This post comes at the request of Melissa of ZeroSpace, who wanted to about the how my writing journey began and how I got to where I am now.
Before I started blogging in 2017, I didn’t spend a lot of time online, and I wasn’t into social media at all. I really had no clue what other possibilities may appear as a result of embarking on my blogging journey. I knew nothing about book publishing, and probably the only thing I knew about self-publishing was that it existed. I’m pretty sure that writing a book had ever even crossed my mind.
A couple of months after I started blogging, Dyane Harwood reached out to ask if I would review her book Birth of a New Brain. Over the next year, I read several other books that some of my blogging friends had already published, and several bloggers I knew self-published for the first time.
At that point, I started to think huh, maybe this is something I could do too. Fiction and poetry aren’t my thing, so I knew that if I was going to write something, it would be non-fiction. I didn’t feel any pressing need to write a memoir, so I thought a good place to start would be to write about what I know—psych meds.
Diving into book #1
When I started writing Psych Meds Made Simple, I hadn’t fully committed in my head to writing a book that would make it out there to the world. It was easy to write. Besides the fact that I kept it short, it was simple because the basic framework came from stuff I already had written down, in the form of notes from school and from continuing education activities. Writing good summary notes has been my thing since my early university days, so most of the pieces were already there.
It was pretty overwhelming learning how to use Amazon KDP. To keep from getting too overwhelmed, I started off by exclusively publishing through KDP. Despite being dazed and confused, I managed to muddle through, and out came the book. I didn’t have a clue then how to market, and I still don’t. Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I have some idea how to do it, but I don’t like marketing, and I don’t want to be annoying, to myself or others.
If I recall correctly, it was Maranda Russell who clued me in to the world of advertising on Amazon. The beauty about super-niche nonfiction is that advertising can actually accomplish something. I wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to make fiction or poetry stand out from the hordes of other options.
Because just one isn’t enough…
I started on Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis before Psych Meds Made Simple was released. I knew I wanted it to be a collaborative effort with stories from contributors, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Overall, I really liked working with so many contributors, but if I were to do something like that again, I’d do the logistics differently. As it was, there were a few people who said they would contribute but then bailed without actually telling me they were bailing, which left me scrambling at the last minute.
Shortly before Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis was released, I decided I was going to expand beyond KDP. I removed Psych Meds Made Simple from Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program, and published it on Kobo, Google, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. That gave me a chance to get familiar with those platforms before releasing the 2nd book. They’re small potatoes, though, compared to Amazon.
I started writing Managing the Depression Puzzle in little dribs and drabs while I was still working on the 2nd book. In early 2020, I wasn’t doing well healthwise, and I think I got to a point where I was done with the book more than having a sense of the book actually being finished. I released it in February 2020, and then COVID hit a month later. I was never able to get my traction trying to advertise it. Less specific book, harder to find good advertising keywords. I’ve since decided to spruce it up and re-release it within the next couple of months.
I started working on book #4, A Brief History of Stigma, not long after releasing #3. I’ve really been taking my time with it, and not making any effort to work on it regularly. It’s involved far more research than my other books, which I actually liked doing, although it took a lot of time. At this point, the research aspect is basically done and the structure is all there. What remains is to fill it in with my own thoughts and words, which I really don’t have a lot of. I’ve been taking a break for a while as I work on preparing the 2nd edition of book #3, so we’ll see if more thoughts and words start flowing when I return to #4. Thoughts are very much at a premium in my head these days.
So far I’ve chosen to self-publish, and I really don’t see that changing. I know that part of the process of trying to get a book traditionally published is rejection, and likely lots of it; it’s just the way it is. My illness is at a place where I don’t have the fork tolerance to open myself up to rejection. Regardless of whether or not I were to take it personally, it would still be a fork jab. As it is, the most minor of stressors renders me almost immobile, and getting traditionally published just isn’t worth that for me. Sure, there’s a certain cachet with being traditionally published, but I just don’t care about that. I have no interest in working with an editor who’s expecting me to meet deadlines. Me and my slow brain are going to do our own slow thing. That’s what works for me, and that’s all I care about.
As to whether it’s possible to make money self-publishing, I’d say maybe kinda sorta maybe but probably not much. There are too many books out there in the world for a “build it and they will come” approach to work. Unless you already have a ginormous online following, you need to hustle with marketing or you need to advertise. To successfully advertise, you need to be able to dominate certain keywords that people are actually searching for. If you don’t have a clear niche, and/or if you’re in a niche where you’re competing with a lot of traditionally published books, I think it’s probably going to be very hard to get a book in front of eyeballs.
I plan to keep writing books until I run out of ideas, and I’ll continue to self-publish as I move forward with my writing journey. The learning curve was steep, but now I’m in a pretty comfortable zone where I’m quite content to stay.
Have you contemplated writing a book? Where are you at in the process, or if you have published, what was that experience like?
A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing is a mini e-book containing all the knowledge and tricks that I’ve picked up from self-publishing two books. It’s available from the MH@H Store.