Last year I was the lucky winner of a place on Pagan Malcolm’s course, Story Seller Academy.
This course came at the perfect time for me. I’d recently decided I wanted to self publish my book and the course is perfect for that. This course is all about publishing and marketing your book.
The first module is on mindset and although it sounds a bit hippie, this one is vital. I had previously caught some of Pagan’s free taster sessions on Facebook. Those samples had already empowered me, so doing the full module was next level.
Launching my book was new and scary, and self doubt was already caressing me with her familiar fingers. This module helped me get my head back on track, and to catch self doubt in her tracks before she got her nails into me.
The course covers everything you need to do and consider when self publishing a book. It’s like having someone hold your hand through the process.
Not only that, but there are modules to cover what to do after you publish and other income streams to consider.
There are masterclasses with tips and walkthroughs on how to do a wide range of things. Pagan shares her own personal experiences, including mistakes she has made so you don’t have to.
The course content is shared using videos of Pagan delivering presentations. These are timestamped so if you need to jump to a certain section you can.
Pagan also shares resources to support the content like ideas content ideas for your book launch on social media.
This is a self paced course which means you can study when you want and consume as much content as you like. This was ideal for me because when I gained accessed I didn’t have time. When I did have time, it was all there waiting for me to indulge.
Pagan allows forever access so I can log in and revisit content whenever I need a refresher. She also updates content and adds bonus material. It’s like the course that keeps on giving.
This course has been a real benefit to me and I would recommend it. The flexibility is exactly what I needed to work around my other commitments.
Pagan is a great teacher and really approachable. She was genuinely interested in how I got on with her course as she is continuously improving what she does.
I’m confident her courses will only get better and better over time.
I was excited to interview Hannah about her book as I’m currently reading it and it’s a mermaid story. As an author of a mermaid story myself, I’m always fascinated to see how others do it and how different the worlds we create can be.
This is book 1 in a trilogy. What can readers look forward to in the Pearl Wielders series?
Mer, magic, adventure! Some readers have even described Tenebrasco as a Little Mermaid retelling! It’s a very contemporary take on the mer world. I basically wanted a story that avoided some of the standard mermaid tropes. So, for example, the mer wear normal clothes (hydrodynamic of course!), the humans (or legged as the mer call them) know that the mer exist and the mer live in a world and society that is as advanced as ours.
From a plot perspective, the Pearl Wielders series starts when the peace treaty between the mer and legged is attacked derailing peace and setting the two worlds on the brink of war.
In the aftermath of the attack, April (MC) ends up stranded on a poison shrouded island grappling with her powers as they start to consume her.
Can you introduce the MC, April and the sort of powers your mermaids have?
April, or Princess April Meridia, is the most powerful pearl wielder in the seven seas. She loves marine wildlife, is a very caring and loyal friend and would do anything for her mer but… she has never been fully in control of her pearl powers in the way her mum and society expect.
As the heir to the throne of the seven seas April wields all seven of the original pearl powers. She can manipulate water and the weather, grow plant life, communicate with animals, heal and connect with the life force of other mer.
Who is your favourite mermaid- other than April of course?
This is a difficult one and it changes across the books! In the first one though, I think it’s Alex.
I won’t give too much away but… he’s the best friend everyone needs!
What inspired you to write the Pearl Wielder series?
Several things inspired me to write the Pearl Wielders. The earliest version was a draft I wrote when I was ten years old. I woke up from a dream about a mermaid with golden hair who attended a boarding school on an island. I only wrote a couple of pages back then but it became a comfort story. Whenever I was bored, lonely, travelling etc. I would add to the Pearl Wielders world and continue telling myself the story.
The story has changed to a point that it’s unrecognisable, but when I finally started writing it properly (some ten years later) the one thing that stayed the same was the mermaid with golden hair.
Who do you think would enjoy your series?
If you like the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, Alanna’s Quartet by Tamora Pierce or The Selection Series by Kiera Cass.
The Pearl Wielders series is enjoyed by all ages but the target demographic is Teenagers.
Can you share a short snippet of the story?
A deep cold washed through April. Dark tendrils of energy writhed towards her. Panic flooded her brain and the compulsion to reach the Merdevil was broken. She tried to drop the stone but it clung to her hand. Her panic levels increased and April thrust all her powers outwards. She propelled herself upwards and the Merdevil dissipated as she found herself back in the lake.
