Would you have ever considered six years to be an eternity? Probably not, but in our digital age, technology advances so rapidly that many of the tools and software programs we were using six years ago have already gone the way of the dinosaur. Today, every writer can take advantage of these advances and self-publish their great American novel.
One digital program that has stood the test of time by adapting to advances in technology is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which provides a way for ordinary people to self-publish books they’ve written. No more need to get a contract with a traditional publisher. And so, KDP has opened a path to publishing to everyone – whether great, good, or horrible.
It was exactly six years ago this month (April 2018) that I took the plunge into Kindle publishing and became a 'professional' writer. I was sure that reading digitally was going to take off, and I wanted to be a part of it. I’d been reading ebooks digitally for several years by that time, and I’d already preached to anyone who would listen about the advantages of reading books on a digital device.
Yes, April 2012 was the publication date of my first Kindle ebook – How to Find the Heart of Bali. It was a test to find out whether I could write something that was good enough to sell.
What a shock it was that strangers bought it and even gave it pretty good reviews. I was really a writer. But when I look at it now, I see how amateur-ish it was. In particular, the cover was clearly homemade, but in those days, that was the norm.
As far as the writing goes, I’m actually afraid to go back and read it. I’m sure the writing was clearly the work of an amateur writer. But the results motivated me to continue writing and publishing.
So what would I write about next? What had I done that was something readers might find interesting?
My first trekking experience in Nepal in 1999 had had a profound effect on me, so I chose that for my next book. Luckily, I’d kept a very detailed journal about the emotions I’d gone through as an out-of-shape woman in her mid-50’s who fulfilled a dream to trek in the Himalayas. And of course, I’d told the story to so many people that it was still fresh in my mind.
Transformative Travel in Nepal was published in June 2012 with, yes, another homemade cover. Trekking in the Himalayas had been a lifelong dream, and this book describes not only the challenges I faced, but how the experience enhanced my self-confidence and even paved the way for experiences that I would have many years later.
Next came Evacuated! Living on Indonesia’s Most Active Volcano in December 2013. I knew right from the beginning that this book wouldn’t have as wide an audience as my Nepal book, but I was willing to live with lower sales.
Documenting my experience and what others went through during this disaster was a mission for me. And Amazon provided an easy way for me to tell the world about it.
Could I possibly write fiction? Did I have what was needed to tell a story? It was one thing to turn exciting events from my own life and travels into memoirs. It would be something totally different to write fiction.
I joined online writing groups and found that lots of people were making a living with their fiction. But even more were finding it difficult to make enough for even a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Could I be in the first group?
Eventually, I finally decided to tackle fiction – or should I say I fictionalized events from my own life and the lives of my friends. Soon my hard drive was loaded with novels, novellas, and short stories in first draft status.
I actually published three novels in 2015 and had some sales. But I soon learned that if I didn’t market my books, then they wouldn’t do more for me than they had when sitting on my hard drive. To make money, the writing process should only take up a small portion of my time.
Many people in the know say to spend 20% writing and 80% in the business end. So I would have to treat writing like a business. That didn’t appeal to me at all, but I still loved writing, so I spent the next few years writing for clients.
And all those first drafts were still sitting on my hard drive. When a writer friend visited me recently, I asked her if she knew any site where I could sell them. As the words were leaving my lips, I had a crushing feeling. No, I want to publish them myself. I don’t want someone else to edit my precious words for their own profit. What if I don’t like how they revise my words?
She didn’t call me an idiot to my face, but she was obviously thinking that they’re not making any money for me as long as they’re just sitting on my computer and why didn’t I get myself in gear and profit from them.
Sometimes it takes a good kick in the behind to get a gal moving in the right direction. So, after getting that kick, I took down the three novels to re-vamp and re-publish – cleaning up the writing and making new covers. (Yes, I’m still making my own covers, but I’ve learned a lot about making them more professional.)
I’ve also decided to do what some other authors do – publish the first chapters on my website for everyone to read for free. It will probably feel like walking naked down the main street of town, but it also might keep me accountable. (Yes, one of my main problems is that I am easily distracted, so whatever can keep me focused has got to be good.)
So, I’ll post in Facebook when chapters are available for reading. Hope you’ll come by and read.