Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, I didn’t even know that self-publishing existed. I lived in a world where authors had agents, where traditional publishing was borderline impossible unless you were famous or you had a brilliant, new idea, and where rejection after rejection after rejection was the norm.
I don’t know what website I stumbled upon that mentioned the possibility of self-publishing through Amazon’s KDP or IngramSpark’s platform, but that was the moment that changed the trajectory of my life. There I was, in a cramped rental house that my family had hastily moved into right at the start of the pandemic after selling my childhood home, hunched over a laptop and realizing that I wanted to get back into the habit of writing poetry.
Poetry had been a part of my life for years, but had not played a central role (or so I had thought – but more on that in future posts and my new book). Between my undergraduate degree, jobs, a collegiate sports team, and managing a social life, there wasn’t much time for writing on the personal front. But I missed the feeling of a pen on paper and pouring out thoughts via ink.
That’s when I discovered self-publishing and swore to myself that my next project would be to publish my own book of poetry and put my writing into the world.
What is Self-Publishing? What are the Benefits?
Self-publishing, in a nutshell, is the process of publishing written work without the gatekeeper of a publisher. You write the content and then edit, format, design, and send it to print through platforms like Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, or Kobo, amongst others. These platforms do the actual work of printing your book once an order has been placed, using print-on-demand (POD) technology. This means that you do not have to continuously order books to sell yourself and hope that they sell instead of sitting in a box in your basement, collecting dust.
The beauty of self-publishing is shown in many forms. For starters (and perhaps most importantly), you have full creative control over your content as the author. There are no editors, agents, or publishing houses telling you to change a plot line, edit a poem, or remove an essay from your book. You have the final say in what you want to send to print. Yes, you can pay an editor to look over your work to make sure your grammar is correct but, if they suggest edits, it is your decision at the end of the day. This is true for your publishing timeline too – if you work quickly and efficiently, your book could be on the marketplace in a matter of days, once your content is finalized.
Self-publishing also has the opportunity to be extremely inexpensive. Amazon KDP and Kobo are free to upload and publish your books to their platforms, instantly gaining you access to Amazon’s international marketplace and Kobo’s large ebook distribution service. IngramSpark is inexpensive, costing only $49 to publish both print and ebook versions of your content. Sure, you have to buy an ISBN if you are going to publish outside of Amazon (KDP gives you a free ISBN if you choose, and Kindle books don’t need one!). You can also pay an editor, cover designer, interior book formatting expert, etc. but you also don’t have to. You can compile your manuscript in a Word document or using Adobe InDesign, using professional or educational subscriptions you may already have. You can have a friend look over your manuscript or use free grammar services online. You can design your own cover in Canva, like I did for Her Favorite Color Was Sunshine Yellow. Basically, you can make self-publishing as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be.
Why I Chose Self-Publishing
For my entire life, I have dreamed of publishing a book through a major publishing house. Having my name attached to a book printed by Simon & Schuster or Penguin/Random House would be my biggest accomplishment, hands down.
But self-publishing felt right for my debut poetry book. That book held so much love and emotion within the lines that I wanted every aspect to be fully decided by me. Not to mention that, again, it is extremely difficult to get a book accepted by a publishing house. I wanted my book out in the world so I could officially say I was a published author.
My Self-Publishing Timeline
There were a lot of steps that went into Her Favorite Color Was Sunshine Yellow once I decided in May 2020 I wanted to write it. Here’s how it went:
- June: I launched my Instagram account, @akkwriting, in an effort to build an audience for my book. Here, I shared snippets of poetry that would be included in my book and behind the scenes content of my book writing process. This helped keep people engaged and invested in the end product!
- June-August: Writing and research would sum up these few months. Before and after my full-time internship, I would spend my time writing poems for my manuscript and researching what I needed to self-publish. I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign for my interior formatting, learned how to use Canva’s design interface to create my cover, and found a friend to draw the only part I couldn’t – the hands.
- End of summer: I reached my goal of poems (I wanted at least 100) and spent time inputting them into a Scrivener document (favorite writing software!) so I could print them out to edit and organize. Here is where I also began making a timeline working back from my desired publication date: December 2, my birthday.
- September: A busy, busy month. I edited all of my poems, laid them all out on my floor to try to organize them into sections by theme, inputted them into InDesign, figured out what “front and back matter” were for books, played around with formatting, and ultimately held a printed out manuscript in my hand – all while balancing the first semester of my junior year of college (don’t ask how I managed it – I’m not even sure how!).
- October: This month I got excited and jumped ahead in my timeline. Everything was done a little earlier than expected, so I was able to upload to Amazon and IngramSpark to order proof copies in the mail. At the same time, I was planning a week of launch events like giveaways, live readings, and writing contests to keep the anticipation going for my social media audience.
- October 25: I became a published author!
Where I Am Today with My Books
Over a year has passed since I published Her Favorite Color Was Sunshine Yellow and, since then, I have sold almost 200 copies. This is an impressive stat, given that 90% of self-published books never sell more than 100 copies. I’ve used every entrepreneurial skill I have learned from my undergraduate experience at Babson College to get myself there, plus an unwavering belief in myself and my writing.
What was the most impactful part of this process, however, was realizing how much poetry had affected me in my life. I thought it was just a hobby I enjoyed but, through this publishing process, I realized that poetry had done so much more for me.
Thus began the inspiration behind Poetic Potential: Sparking Change & Empowerment Through Poetry. That’s where this story ends, and another begins.
*Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links, which mean I could earn a small commission for your purchase through that link. Each product is tested and approved by me – I only share what I believe is worthwhile!