Finally, she broke through the surface and hurriedly clambered onto the grass. Clouds had gathered overhead and all the waterweeds had shot up. April looked around in alarm. The beautiful flowers were now overgrown with grasses. She looked to her hand where she was still gripping the black stone. A dark flicker ran across her fingers, she blinked and it was gone. April shook her head trying to make sense of what had happened. She felt cold, very cold.
Connor and Alex were frozen ten metres away from April. Their faces mirrored the horror of the other’s expression. Silence settled over the pool. Even the sudden clouds froze in place hanging ominously above. Only a few seconds had passed but it felt like everyone had stopped for several minutes. The cold was slowly seeping into April’s skin. She looked up towards the sky and wielded her Tempus powers to part the clouds and let the sunshine back through to heat her up. April turned to assess the damage she had caused, but the pool area had reverted back to normal. She stood up and whipped the water from her body with her Factus powers as she walked through the grass. A glow of white Factus and navy-blue Tempus energy surrounded her. As she wielded her pearl powers she heard an intake of breath to her left. Suddenly she remembered who she was with. Alex and Connor still hadn’t moved. Transfixed by April’s actions they were both utterly still. April took a small step towards them and as if the power had been turned back on, they both abruptly burst into life.
Tenebrasco by Hannah Reed
Can you tell us about any special events you have coming up? (MerMay, upcoming releases, etc)
Yes! We’re actually in the midst of an event. This year I’m hosting the first-ever MerMay Readalong! Check out Instagram to see what’s going on!
The third book in the pearl wielders series, Tempus, is releasing summer 2021 (date TBC).
Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?
Pagan is brilliant. One of the things I love is how she isn’t afraid to share things she has tried but didn’t work. She learns from these, and saves others from the sane pit falls.
She has experience in traditional and indie publishing. Over the years she’s developed a ton of tips for success. These have been organised into a range useful resources especially for authors.
By following Pagan, I have picked up so many useful nuggets. She has been a credit to my personal author journey, and I won a place on her Story Seller Academy.
Recently Pagan offered a free Authorship Breakthrough Session. I didn’t know what to expect and was a little scared, but decided this was a good opportunity to find out what it is about?
Booking in couldn’t have been easier. Pagan sent me a link. The link to me to a calendar where I could see the times available for each day.
Pagan lives on the other side of the world to me. The slots were either very early or late but I found a time that I could make and booked in.
I had to fill in a form that asked some simple questions about where an now and what I’d like to work on. I found these hard to answer and realised how unfocused I am on my goals. Due to my limited time I’m often very reactive which isn’t what I want to be.
I was late getting back from the school run. Then Zoom kept being “clever” and trying to log me in using a different account. Then it decided my browser wasn’t compatible. I used Zoom earlier that week.
I messaged Pagan on Facebook and she suggested we use FB Messenger (video call) instead, as we were both logged in already.
The chaotic start had me a little flustered, and my negative inner voice was already telling me give up! But, Pagan was her usual lovely self.
She had come prepared and identified questions she wanted to ask me based on the form I’d completed during booking. It was quiet evident I was in good hands and she knew what she was doing.
I relaxed and opened up to her. We talked about a recent opportunity to talk at a school that fell through because of work, a secret project I’m nervous about launching, and how I struggle to find time for my goals. She even challenged me to identify where I want to be in 5 years.
Pagan asked questions to explore my ideas and gave feedback and made suggestions. She clarified at the end what I planned to do, so I left with an action plan.
After the call, I had to hurry back to my 2y old for a fun filled day of paint and slime. And after school my son helped with some errands, like the vets and food shopping. It was a crazy busy day, and messy, very messy.
But, Pagan motivated me. Talking about my fears with someone that encourages me to overcome them, and can provide strategies, was empowering. I feel like I can make being an author my business.
Giving Talks: Pagan got me to think about what I could offer to do talks on. She encouraged me to set a date to reach out to local schools (my target audience), and offered tips on how to approach this and how to price this.
Secret Project: Talking about what I’ve been up to was liberating as I’ve been keeping it to myself scared the idea is naff. Pagan was excited for me, had words of encouragement, and got me to focus on the first steps instead of being overwhelmed by the end product.
