As any writer will tell you, everyone's journey is different. I've had a few questions on my journey to being published, so I wanted to take a bit and walk you through my history!
First, A Little About Me
Now, let's set the way back machine to visit little middle school Jessica. Picture it: it's summer, Jessica is staying with her grandmother and she enrolls in her local library's summer reading program. The more you read, the more chances you get to win an iPod shuffle. What a prize... That summer, and every summer after until she graduated high school, Jessica and her sister read their butts off.
This is where our story begins.
I read fast. I read a LOT. And I exclusively read from the library up until I had my own money to spend on books. Libraries often have holds, so little Jessica began writing her own stories while she was waiting on new books to read. And it all went pretty much downhill from there.
In middle school, I wrote fantasy short stories inspired by Xena Warrior Princess, Power Rangers, and X-Men. I never finished one, because little Jessica was a pantser. In high school, I continued writing original stories, branched out into fan fiction, got in on the ground floor of Wattpad, and participated in three NaNoWriMos that saw successful "novels."
Towards the end of high school, I edited one of those novels and made a cover in Paint and self-published my first book through Amazon. It was a rockstar romance that saw a journalist following her favorite band on tour and eventually falling in love with the lead singer. It was bad. Really bad. But I sold 13 copies, and some even to people who weren't family members.
KDP was in its infant stages here, but that's what I published through. I graduated high school and immediately unpublished that book. I turned my attention to journalism and technical writing, and continued my love affair with fiction through reading only. But not for long.
I got married after college, to a really cool dude who happens to be in the military. We moved away from the only home I've ever known and I was fairly alone in my new home, with my husband gone a lot. I started writing again. Just little short things, for fun, to keep my mind off things.
I joined Bookstagram, made friends who liked the same books I did, and even better, made good friends with some absolutely amazing authors (looking at you Scarlett). I learned more about self-publishing from them and from being added to trad publishing influencer lists.
I wanted to publish something I could be proud of and leave up. So, in November 2020, I started writing something with the intent I would publish it for the first time in my life. Now, this was far from my first complete book. Far from my first pirate book, even. But it was the first project I went in to with goals other than "finish it."
And, The Syren's Mutiny was born. I started writing it when my husband was gone, in the evenings after work, and on the weekends. I'm a slower writer, I think, and I edit as I go (which is usually not recommended). Once I got to a point I knew this was actually going to happen and I was going to finish it, I found an editor on social media that I thought would be good. I found a cover designer. I started doing more research on KDP, on writing those back-of-the-book blurbs, and how to market books.
My Publishing Path - The Syren's Mutiny
Now, this is where things get interesting. I went through my first round of developmental edits with that editor, and I got my initial cover from the designer, and I set up a preorder on KDP and announced a release date.
And then I talked to some of those author friends and to my husband and to my therapist. And I realized...I still wasn't happy with the book.
So I cancelled the preorder, did extensive rewrites, and hired a different editor to look at the new project with fresh eyes. We took several months rewriting to a point I was pleased. And then one of my editors (the new one I hired was a team) got pregnant, and weren't going to be able to continue with me for line edits and proofreading. So I found and hired another editor for that. (That's three editors at this point, if you're keeping track)
By the time I finished my rewrites, I realized that the cover I had done didn't fit the new story anymore. The first cover was more romantic and soft than the story was now. If you've been following me, Emily Wittig did my first cover, and I desperately wanted her to do the re-do, but as I'm sure you know, girl is in hot demand! So I went searching for a new cover designer that could squeeze me in entirely too last minute.
I found Bianca, at Moonpress Designs, and ended up doing a custom premade with her. Now, what is that? I filled out a form for what I wanted in the cover, she designed it, if I liked it, I got to buy it, if not, she would sell it. No changes, no other design iterations, just that first go. And she knocked it out of the park...
So now, I have a book I'm happy with, a cover that fits the story, and I'm ready to really do this again.
Then I decided I wanted to try to get a publisher. I found Midnight Tide, which is a co-op publisher (I can go into this in another post if anyone is interested). I queried, got accepted, and then realized it just wasn't the path for me. So I pulled out, and I'm going fully self-published.
Next, the book needs to be formatted. You can do this in a lot of ways, but I took the "easy" way out and just paid someone to do it. I used Books and Moods and I highly recommend them! Your other options to do the formatting is Vellum (Mac), Atticus (PC), InDesign, or Word. It's just up to you how much time you want to spend.
I set my new release date, picked a cover reveal date, and then did some research and signed on with a few virtual tour companies for said cover reveal (I'm planning a post for this too, don't worry!) Then, I put my book up for preorder. First on KDP in ebook, and then on IngramSpark for both paperback and hardcover.
IngramSpark is difficult to figure out on your own. I'm working on a post of how-tos for that platform soon, so keep an eye out. But IngramSpark is definitely a must if you're planning to make something out of this whole thing. IS gets you into retailers like Barnes & Noble and allows smaller bookstores to buy your book too.
So, my book is up for preorder again in ebook, paperback, and hardcover format. Next up, I knew I wanted to give out ARCs (advance reader copy). I love getting them as a reader (see this post for how to get ARCs as a reader), so I knew I wanted to give them out, especially for my first book.
I signed up for BookFunnel to distribute these ARCs, put up a sign up form and started sharing it everywhere I could. I ended up getting a lot of ARC sign ups, and it was a little discouraging, because I had all these people who supposedly wanted to read my book, but I had barely passed 20 preorders. But I know a lot of people don't take chances monetarily on new authors, so I sent out ARCs.
I sent out my ARCs in mid-August. I also signed on with several tour companies who will be sending their ARCs out a bit closer to release date, but I wanted to have time to get feedback from a few more readers and make any last minute correction/typos.
I'm now in the waiting phase. I'm pushing preorders and marketing my book, and anxiously counting down the days until TSM goes live!
That's my publishing journey! If you have specific questions or want me to delve deeper into a specific aspect of my journey, please let me know! I'd be happy to talk about anything you want to know!
Upcoming Posts Planned:
I have a few posts in draft that relate to this, so if you're looking for one of these topics, stay tuned!
- How to Upload to Ingram
- My Marketing Strategy
- Book Tours (Worth it or not?)
- Author Events