Why I chose to self-publish

When I had finished When Colour Became Grey, I at first tried to get it published the traditional way. I emailed the book to a few publishing houses but after about 6 months of silence (they all warn of long delays for their replies…), I received negative responses. However, they all emphasized the fact that these decisions were very subjective, and what one publisher rejected, could be considered a jewel with another publisher.

Since I had to wait between 3-6 months for their response each time, I didn’t want to try other publishing houses and have to wait again to possibly be rejected. So I started researching how to self-publish. While it was very overwhelming, I liked the idea of being in charge and managing the process by myself.

So I signed up onto Reedsy.com where I looked for an editor, and found one I really liked. Next, I also decided to hire someone for the book cover design through Reedsy.

By then I had spent already a big chunk of money, so I decided I wouldn’t hire a marketing person or other people that offered various services to help you launch or manage your book. I uploaded my book onto Amazon’s publishing website called KDP and out it went.

I’m glad I decided to self-publish because I could choose who I wanted as my editor, how I wanted to publish, what kind of formats, how to promote my book etc. Of course this means that you not only have to write a book, but also do all the heavy lifting afterwards to get it launched and market it. But it teaches you about the industry, it makes you think about your target audience and you view yourself as a business and not just an author. You have responsibilities and you’re your own boss.

One of the things I would say to authors considering self-publishing is that you will have to accept you will make mistakes. It’s a trial-and-error process to find what works for you. Things will take longer than you think, and you have to do a lot more than you think. You have to write descriptions, catch-phrases, resumes and blurbs for your book of different lengths depending on where you want to publish. You have to categorize your book, think of adwords, where to advertize, how much budget to use for marketing. You need to format the inside of your book and register an ISBN for your book (only for print). You also need to check in regularly on your sales and update your strategy depending on what works and what doesn’t.

Why you’re never too young to start writing

You may be told you’re too young to write, the argument being you haven’t lived enough so how can you possibly capture the essence of life and pour it into a book that’s meaningful and engaging?

I started at a very young, and when I read what I’ve written back then, most of it is complete garbage. It’s infantile, naive, too quickly paced, too easy, too… too young! But I would never discourage anyone from starting at a young age, nor do I regret starting at a young age. While you may not find anything you’ve written in previous years useful (and conclude it was a waste of time), you still wrote. You thought about plot and characters. You took the time to think about why you want to write and what kind of story you want to write. You let your imagination run free. Maybe you even thought about your competition and read books in your genre to understand what makes a great novel. You’re never too young to start pursuing something you’re interested in, whether it’s writing, acting, directing film, sports or something else.

Even if what you’ve written in your early years turns out to be useless, it is still good practice and you force yourself to establish a routine. It takes a lot of dedication and time to pursue something, and there is no perfect age to start at.

Another important aspect that I realize now, is that when you’re young you have a lot more time available. Even with school, homework and extra-curricular activities, you have a lot of time to explore a creative path. Furthermore, the fact that you live with family means you don’t have expenses to pay for. You don’t have to get a job to pay your rent and food, so you’re freed from obligations you have as an adult.

Writing a book can teach you a lot of valuable skills. It requires not only creativity, but also focus, perseverance, establishing and adhering to a routine, excellent level of grammar & language skills, communication skills, thinking outside the box, research, attention to details, sense or commercialization and entrepreneurship, and many other skills… All qualities that can be useful in many aspects of life. So I would always encourage anyone to write, regardless of age.

How to find the motivation to write

If someone tells me they would love to write a book but they don’t have the time, then I know it’s a daydream and they don’t really want to write one. Because you can always find the time, it’s the motivation that is lacking.

I’m not saying that everyone can spare 10 hours a day writing, or that everyone has the capacity to spare the same amount of time. For a lot of people the idea of writing a book is like the dream to quit your job, buy a boat and then spend the rest of your days sailing the seas and oceans. It’s a fantasy, but nothing that will become reality.