Marketing: Pagan was impressed by my book launch and marketing so far and I had to admit that a lot of that was thanks to her FB micro sessions and Storyseller Academy course. She still had more wisdom to share with me & she highlighted how I could tie in talks with a launch to raise awareness, and how to do this. She also recommended I have a Marketing Day to strategise. I do most my Social Media scheduling on Sunday but the actions Pagan set me was different and I realised I’m not marketing… not sufficiently.
Pagan is enthusiastic about publishing and helping authors. Chatting to her felt like talking to a good friend that knows the industry. Her confidence and knowledge was reassuring, and I left the session feeling empowered.
As an Indie Author I often have to figure things out for myself. It was really good to be able to solve problems with someone, that knows what I’m doing, or trying to do.
Pagan also recommended we meet again in a month to check I’m still on track with the goals identified. One month felt too soon for me. The accountability pressure was causing my walls to come up, so we decided to go for 2 months instead. I felt I could breathe more easily with that.
BookShop.org (US/UK only) links to your book at the readers local indie book shop.
This is great for two reasons. Reason one, you are keeping beautiful local bookstores alive by sending customers their way. And reason two, if you create an affiliate store, you earn 10% on referrals’ purchases.
I’m constantly learning and revising everything I do. Sometimes it’s to strengthen existing knowledge and skills, and other times it’s because new things come out.
When I decided to self publish, I didn’t know where to start. I wrote this blog series reflecting on what I did. I hope my process provides others with an outline to get started.
With self publishing you do it your way, so if you want to do it different to me then you can. That’s the beauty of self publishing, you are in control of it all. Equally as empowering as that is, it can also be very daunting when you’re starting out.
Step 1 – Write Your Novel
My process starts right at the beginning with a blank page! I’ve included links to useful guides to help you writing the first draft.
Once you have the cover, start marketing your book. Don’t wait until it’s published to start marketing.
Fun things to do, are a cover reveal to drum up interest. Here’s a post going into more detail on how I did my cover reveal including tips on creating digital bookstagram pics for promoting your book.
You can also have a preorder period so people don’t have to wait until the release date to buy and can order it right away! These purchases won’t be counted until release day, boosting your release day sales.
I learnt a lot about marketing my book from author Pagan Malcolm and did the Storyseller Academy course that covers a lot of ways to promote your book and how to change your mindset.
If you want to do it yourself, you might find it useful to check out Brittany Wang’s YouTube video showing where to get a free template and how to edit it.
Alternatively, you can use the tools provided by your chosen distributor to turn your manuscript into a book. I believe Amazon, D2D, and Ingram Sparks offer these tools for free.
Big mistake I made was skipping this step. I uploaded my files to Ingram and then one of my ARC readers (author Cassidy Reyne) let me know where I’d missed some typos. 😱
My formatter was happy to amend my files for free but Ingram charged me for changing the files. 😢
Don’t skip this step. The last pair of eyes on your book are necessary. No matter all the edits already, and how perfect you believe it is, get a proof reader to do a final quality check.
If your proof reader spots any issues, you will need to make the changes and inform your formatter exactly what you needs changing!
And you thought you’d finished editing. 😂
If you are happy with everything, upload it to the distributor site you are using. Popular choices are:
Draft 2 Digital
Barnes & Noble
Send your ARC readers a final copy. Between now and publishing you could make changes but we’d hope that by this point it is done.
The ARC readers need enough time to read it before you publish. This enables you to gather reviews for marketing and gives readers an idea of what others thought.
ARC readers will leave an honest review. Your book cover & blurb should attract the right readers. If your ARC readers are surprised by your book (and not in a good way) you might want to change the cover or blurb to ensure you attract the correct readers.
I couldn’t wait to show off my cover, and it was the first real piece of marketing I paid for. That’s right, your cover is an important part of selling your book.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover…
A book with an eye catching cover will naturally attract more attention. It also should communicate what the book is about, so your ideal reader picks it up.
It’s fine to make your cover yourself. But, if you do make sure you have permission to use any images, fonts, or any other element in your design. You may need to buy certain licences from the creator to use them.
