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How to self-publish a book (my personal journey)

I started this site, Urban Epics, when I began writing fiction in about 2016.

I’d already worked as a book editor and book cover designer, plus I had a PhD in Literature, not that it helped when I started writing. I kept getting stuck in the middle, revisions were agonizing, and my stories were bigger and more complex than my skills or experience.

Still, I self-published a handful of “book 1’s” to see whether or not anybody wanted to read them, and then did my best to build an audience and promote them. The nice thing about self-publishing is that you can control all the elements, test everything, and change or pivot when things aren’t working… but with the vast sea of competition, visibility is a never-ending fight and challenge.

I’ve neglected this site, because I’m much slower than anticipated, only recently finishing my first ever series (working on the 2nd!) and I have a whole bunch of stalled out projects. But I’ve also sold a lot of books, and have an average of 1000 reviews across all my titles.

Self-Publishing (the process)

I’m not sure if I’ve really talked about self-publishing here, on my fiction site, because I like to keep things separate, but just in case you’re a writer and you’re curious, this is a very short version of how to self-publish a book.

#1 finish the story. I have a 24-chapter plot outline and a ton of writing resources.
#2 self-edit as much as you can or find a book editor. This isn’t just about editing; the craft of telling a satisfying story, is something you can discover on accident or study on purpose.

#3 book cover design is critical, but not all that hard. It can be expensive or cheap if you DIY, but I recommend some templates or premades. After your book cover is sorted, you can format your print and ebook with formatting templates or use something like Vellum or Atticus.

That’s basically it!

Write, Edit, Publish.

It’s tempting to overthink it and try to make everything absolutely perfect, but that can mean spending a lot of money, and until you get your book out there, you won’t really know what to expect or whether readers will even like it.

Book Marketing is something else entirely

I change my covers a lot; I spend a ton on ads and barely break even; and the occasional BookBub deal pushes me into the top 100 or so of Amazon. It’s incredibly hard to make your books stick and stay visible, and I don’t like spending the effort to promote or market my books, so instead I focus on organic SEO and passive marketing strategies.

It kind of works. But mostly, I focus on writing more books, because when a completed series is ready, along with ebook, print and audiobooks, then there’s more of a change to push your meagre earnings into profit, in a way that makes advertising a really viable option.

I have tons of resources about marketing, but it mostly all depends on whether you’ve packaged and positioned your book to appeal to readers, and whether your story actually satisfies them.

To that end, I do have some free books and courses to help authors who want to self-publish.

I also talk about writing and publishing on my YouTube.

Gods of music and madness book one (Orpheum)

Yesterday I finished Orpheum. Part one was published previously and ends on a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, even though people like it, I’ve been getting some negative reviews about how frustrating it is to wait for more.

I worked on this book through the winter, and we spent another month in Bulgaria doing research and visiting some of the geographical and historical locations in the book. I continued working on the book in Edinburgh over New Year’s… and was stuck on the last chapter for two weeks as we moved to Taipei.

But finally, I got to THE END and it’s pretty great. The full book also ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. I may leave it as it is, or I may add in an epilogue for at least a partial sense of completion, since it will probably be awhile until there’s another book in this series (I think it’s good – but I also have better projects mapped out and I want to be working on my best ideas, not the ideas I started years ago).

The original cover looked like this:

If you haven’t read part one yet, you can get the first several chapters for free in my starter library.

I like to update covers when I significantly change a book, so I’ve been working on a new cover, which will look something like this:

In a day or two, I’ll have a limited number of ARC copies to give out, so make sure you’re on my email list if you want one (these advanced copies are for fans who don’t mind helping me spot the inevitable handful of typos, and who can also post a review of the finished book on Amazon – if you’d prefer waiting for a clean copy, the full thing will be on Amazon next week).

Here’s an excerpt:

The world was my weapon, and I felt more powerful than I ever had before. Blood dripped from my fingertips, as the recent scabs reopened against the sharp strings of my violin. My eyes blackened as music filled my body, a rushing song, the voice of a god pumping in my veins. I hear his voice and I am destruction.

