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  • Writer's pictureElira Barnes

Self-pub Help - by M. D. Luis

I get asked a lot how I managed to write three books and self-publish them.

Well, my answer is simple: I didn’t intend to. I wanted to be traditionally published like everyone else.

I wanted to land an agent, then a publisher and watch my masterpiece climb to the top of the NYT Bestseller List and stay there for weeks on end like the next Harry Potter. Alright, slight exaggeration. But I did fantasize about landing an agent and a publisher. I wanted to have the marketing power of Random House behind me. I mean, who doesn’t? But things don’t always work out the way you want and I’m here to tell you, it’s ok. Here’s the gist of my story:

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My books had an identity crisis. That’s what they told me anyway, the literary agents who were kind enough to tell me why they were refusing representation.  After a year of

rejections, I finally had an answer.  My book wasn’t a Young Adult novel as I envisioned, it was something entirely different. It was called New Adult and, until a few years ago, I’d

never heard of it.

As I curiously researched this genre, I was surprised to see a lot of it filled with stereo-typed bad-boy love interests and explicit sexual content. I’m not bashing this at all, people love a little drama and erotica but mine provided neither.  I panicked.  My book indeed had an identity crisis.  My college-aged protagonist was stabbing me in the back. She was too old for the teens and too young for the grown-ups but that wasn’t the worst of it. The really bad news was that no one was representing New Adult.  Agents just didn’t know how to market it. College kids don’t read, they said, and your protagonist is nineteen. If I wanted to be traditionally published then I was going to have to change some things, a lot of things.

I went through all the possible solutions – change the age of my characters so they were

younger, not college-aged. I had to make them fit into that YA box that they needed to be in. Or I could make them older and try to appeal to a more mature audience. Neither of those solutions worked for me.  Make them younger?  Make them older?  Seriously? I knew doing either of those things would change everything about them that I had grown to love. I could no more change them than change myself; it would require a serious metamorphosis. And not only that, if their ages changed, so would the story. It was like pulling on a thread and watching the entire sweater/story unravel. So, I refused.  I wasn’t about to modify my manuscript.

I went on the offensive and started researching how to self-publish. There’s a lot of free

advice on the internet and many authors are great at sharing their experiences. I read

articles and picked brains. I was hungry for knowledge and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions.

I spent money on two things: an editor and a book cover designer. Skimping on either

screams ‘newbie’ and readers won’t forgive poor grammar. If your cover looks cheap, they might assume the inside ain’t much better. I didn’t pay anyone to format and upload my books to Amazon. I did that myself. There are plenty of how-tos when it comes to this stuff and I knew I could figure it out on m own. It was tricky and I cussed the first book but the second and third weren’t so bad. I had it figured out fairly well by the end.

With the books finally on Amazon, it was time to market. I won’t go into detail here, I could write a small novel on the ins-and-outs of marketing. It’s rough, I ain’t gonna lie. Mostly because of the time-suck. But I’ll give you a couple of pointers I learned. First, start marketing before the book comes out. I mean, months out. Have your book available for pre-order as well. This will help your book when it comes to numbers and rankings on Amazon. These pre-book sales can boost your ranking early and you can hit the ground running on release day. There are a lot of websites that will let you advertise cheaply or sometimes free. These sites are great for promos and giveaways. Just google Free ebooks or discounted ebooks and a myriad of sites will appear. You’ll have to research their individual policies. Again, a time-suck but worth it. And lastly, once you start marketing, don’t stop. This is the hardest part for me, personally. If I stop marketing, my sales tank. And I mean, tank. Just keep it up and you’ll be alright.

So, that’s it. I hope I’ve helped get you started. I don’t claim to be an expert but, I figured

after three books, I might have something to offer. Am I a famous writer?  No.  Do I make good money doing this?  No.  Do I have a large following?  Not yet.  Am I successful? Maybe. That depends on your meaning of success, I suppose. I try not to think about it too much. For now, I just keep writing.


M. D. Luis

I'm writing this biography in the first person because talking about myself in the third, makes me feel like I'm one step away from crazytown. I never set out to be a writer, and I certainly didn't expect to be writing for teens, but I had an idea that just wouldn't go away. So I started my first book, Aria, on the back of a crumpled envelope while sitting in my car one day. When I got home, I typed it out. I didn't stop for six months. Two more novels, Rain and Ember, soon followed and The Aria Trilogy was born. I still write but not just for teens; I'm working on stuff all the time. When I'm not inside writing, I'm outside.

I love to hike and paddleboard and I do just about anything that gets me dirty. I live in California with my husband and kids and a drooling pitbull named Zoey. If you ever want to join us for a hike, just let me know. You can try and keep up.

Follow and get in touch with M. D. Luis

Instagram: @mdluis1

Twitter: @MDLuis1


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