back to school--scary, exhilarating, and brimming with possibilities. I'm glad I published my first three books with a wonderful small press. I learned so many things that made it possible for me to take on the challenge of publishing on my own. Chiefly, I learned that you can't do it on your own.
What, you say. Isn't doing everything yourself what self-publishing is all about? It is, and it isn't. It's about taking ultimate responsibility for the final product and learning to do as many of the tasks as you can, but it's also about understanding your limits and getting help when you need it.
I designed the cover myself, which was a large part of the impetus to try self-publishing. I love the design process and enjoyed learning the necessary tech skills to produce an eye-catching cover. I also did the formatting myself, but that was such a frustrating process I'm not sure I would do it again. The only reason the book is available on Amazon now is that Amazon is incredibly easy to work with. When my KDP Select exclusive period expires, I doubt I have the patience and skills required to format it for other outlets. Who knows? I might surprise myself and be full of the confidence and energy required to tackle it again, but I doubt it. Only time will tell.
Where I got the most help was with the heart of the book--the manuscript itself. I initially wrote the book with a critique partner, but she writes in a different sub-genre and is a lovely, gentle person--probably too gentle for the kick-in-the-pants I needed on this one. When I thought I was finished, I gave the manuscript to my two sisters for non-writer's suggestions. They had several excellent suggestions, which I then incorporated, but the real work was still ahead.
Several months ago, I traded services with one of my fellow Roses, Jannine Gallant. I designed the covers for her Secrets of Ravenswood series in return for editing help with Unwritten Rules. I definitely got the better end of that bargain. Jannine put in countless hours reading, critiquing, and editing the book. She was just the kind of editor I needed--relentless and tough. I am so proud of the final version. I think Unwritten Rules is my best book to date, and I couldn't have done it without her. Hats off to Jannine!
Here's the blurb:
Things aren’t going Madelyn Li’s way. Her bodyguard agency is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, her grandmother keeps hatching plots to marry her off, and someone is trying to kill her latest client. All she wants is to safely escort thriller writer and former CIA agent Carter Devlin on his cross country book tour and collect her check, but two obstacles stand in her way: a shadowy assailant and her own growing attraction to her dashing client.
Carter Devlin has agreed to accept the beautiful and determined Ms. Li as a bodyguard primarily to appease his publisher. After all, who would want to kill a beat-up, retired ex-spy on a book tour? But when the attacks turn deadly, he soon learns there’s more to Madelyn than a pretty face and tempting body. Will the spark become a flame before a killer snuffs it out?
For you other self-publishers out there: what is your favorite part of the process? What's your biggest headache? What's the biggest reward? Would you do it again? I'd love to hear from you.