It’s Publish Day — A Look into the World of a Self-Published Author

The life of a self-published author is glamorous and strange. Actually, scratch that. The life of a self-published author is obsessive and stressful. And strange. Lots of strange. Jess and I finished our latest “Sexy Reversed Fairy Tales” book last night: “Breaking the Curse: Raven’s Royal Mate,” a Sleeping Beauty Retelling where the traditional hero and heroine roles have been reversed, with some added sex, magic, and twists along the way. Highly recommended. Everyone should buy it. And then review it. And then tell your friends. Not necessarily in that order.


“Upload night” follows a certain ritual. We finished our last edits over the weekend and shared our Google Doc with our editor friends to find all our typos. They tend to be pretty fast (our books also aren’t that long, to be fair) so by the end of the day on Monday we could see all of their suggested changes in the document. We tend to go long on the lists of adjectives, repeat the same words in the same paragraph, and misspell our characters’ names. It’s a problem, but we’re self aware. Honesty is important for the personal growth process.

Pizza is important for upload night. It helps the brain think faster and we’re happier, which means we can work faster with more detail oriented precision. It’s (waving a hand in the air vaguely) science. At least two glasses of wine are also helpful for the concentration process.

After going through the suggested changes and accepting the ones we agreed with, Jess downloads the document off of Google Drive and into Microsoft Word and does her formatting wizardry while I watch YouTube and make distracting comments. At some point I start working on writing a blurb for Amazon page.

Writing a blurb is an art we’re still working on. There are recommended formulas sprinkled across blogs throughout the web as well as tons of helpful suggestions and ideas that are nice tools, but not incredibly helpful when it comes down to actually writing the damned thing. It may not be good to judge a book by its cover when dealing with people, but when folks are buying a book, the cover and the blurb are literally all the information they have, so we go through about five draft blurbs before we settle on the final version. We then read it out loud using dramatic voices until it seems to flow well.

In a month or so we’ll inevitably change it.

Keywords are also important. Amazon allows you seven and the trick is to use phrases that already autocomplete in Amazon. Like “magical romance story” (442 titles in the search from that autocomplete phrase) rather than just “magic” (181,585 books, far too easy to get lost in the masses).  We have a large bank of keyword phrases we’ve already discovered for other books, so at this point it’s mostly just copy/paste, with a little creativity to see if there are any good ones we’ve missed.

And then “Publish!” It’s truly extraordinary how easy it is to publish on Amazon. Seriously. Once all of the content is generated, publishing takes about three clicks (give or take). If you have a book in a drawer, there is no reason on earth for it to stay there. Unless it’s terrible, then, yeah, maybe it should stay there. But if it’s good and you’re proud of it, then publish! Go forth!

So today the book goes live. Here comes the “obsessive and stressful” part of the gig. Because basically today I’m at work clicking “refresh” on the bookshelf waiting for the Amazon editors to switch our status from “In Review” to “Live.” And then clicking “refresh” approximately 20 times a minute to see if anyone has bought it. That little blue dot for the Kindle Unlimited sales and the little red dot for the Sales hover behind my eyes like a mirage even when I’m not staring at the graph. It hovers and taunts. It’s not even about the money, it’s a scorecard showing our points in a larger game of life. External validation is ridiculously powerful.

It’s also an exercise in never being satisfied because no matter how far those dots go up or how many of our own records we break, we still spend the day hitting “refresh” hoping it will inch just a little bit higher. On the other hand, that lack of satisfaction is also a powerful motivational tool to write more books. So that’s nice. On to the next!


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