Here are a couple videos I made about the book… the second one is on-location in Bulgaria.


I’m also running a giveaway where you can WIN a paperback version of the full book, and one of these cool miniature violin pendants with a working case.





Europe was great, but we’ve just flown back to Taiwan for Chinese New Year and will be in Asia for the next several months. Here’s a picture of our street. I’m working on TASTE next and I can’t wait to share the full book!


I’m working on TASTE for the rest of this month – my vampire dystopia – you can still get the free sample on Amazon for a limited time here:

Get the first 5 chapters now.

If it’s good enough for JK Rowling… (on the Harry Potter trail in Edinburgh)

Little known fact about me: I spent my 20s researching ceremonial magic.

Will power. Conviction. Invincible belief in infinite possibilities.

I’ve grown a bit lazy and sometimes tend to get mired down in the small, daily tasks rather than the big picture goals – but it’s important (I believe) to have a future that’s exciting enough to fight for.

Since I’m in Edinburgh, one of the main sources of inspiration for Harry Potter, I bought myself a Harry Potter leather journal and am spending January First getting clear on my annual goals.

I don’t have the awesome crystal wand I bought in the Canary Islands with me last year, but I agree with Albus Dumbledore, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

Interestingly, every Harry Potter personality test I’ve taken matches me with Draco Malfoy, and I can see why.

Slytherin are all about Resourcefulness and Ambition.

They’re about logic, reason, and Machiavellian plotting. They set long term goals and work towards them tirelessly. While Hufflepuff are too focused on the minutiae to see the big picture, and Gryffindor like Harry are full of passion and convictions about Good and Evil, Slytherin are willing to bend all rules to achieve their desires.

In fiction, the brave, blustering hero usually wins, often by accident or sheer perseverance – but rarely through intelligence.

People want to believe that good people will be rewarded with success, even if they’re not smart or particularly skilled.

And there is magic in that.

Often, you can set an impossible goal and believe in it hard enough, your circumstances and behavior will begin to align with the destination you’ve chosen. You’ll start to “see” shortcuts and actionable steps that were invisible before. Setting the goal is like unlocking a secret kind of enhanced vision where opportunities align as if by magic, if only you’re bold enough to seize them when they appear.

HOWEVER, in real life, this isn’t always enough, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, I want to publish a whole bunch of new books this year, and I want them to be amazing. I can’t wait around and hope that works out, because my goal depends on both skill and hard work – hundreds of hours of painstaking plotting, drafting, revising and publishing.

I may not have Gryffindor’s optimism that everything will work out for the best, but I do have Slytherin’s cynical realism, that I am capable of getting what I want, as long as I’m also willing to commit the time and effort. I need to spend years improving my craft, analyzing bestsellers, struggling with my muse, until I become one of the best writers or “most powerful magicians” of my time.

As I wrote in my PhD thesis, ambition isn’t evil. It’s human, and potentially the greatest thing about humanity – the desire to create, to improve, to enhance. The gift of seeing how things are and being able to imagine how they could be.

I’m not ashamed of my ambition – though it was once the sin that caused Lucifer to fall, it’s become the attribute that saved Faust’s soul. Ambition is the studious and hard-won self-improvement that makes real change possible, and I believe it’s a noble pursuit. I’ve spent the past 7 years dedicating myself to the principles I set forth in Creativindie, and things I only dreamed about several years ago are now starting to take shape. I can’t wait to see what I can achieve in the next few years, but I must stay true to the course, choose goals that are challenging enough to fill me with eagerness, and do the work.

Goals aren’t only about belief or magical thinking. Goals are the reason we choose to do something rather than nothing.

What are your 2018 goals and resolutions?


PS) While in Northern Scotland I heard some folklore that will probably help me plot Shearwater book two, which is one of 10 projects I’ll be working on this year.