Written by Chantelle Atkins December 31st, 2014

The Misery and the Joy of Self Publishing

Since I published my first novel The Mess of Me in 2013 I have been on what feels like a roller-coaster of a journey. I’ve had the initial high of a life-long dream coming true and the inevitable crushing low of realizing that writing and releasing a book does not automatically guarantee you any sales.

It has been frustrating and elating in equal measures. I have had moments of pure joy, of jumping up and down and squealing in pleasure, and I have had moments of utter despair, of staring into space and wondering what on earth the point is.

So here they are, my highs and lows laid out bare.

The start of my publishing journey was that of almost every author out there. I sat at my laptop for months on end, writing and re-writing and perfecting my novel, all the time putting off the dreaded inevitable processes of submitting it to agents and publishers.

At this time I did not know much about self-publishing, although a few people had suggested I give it a go. I’m quite glad now I tried the traditional route first. I think it is somewhat character building to be rejected numerous times, and to submit to so many places that you lose count!

Like many aspiring writers, often I would hear nothing, sometimes I would receive a rejection and very rarely I would receive some feedback. Hard times that help you form a thick skin!

During this time I wrote endlessly, in fact I wrote three books. I also started a wordpress blog and posted my writing regularly to Twitter and Facebook. It was a brave move for me personally, to finally share my work after years of keeping it to myself.

It was frustrating at times when it seemed my words were merely lost in cyber space, being heard by no one, and then it was exhilarating when someone would suddenly respond, asking for more, begging the book not to end there.

Finally, I took the plunge and self published, with the help of an independent ebook publisher service. This worked brilliantly for me as it meant I had help on hand for technical issues and advice on promotional opportunities.

These were exciting days. Finally I felt I could call myself a writer. A real life writer. I was over the moon when my first novel was accepted for publication and released as an E-book. People could buy and read my book! I was so excited, it really was a dream come true.

Of course this all died down and a few weeks later I was forced to face the truth. A few lovely people had bought the book and that was it. Even close family and life long friends had not yet bothered. Was I supposed to beg them?

If even people I was close to didn’t fancy giving it a go, how on earth was I going to convince the general public to part with their cash? This was undoubtedly a difficult time.

I tried not to show it of course, and got on with promoting it when I could, and editing my next book to prepare it for release. But there were moments of genuine despair and panic.

I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I had no money to pay for expensive ad campaigns, or promo sites. I began to realize how impossible it was to be heard and noticed. Self doubt crept in. More and more of it every day. I buried myself in writing, as that was the only thing I knew how to do. I didn’t know how to make a big song and dance about my work, and I didn’t know how to convince people to buy my book.

There were good days though. Good days are the days you check your book on Amazon and find it has shot up on the chart. Of course you soon work out that this is simply the effect of one good friend finally purchasing it, before it slides back down again, but even so, it feels good and lights up your day.

Good days are the days you find a new review. One that is worded in a way that lets you know the reader really got it. I mean, they got everything. The book, the people, the story. You. Immense joy washes over you when you get reviews like this. You then have the utter pleasure of sharing the review as much as possible in the hope that this will convince more people to give the book a chance. And eventually, slowly, this does start to work.

I read your reviews and bought your book, people now say. It just takes time. Slowly but surely I became aware of a tiny little following. When I say tiny, I mean tiny.

My Facebook author page has been another source of despair and pleasure in equal amounts. Getting likes has been akin to pulling teeth! Even if you get likes, it does not mean those people are going to buy your book! But I have decided to stand strong and stand by my page.

I would much rather have a small group of genuine fans than ‘likes’ you have paid or begged for. I actually really love my author page now. I try to keep it as active as possible, with regular shares of my books and my blog, updates on what I am writing, editing or submitting, question and answer sessions and even giveaways.

When it is possible I try to engage with other indie authors and help them out as well. Every Friday on my page is Pay-It-Forward-Friday where I will post about and recommend something or someone I have enjoyed that week; a blogger, a book, an author, an artist or another author page and so on.

It is my little way of reaching out to other authors whilst trying to raise the profile of indies in general. We are out here and we are worth a look! I am also now becoming more active on Goodreads, Pinterest and Wattpad.

On a positive note I have made some great friends and connections this way and have read some great books and blogs. I feel less alone now. There is support there when I need it.

On a negative note I am still chasing that elusive audience of mine. I am determined to find them. I have definitely got more willpower now. I make lists of things to try and tick off as many as I can, when I can.

It probably doesn’t help that I do not have an easily defined genre. I write what I want to write, and that is dictated to me by the characters in my head. It would be great if they all directed me towards Young Adult or Mystery, but they don’t. They are more complicated than that, and send me off in all directions. They are what they are. I have come to terms with that, and the biggest positive I have gained so far is increased confidence in my writing, and in the point of it all.

I am writing because I have always written. I write because of the people in my head telling me their stories. If people find my books and enjoy them, then my job is complete, my dreams have come true, but if they don’t, I would still do it anyway.


Chantelle Atkins is the author of four novels including The Mess Of Me and recently released This Is Nowhere. She lives in Dorset, England with her husband and four children. Atkins work is often described as gritty and character driven, and she writes within both the adult and young adult genres. You can connect with her on Facebook.


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