For all that we have endured in 2020, we surely deserve a pat on our backs. We survived the lockdown and the worst times, literally! For some, it was one of those bad dreams that one feels never existed. For many of us, it meant adjusting to new challenges like the Work-From-Home routines, the incessant Zoom/Teams meetings and a non-existent social life. But for some 2020 wasn’t all that bad too.

Given the time we had at our disposal, a lot of us managed to discover our hidden passions, fulfil our unfinished plans (or at least get closer to them), and devote time to focus on ourselves. This ‘Me-Time’ was probably the best thing that happened to us in 2020.

And just like the others, this ‘Me-Time’ helped me declutter my mind and get a little closer to my goals. I got to self-publish my first book!

The Beginning
While I’ve even dreamt of being a best-selling author one day, what kept me away was my sheer laziness and the fatigue that came in with my full-time job. I just couldn’t muster the courage to pick up the laptop after a normal day at work and pen the story that’s in my head. And it isn’t that my work was stressful, I just couldn’t!

However, when the lockdown happened in March 2020, it brought with it a realization of sorts. This was the ‘only’ time I could utilize to make it happen. It was like the ‘Do or Die’, ‘Now or Never’ situation.

I have been a huge fan of authors like Preeti Shenoy and Anita Nair. Their books are very easy to read and have a simple language. I always knew that if I ever write a book, I would make sure to stick to the basics and write in a manner that connects with the audience.

The Inspiration
A little bit of bicycle diaries is from my own childhood memories of getting my first cycle. I had conceived the idea of ‘Bicycle Diaries’ roughly around December 2019 when I saw a young kid pushing his brother’s cycle in a park. In a way, I was looking at evoking that little bit of childhood nostalgia through this story. 

I started writing during the Christmas weekend and finished the first two chapters before the year ended, and that’s it. The idea went into one of my folders, never to resurface until the lockdown in March 2020 when I brought back the draft alive again. Thanks to the work-from-home routines, I managed to take time post-work, spent a few late nights and completed the book.

The Process
Initially, Bicycle Diaries was planned as a blog post. When I wrote the first chapter of the book, I had only come to the point of my central character being caught in a huge conflict. The first two chapters were only about the premise being set and the characters. I realised it was too little to take it forward. So, I edged out my character sketches, elaborated scenes.

I discovered that there is a bigger story to tell. And thus, what was initially a story of 700 words became a short story of over 5000 words. I spent time writing and detailing out as much as possible – if my characters and plot are made intriguing, it will evoke curiosity in the readers.

The Technicalities
As a first-time writer, who was also self-publishing, I am thankful I had the support of a few writer friends of mine who read the drafts, shared feedback, edited chapters and even proofread. Then came the design- it would have to connect with the essence of the story. I was looking for a simple-but-elegant cover and so I looked up various themes on Canva, designed the cover with a few options and shared them with friends for feedback.

The journey was still not complete. The story needed a platform to be told. Publishing it as a ‘Paperback’ or a ‘Print Version’ would take a huge amount of time. That’s when I came across the idea of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) on Amazon. For me, it was not about the number of copies but an experience of sorts that I would get from publishing and that’s why I chose to create an ebook.

With the lockdown, I could do my research-understand how KDP works, discover the royalty sharing model, design and edit my manuscript. I took it as a challenge to step out of my comfort zone and self-publish this book.

Marketing my First Book
Then came the trickiest part – the pricing! As a first-time self-publisher, I never really knew how to set a price for the book. However, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing has clear guidelines on pricing the books across various formats – Digital or Print. Plus, they have two Royalty sharing options as well to choose from – 35% and 70%. That definitely made it easier! And the joy I experienced when the book went LIVE is something that’s hard to explain. 

Marketing the book was a little daunting. I was completely clueless about how marketing for a book works, I just decided to follow my gut. I started out by posting a few teasers, character reveals and posters that I designed myself using Canva. I then scheduled and posted these on certain days until the book was LIVE on Amazon. I posted a few testimonials and stories of my friends, ran a short campaign called ‘My First BicycleMemory’.

Self-publishing the book turned out to be a great learning experience. And it took a pandemic to discover what I want to do in times to come. Hadn’t it been for the ‘Me-Time’, the introspection that went through, the draft would still have been lying in the folder, half-baked and dead.

In a Nutshell
One of the biggest pros that come with self-publishing is the title of owning the book. And this is just the beginning for me. There are several small and simple things that are easy to forget while self-publishing a book. Here are some things I learned in my journey:

  • Have accuracy and consistency of content and remember to have it proofread. We write and we just publish, hoping that we will find an audience automatically. But there are readers who buy the ebook and find inconsistencies. And then they judge, obviously!
  • Write, even if it means compromising on things you would want to do leisurely.
  • Laziness is our biggest enemy. I still struggle to overcome it at times. Don’t let it overrule yourself.
  • Don’t look at publishing as a model of success and fame. Just do it, one step at a time.
  • Introspect, spend time with yourself. It will keep your creative instincts alive.
  • Keep it simple and don’t try to imitate. If one tells a story with all your heart, it might be well told.
  • Be yourself, your readers may know when you are being fake or using a style you are uncomfortable with. Write what you would want to read.
  • Do not make elaborate plans for marketing when you haven’t even started writing.
  • And finally, do not expect that the ebook will guarantee success overnight. One must accept the fate of the book once published.

About Rahul Iyer
Rahul Iyer is a content and communications professional who loves to pen his thoughts about films and web-series. When he isn’t writing about them, he chooses to write short stories, try his hands at cooking and read. During his free time, he prefers cycling.

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Published On: January 12th, 2021 / Categories: Guest Contributions, Self Publishing Diaries /