The Journey of a Self-Publisher is Paved with Good Intentions

Allow me to introduce my new friend, Donna Brown, a fellow author.  In her journey as a self-publisher, she has demonstrated the kind of initiative and spunk required of all indie authors if they want to be successful.  She has inspired me to learn new things and to reach beyond my comfort zone! And now, heeere’s Donna!


Some of the best advice that I ever received was “don’t wait until everything is perfect.” It’s okay to make mistakes. I learned that this is especially true with learning the self-publishing process.

Back in 2010, I had finished writing my first book When God Turned His Head. After some research, I discovered that the best course for me wasn’t in having a huge publishing company publish my books, but rather, I wanted to maintain control of my own publishing experience. I wanted to get my own books out there for the public to read. That was the first lesson I learned. I WANTED to be a self-published author for every book that I would ever write. Traditional publication was not an option.

Perfecting My Publishing Process

I decided to publish When God Turned His Head in print using Lulu offers a “print on demand” service. I published without using any upfront funds and asked friends and family to purchase books that I bought and sent to them. I also borrowed money from my husband to purchase thirty copies of the book. A friend of mine allowed me to have my book launch next to her food truck. I made some flyers to put around town, and I got the local newspaper to put out a press release telling that I had written a book and that my book launch was on August 28, 2010.

I had a total of 50 books that I purchased up front and then had to pay to mail about 20 of them to distant family members and friends who agreed to purchase my books. Because I didn’t account for the additional postage, this cut deep into my profits. The lesson that I learned from this was that if I had a long-distance friend or family member who wanted to purchase my books I could send a copy of the book directly from Lulu to the person. If they wanted it signed, I would sign it when I next saw them.

I learned that once a book was published and approved for distribution on Lulu, I could get my print books on Ingram, a distribution channel so that libraries (here in the US, at least) would have access to the books. The cost? The price of one book. I was required to purchase it for proofing. I was later able to sell that same book at live events.

Because I didn’t have someone telling me how to write my book, I had to learn from my own mistakes. I learned that I had a huge learning curve. When God Turned His Head was a good story, but the book was poorly edited and poorly formatted.

I learned that I need to have someone else do my editing for me. No matter how hard I tried to edit my own work, there was always mistakes that I missed. It didn’t matter whether I used a spelling and grammar programs on the book, too many errors still occurred. I needed more eyes on the manuscript. For my second book, I hired a young woman to edit the book on a commission basis. With subsequent books, I found a friend who would edit my books for just the privilege of reading them, and by giving her an autographed copy of the book.

Digital Publication

Once I figured out how to publish a print book on Lulu, I decided to put the books on Amazon Kindle. I didn’t learn until almost a year later that the way I had written the book, the Kindle version was almost unreadable. Fortunately, I discovered Smashwords and Mark Coker’s (free book) Smashwords Style Guide which shows how to format an e-book step by step. The editing and formatting were now fixed. These problems were finally finished.

I learned how to create book covers using free book widgets and software. I had finally learned how to put out quality books, both fiction and nonfiction.

I learned that it is easier to write a nonfiction book than it is to write a fiction book. I know how to write and publish from idea to publication. I wrote two nonfiction books during the same month.  My next problem to solve was how to market that book.

Discovering the Book Marketing Game

Someone had given me the advice to keep putting books out there to see what stuck. Therefore, I tried for a while. I have learned that each year, writing a novel during NaNoWriMo gets easier every year. I have learned that I can write every day without running out of things to write. I found that I had several books out, but very few sales because I was spending all my time writing and had no time for marketing. It took more of my time to develop a marketing strategy than I could spare. Also, I learned that the things that I was doing to market my books were not as effective as they were for others.

I learned that in the book marketing game, everyone seems to want a piece of a writer when they write a book. Editors grab you and say that for a fee they will edit your work. Friends want a free copy of your book. Promoters will promote your book at a high fee and this without guarantee of success. You can put your book on a “book seller” site for a monthly fee. A publicist will let the world know that you have a book, for a fee. I have friends who used advertising services which didn’t net them any sales. Contrary to a lot of the advice out there, I have a higher bottom line if I learn to do as much of the work myself.

I like free, so I wrote online content to promote my work. I started a blog for free. I call that blog “How My Spirit Sings” on WordPress. I started an email list for free on Mail Chimp. I set up my website up on Weebly for free but ended up buying my domain after my site was established. I use my free email address.

Probably the most important thing that I have learned that it is important to promote other authors. I do this by writing reviews on my own blog as well as on Amazon, Goodreads, and Smashwords. I also write interviews. In addition, I am writing guest posts like this one, and I have asked other writer’s like Pam to write blog posts for me. My guest post from Pam will be included on my blog on July 5, 2018.

I learned that I could find ways to make things happen on my own. I could put articles on article directories, and this gave me publicity. I learned that I could write my own press releases and get them in newspapers. I learned that I could get myself on the radio and podcasts. I learned that I could go to live events and promote my books myself. I learned that if I didn’t have a local writer’s group I could start my own. Most recently, I am starting to write reviews and do author interviews more consistently, and have started doing guest posts.

I couldn’t allow any room for excuses if I wanted to make my mark in the publishing business.  The most important thing that I learned after writing When God Turned His Head was to take responsibility for my own fate. My motto is, “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.”


Donna Brown writes under the pseudonym Cygnet Brown. She is the author of five nonfiction books and six books in her historical fiction series: The Locket Saga. Donna lives in the Missouri Ozarks.

You can find her books here:

Print Books:

Amazon Kindle:

See more posts on Cygnet Brown’s blog: How My Spirit Sings


Thanks, Donna! I have learned from your experience. And thanks for introducing me to Canva with your splendid graphics!

Till next time,

Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi

Coming up NEXT: “Keep up with Your indie Biz”


One response to “The Journey of a Self-Publisher is Paved with Good Intentions

  1. Pingback: Setting: Where Your Characters Live | howmyspiritsings

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