If you want to design your own cover, check out author Elexis Bell’s blog post series on the topic:
Commissioning a professional can ensure you make the right impact. Check their portfolio and testimonies to see if they are right for your book. You may find it useful to check out my post on how I found my cover designer.
Cover Reveal Images
You will need to prepare the images for the cover reveal. My Cover Designer included a social media package which included social media banners, 3D Renders and an IG version.
The 3D Renders have been so useful. I often add them to various social media posts I’ve made. I’d highly recommend them.
I am fortunate that my cover designer created me 3D renders of my paperback and my eBook. However, if you don’t have that privilege, here are some ways you can obtain one.
BookBrushhelps authors to create images to market their books, including 3D renders. You can try it for free or pay for more options.
DIY Bookhelps indie authors create covers and has a tool to easily create 3D Renders.
You may want to utilise a stock image within your social media post. Make sure you have permission to use it. Here are my favourite sites:
Unsplashis a resource of images by photographers made available for free.
I like searching for flat-lays I can add my book and text to.
Decide on a date
There is a lot of division on when to do your cover reveal. What it boils down to is personal preference.
One successful author recommend 6 months, or as soon as possible. Another, suggested 3 months at most, as they struggled to keep the momentum going. A lot of authors said only a month.
I started mine during the 1st week of September, with the full reveal on 7th September. My book was on preorder on 1st October, and released on 1st December. This worked well from me.
Cover Reveal Teaser
You should have already been talking about your book and generating interest. As your cover reveal approaches you want to incite interest. You can capture peoples curiosity with a partial reveal, announcing the date you will reveal all…
How I created my partial reveal pics…
I created mine by using a torn paper image from Unsplash.
I edited the image in a free app called Adobe Photoshop Mix . I cut out the part of the image where I wanted my book to show through.
I uploaded the cut out image and my cover to Canva. Canva is my favourite app for creating Social Media posts. It was here that I added the text.
If you have Book Brush, you can use their templates to achieve something similar. Personally, I prefer Canva as I have more freedom to do what I want. However, if you are stuck how to start, you might find Book Brush easier as the templates are specifically for authors.
Of course, you could achieve a similar affect by wrapping your book in paper and tearing a teaser rip in the paper. Then take a nice photo. You may still wish to use an app like Canva to add text.
Cover Reveal Team
You can ask friends, family, and/or fans to support you by sharing, liking, and/or commenting on your reveal pic. The more engagement the pic gets, the better it will perform in the algorithm.
Make sure the post is public and that you use hashtags your ideal reader follows. It’s okay to tag the book title but it’s unlikely anyone will be following that hashtag yet, so choose ones that describe the themes and genre of the book.
I was really fortunate that a number of my IG followers were willing to share my cover to their IG stories and I had loads of lovely comments on my post.
If you don’t have anyone to help, you can pay for a cover reveal service. On 1st Nov, I used Xpresso Book Tours for a Book Blitz and was really impressed by how many signed up. They also provide a cover reveal service which I’m sure would be just as good.
Cover Reveal Image
You need a nice picture of your book for social media.
Manually: Again, you can do this manually by taking a nice picture of the physical book.
Digitally: I didn’t have a physical copy so I created my image digitally.
I mainly searched Unsplash for flat lays, books, beach, ocean, mermaid, and any other theme relating to my book. I then edited it in Canva.
Once you have done the cover reveal, you must keep up the momentum until release (and beyond).
It’s a waste of your time to get everyone excited about your book and then let them forget. Once you’ve shown off your gorgeous book, got them excited, you need to keep reminding them it’s coming. Get then to sign up to your news letter, and you may want to have a preorder option.
It can help to set aside a day to come up with content ideas. Then, schedule the content ahead of time so you can space it out and consistently post. Here are some good apps for this:
Preview: This app is free and enables you to see how your IG content will look on your feed. You can schedule post reminders or to post automatically.
Facebook Business Suite: It’s free to use and enables you to schedule posts to FB, IG and Twitter.
Planoly: The free plan enables you to schedule to two platforms for free. I paid for extra features during my launch month in Nov, so I could schedule videos.
Hootsuite: The free plan enables you to schedule posts to FB, IG and Twitter. You can pay for more features.
Later: Allows you to schedule posts to Instagram.
