Early Lessons in Self Publishing 1

The bottom of the learning curve.

I thought perhaps, it might be time to begin sharing my self publishing story from the very beginning. I have made so VERY many mistakes on my journey. I probably still haven’t made them all, but the lessons I have learned could be worth a lot to anyone starting out. Besides, I have a terrible memory, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a handy reference guide for myself.

So, right back to the very beginning. Before I thought of publishing anything. Right back to when mobile phones were the size of small bricks and the earliest days of the internet.

Oh, I will warn you now. This is likely to turn into as much an autobiography as an instruction manual. Later, I may distill it down to a ten point action plan, but for now, it is probably gonna ramble. Sorry.

Writing.

Why write? Some people write purely for themselves and a few close friends; some write for pleasure; a few have future publishing in their sights. I started, largely for the first two reasons, by writing a website.

I was researching my family tree with my new home computer. A Tiny PC with a Pentium II™ processor and dial-up connection. I searched for information about my grandfather, Frank Kingdon-Ward, who was a ‘famous’ plant collector. There wasn’t a single hit on the search engine. There were ten thousand hits for Pamela Anderson. I thought that was a bad thing.

I found a biography (whatever you do, don’t pay more than a few quid for it. It’s not that great) about my grandfather written by Charles Lyte. I remember him coming to our flat in London and interviewing my ‘dizzy’ mother. He didn’t get much from her, but he did borrow a lot of papers which he subsequently gave to Kew Botanic Gardens (with my mother’s consent, although now she denies it) Using a WYSIWYG web-builder I made my very first Geocities website.  It was a bit rubbish, but little did I know my publishing career had begun.

Once you start, you can’t stop.

Like a lot of things, writing can be a bit like a drug. You get hits on your website from people who care about your subject matter. People who know more than you about your subject matter actually send you corrections. If you are sincere in your objectives, then you don’t mind. You don’t mind people correcting your spelling, grammar, facts, or style. It all helps.

Another aspect of my website, unrelated to the Frank Kingdon-Ward biography, suddenly started getting huge numbers of hits and when I started to monetize it with advertising, it began to pay my hosting fees. I was a “professional writer”! Well, sort of.

It was around this time that I started to wonder if I might one day be able to make a living as a writer. Even as I write this, I am still wondering that, so please; if you are seeking a get rich quick scheme, then writing professionally may not be for you.

Cover of
“The Great Explorers” Robin Hanbury-Tenison (Thames and Hudson)

But before I was able to finish writing my first novel, I was commissioned to write an article for a book called “The Great Explorers” by Robin Hanbury-Tenison; published by Thames and Hudson.

I was asked to write one thousand two hundred words and was paid my first ever fee for writing. It was a rather exciting moment.

Interestingly, I recently read some statistics and facts that strongly suggest that writing non-fiction is a better way to make money as a writer. Indeed, the evidence of my own experiences supports that so far, albeit from a very small statistical sample.  I made eight pence per word for that article. I wish I could say the same for my self published stories. 

 

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