There is no ‘snap your finger’ solution and your book is written for you. The motivation for writing a book comes from setting time aside, sitting down and writing. Even if you sit in front of your computer and you can’t find the words, at least you’re trying [I’ve written a post earlier on how to overcome writer’s block].

Maybe you don’t have a lot of time, but if you can dedicate half an hour over the course of your day to write, well that’s better than nothing! Writing a book takes a long time and many, many drafts. But nothing will happen if you always make excuses and put it off. I’m too tired, my head hurts, the kids are impossible… Some days you will lose the battle; sometimes something does come up and you can’t set the time aside to write. But it’s very easy to say you’ll take a short break, and then it’s summer, you’re going on holidays, then school starts again, it’s someone’s birthday, then Christmas, then New Year’s, then spring cleaning, you move or you start a new job… There is always an excuse and that is where your dedication to the craft will be tested.

The simple truth is you need to put in the hours, put in the effort, and write words on a blank page. And since you’re doing this without getting paid (at least in the beginning) and it takes a long time to see a finished product, it requires even more self-control and dedication to see it through. It can be very frustrating at times. I remember days where I sat for hours in front of my laptop, trying to focus and think of the next chapter, and after hours of pacing in front of the screen, re-reading the last sentences I wrote, reading my ideas and imagining the scene in front of me, I’ve written one single sentence. It’s easy to feel defeated and give up, but that one sentence is one more sentence than you had yesterday and one sentence closer to the end. So you keep going. One sentence at a time.

So what’s the magic formula to find the motivation to write? Sitting down and writing words on a blank page, and keep at it until the book is finished.

Why other authors are not your competition

From the outside it can look like you’re in competition with other authors, but I don’t feel that way. And I don’t think it’s useful to look at other authors as competition, even if they write within your genre.

You can argue that when someone decides to buy a book, they could buy someone else’s book instead of yours, and therefore you’re in direct competition with other writers. But that is just a temporary restriction; a reader may not buy your book that time, but they may buy it at another occasion. And the more people read and buy books, the better it is for all writers because the audience gets bigger.

Most people don’t read books

The number of readers is relatively low. I think a lot of people prefer to watch TV or movies instead of reading a book because it requires more mental engagement. So to me writing has always been about getting more people to read in general, not stealing away readers from other authors. If more people read, then more books will be read by more authors. If a new reader discovers a good book, they may be inclined to read more books by the same author, or read similar books in the same genre by other authors. So you can only win.

Those that do, read lots of books

Most of those that read regularly, read lots of books. Some genres are dominated by a handful of authors, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for you. On the contrary! Sure, most readers have their favorite authors. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ever read anything written by other authors, especially if their favorite author is still working on a sequel or taking some time off. It’s like having a favorite TV show; you will not watch that show exclusively and nothing else ever until you die. You will want to try out other things in the same genre or something completely different, either to wait until the next season comes out, or to mix it up. So once again, you can only win.

And there is also another huge upside; once a book series has ended, those readers will look for the next great series to read and that may be yours. Why then waste your time being bitchy at other authors?

Authors’ advantage

If authors help each other out, and promote newcomers and other authors (even established ones) they really like, it will benefit everyone. You interact with your audience, the readers get to know another author, the other author will be grateful (and may return the favor when he/she is the big shot!) and you create a positive atmosphere for everyone.

For me the author’s community is like a company; there is no point in fighting within our midst since we’re all selling the same product. It’s about working together and promoting the creative writing space as a whole in all its genres, from comic books to poems and everything in between. It doesn’t mean you have to be loyal and defend absolutely everyone. There are “authors” that I don’t think are worthy of that title, but ultimately the readers will decide who they support and buy books from, and as I said above there is no point in tearing each other down. Best case scenario you start a feud with a fellow author and you both lose respect from the audience (because newsflash, everyone can publish a book.). So don’t waste your time on being negative and judgmental, take that energy and do something positive.

Setting realistic goals

It can be frustrating to write a book. When I started writing I used to constantly compare myself to the big names and be annoyed I wasn’t writing at their level. Or the plot is just not going in the direction you had anticipated. Or your characters are so annoying and you can’t make them likable in your story, but you need them for the plot development.