IFTTT: A useful app for sharing posts you posted on one platform, to another.
I also regularly schedule my blog posts. There’s no reason you can’t do your cover reveal on your blog. You want to spread the word so why not on all your social media platforms.
Ocean Heart Gallery
The first image, with the shells, candle and yellow blanket is one I took of my physical book on my bathroom floor. The others, I created in Canva using images from Unsplash.
I added some of these to my Facebook group album and told my street team and blog tour team, they were welcome to use them. Having a bank of images of my book enabled me to keep posting fresh content to IG, in the lead up to my book launch.
I hope you found my cover reveal experience useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts and what worked for you.
The first step to publishing a novel is often to write the first draft. This is the same whether you wish to traditionally or self publish. There are some exceptions to this rule.
If you’ve have an interesting story to tell from your real life or an expert in your field, a publisher or agent might reach out and request you write a book if there is a market in demand.
Some people prefer to hire a ghost writer to write for them. In this case you’re not the one physically writing your book and this post is not for you because today I’m covering writing the draft version.
Step 1 – Draft a Novel
Here is a handy info graphic of what I’m going to cover in this post.
You can save this to your Pinterest board.
If you’re writing a full length novel it’s useful to start with a plan. I don’t consider myself a plotter but I still write an outline. It helps me get from A to B, and a few check points along the way.
Some writers want a more detailed plan. They might want to design their characters, do some Worldbuilding and draw maps, or even need to research information.
This is obviously the most important part. If you don’t write the book there won’t be a book. However, don’t get hung up on making it perfect. You will not publish your first draft – in fact nobody has to see that monstrosity if you don’t want them to.
Writing a novel is a big task. It can help to break it down into smaller more manageable tasks. Many writers find it useful to set word count goals. Writing sprints can be useful to focus time on writing in quick bursts.
Some writers edit as they write – this does slow the process down but afterwards your manuscript is in a better shape. Other writers spew the words onto the page and tidy up the mess afterwards.
It doesn’t matter how you do it but you’ll want to give it an edit before letting anyone else read it. It’s easy to make mistakes whilst you are in the moment.
You don’t need to limit the number of self edits. Edit it as many times as you need to. Some people break the task into different focusses. For example, you might do a read through and look for inconsistencies, or focus on SPAG, or receptiveness, or pacing.
Not everybody uses an Alpha. They are often someone you are close to and you show them an early draft to get feedback. Sometimes Alphas are used before a book is finished to assess whether the story has any merit before investing a load of time in it.
Whenever you get feedback on your book you should reflect on it. Did your Alpha share some ideas to help you improve your book?
Don’t worry if they didn’t. Many Alphas are already your personal cheerleaders (like your spouse, mum, best friend, etc). They might not have the skills to critique but when you’re battling self doubt, they are the ones picking you up and cheering you on.
They may also have raised issues or ideas you hadn’t thought about. Often when trying to get someone to understand your idea, you discover the plot holes or where things aren’t clear enough.
These people read a draft you’ve worked on improving. You can even find paid Betas who have skills to highlight where you can improve your novel further.
Yes! You will get feedback from your Betas on how to improve your book. It’s best to have a few Betas and they may even have conflicting views. Allow yourself time to reflect on their advice.
Remember it is your novel at the end of the day and if their ideas are changing the vision you had, you don’t have to apply them. However, if several readers pointed out the same thing, they most likely have a point you should pay attention to.
You may even want to ask your Betas questions. For example, is this sex scene too much for teen readers? Um… yes, I’m working on a story where my Betas will be asked this. 😂
Get a Professional Edit…
The next post in my series is about getting your manuscript professionally edited…
Thank you so much to all the authors that took the time to answer questions on making of their books. I learnt so much through your different journeys, the struggles you overcame, your best tips, and discovering more about you and your book.
The book that started this all off was Number Eight Crispy Chicken by Sarah Neofield. I was part of her Street Team for the books launch and interviewed her as my stop on the book’s blog tour.
I learnt so much from Sarah Neofield and it helped me in my decision to self publishing. The “Behind the Book” blog post turned into a series.
By the end of 2020, I had conducted a total of 18 interviews! I have put them all here in this post for your enjoyment. So, make yourself comfortable and get reading!