Coming in a little late to the party, but I’ve been reading some of the other posters’ self-publishing diaries and I thought if I created one as well, it might hopefully be a tiny bit helpful to somebody. Since I haven’t been posting all along, it’s going to be a bit long to start with to get caught up. There's a TL;DR at the end of Part 1.

Part 1: The Early Years

Cue TARDIS sound effect as we zip back in time…

I’ve been writing fan fiction novels with original characters in the universe of the roleplaying game I freelance for since 1997, and posting them on my website. There are five of them, and they were well received enough that they got me my freelance gig with the game’s creator in 2001. A few years later, around the time self-publishing started to take off, I decided to start writing my own original fiction so I could publish it and actually try to make a little money—but more importantly, to get something that was all mine out there where people could see it.

So I wrote a book. I paid an artist friend to do a cover for me. I self-published the book.

And it went pretty much nowhere.

I think I sold fewer than 50 copies over the couple of years it was available.

I’m convinced that most of the reason it went nowhere was because I didn’t promote it. At all. Beyond a few posts on my Facebook page (not many—I didn’t want to spam my friends, after all) I did nothing to let anyone know it was out there. The few reviews I got (even the ones that weren’t from friends) were good. They liked the book. I just didn’t know how to promote it. I’m an introverted nerd who has a lot of trouble waving things in people’s faces and yelling “Look at meee!” And it showed in my sales.

So I wrote another one—the second book in the trilogy—accepting that I was doing this for me, I wasn’t going to make any money at it, and that was okay. It was a labor of love, after all.

And of course the second book sold fewer than the first. Again, the small number of reviews it got were good. But nobody knew about it.

Fast forward a few months, which was when I realized a couple of things: first, that my books were not a trilogy, but two parts of a series—and not parts 1 and 2. Second, that the character I thought was the protagonist, wasn’t.

So I rewrote. And wrote book 1 in the series from scratch, completely focused on the character who should have been the MC all along. I got it beta read by a very picky friend. He pointed out places it could be improved. I fixed them. I posted the query letter to QLH, and I revised it based on comments there. I polished up the manuscript and sent it off to Angry Robot Books’s Open Call at the end of 2013, figuring they’d either say Yes or (much more likely) they’d say No, in about six months. I decided that would be my shot at trade publishing, and if I got rejected, I’d go ahead and self-pub. I was fine with that decision. I’m a control freak who likes to have final say over things like cover art, release dates, layout, etc. So it would be a win either way.

Angry Robot had some shakeups, and that resulted in it taking more like a year to get back to me. Since I couldn’t do anything with the book until they responded (the last thing I wanted to do was self-pub the book and withdraw it from the running, just in case they wanted it after all!), I wrote two more in the series, for a total of five, ranging in size from 100,000 – 150,000 words each.

Two things happened around the end of 2014: Angry Robot turned me down (no big surprise) and my dad’s estate finally got through probate, which left me with a modest inheritance. The spouse and I had agreed that when that happened, I would take some of the money and use it to pursue my dream of self-pubbing the right way: pro editor, pro cover, the whole bit.

(Part 1 TL;DR: Tried to self-pub before, did no promo, sales were poo.)