First of all, don’t put yourself under so much pressure. You should compare yourself to the great names in your craft, but do it with the outlook to learn from them, understand their way of working and making it your own.

[DO NOT COPY other people’s work and slap your name on it. A copy of something is generally a shitty version of the original one and you deserve to show your own talent. And if you get caught you will forever be a fraud, and possibly have to pay huge indemnities, etc. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.]

And if this is your first book, then make it the best it can be, but don’t be saddened that it’s not immediately a bestseller. Not only does it take time to sell books, but it also takes practice to be the best in the field.

Don’t pressure yourself to finish your project in a given time frame, especially if you’re self-publishing. Time frames are fluid and you cannot always ‘force’ the imagination out onto a page. To take a famous example, George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished the last two books for his ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series and has repeatedly missed deadlines. Try to have a schedule of when you’re working on your book, but don’t arbitrarily decide on June 16th it has to be finished, potentially releasing it with errors or a flimsy conclusion because you didn’t have time to finish it properly. Your name is on that work so make sure it’s the best version it can be.

This brings me to my last point; don’t set high expectations and then be disappointed and hate yourself when you don’t meet them. Don’t pretend you’ll write 20 hours a week when you can realistically only manage 5 hours. Then aim for 6 or 7 hours and be happy even if you only managed 5 hours. There is a difference between motivating yourself to sit down and do the work, and setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar way too high. And note that I said ‘way too high’. It’s healthy to set the bar a bit higher and encourage yourself to improve, but if you set it too high and you’re constantly disappointed you may give up on your craft altogether, which is also not the goal.

Download my ebook for free!

*Limited offer*

To those that already follow me, I have just launched an Easter promotion! My ebook When Colour Became Grey is now available *for free* across all Amazon territories! This is a limited offer that is active from today until Monday 13th April at 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET time // 11.59pm PDT time.

Head over to Amazon and download it before this offer expires!

PS: the ebook is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, meaning if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

Happy reading!

What to do when you have writer’s block

First of all, I believe writer’s block is much more common than we think. There were many moments where I suddenly blocked while writing When Colour Became Grey and I was staring at the last sentence I had written, reading it over and over again, unable to come up with the next part.

For me, writer’s block most typically comes after I’ve finished writing a scene and I don’t know what should happen next. I usually know what should happen further down the line, but I can’t seem to formulate the bridge in my mind bringing me from point A to point B. I will usually start to get the creative juices flowing by re-reading the last pages I’ve written, or jump to a different section of the book I’ve already written.

If reading parts of the story I’ve written doesn’t work, then I’ll imagine a completely new scene, unrelated to where I’m stuck, and start writing it. I love writing fight scenes so I will start thinking of a way a character would enter a fight, or maybe they are hiding from someone but they get discovered, or maybe it’s set right after a battle and the character is wounded.

If I’m still stuck, I will read what I call “The Red Thread”. When I write a book, I have a separate document where I make bullet points of the overall plot line and where I want the story to go (i.e. the Red Thread). I also write down ideas for characters, plot development, scenes I want to include, as well as plot holes I haven’t figured out yet or things I still need to develop or that currently don’t make sense but I want to keep in the book.

If that still doesn’t work, I then take a break for a few days and don’t think about the story at all. Sometimes disconnecting from your written work and looking at it with fresh eyes can give you a completely new perspective and brand new ideas.

To avoid getting stuck in writer’s block, I write out the scene in a few sentences before writing the scene in full. I have that short description below the rest of the text I’m working on, so I can always re-read what my idea was. That way I can keep track of where I want to go. When I stop writing, I try to not stop right at the end of a scene, but rather keep writing and lead into a new situation. Once I’m done I will also write a couple of sentences where I think the story should go next so I can pick my idea back up.

I used to often forget what I was leading up to or why I had started writing a particular scene. Now I write down all my ideas, even ideas I later discard I will leave in my Red Thread document as they can always inspire other ideas, or can be used in another story.