I wrote a book called Walking the Path Unbeaten, and self-published it via Amazon KDP this week. It’s about my personal and spiritual journey and a bunch of things I learned along the way.
I’d been wanting to write a book for years, but had been putting it off for multiple reasons. One was that I didn’t really know what I was going to write about. I just sensed that the subject matter would come. The other main reason was the crippling sense of inadequacy. When my story did eventually arrive, I refused to believe that anyone would actually want to read it.
I toyed with the idea – and still am – of creating a book made up of stories much like mine, which mine could hide amongst, finding safety in a crowd. It’s not that I think my story isn’t worth knowing, but more that I have a ridiculous notion that people will try to invalidate it somehow. It sounds daft now I write it down. How can someone invalidate my very real life experience? But if they did, does that somehow invalidate me? I’ve spent a lifetime finding my voice, always being the one to hide in the shadows, keep quiet, make peace.
Over time I’ve grown. Personally, spiritually and in self-confidence and self-belief. I owe a lot of that growth to people who have written books I’ve read, and I also owe a lot to my wife and the journey she’s been on and shared with me. Together we share, and together we grow.
I wanted to write something about the book and the process I went through. I hope it gives you an insight behind-the-scenes, as it were.
The thing that struck me most about this whole process was the vulnerability it required of me. I was sharing a lot of myself, but also a lot of what I had learned. We all see things from a point of view, and if someone’s point is drastically separate from yours it can feel risk opening up to them.
The writing wasn’t so bad, but the review process, and eventually publishing it – scary times! The day it went live on Amazon I felt inexplicably sick, and did for days after. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep for thinking of it.
I like the title because it has two meanings:
- Walking the Path, Unbeaten – it says something about how I’ve journeyed and refused to stop, get stuck or give up. I’ve always felt like there was more, and that is what I’ve been seeking this whole time. My journey took me to the darkest depths of suicide, but still I remain.
- Walking, the Path Unbeaten – it also says something about a point I make in the book, which is that everyone’s journey is different. We all make the path by walking it. We learn our own lessons and along the way. Our lessons are tailored to us, and the lessons change us, help us to grow in the areas we need to.
The Writing Process
To get this book done I bought a course – 30 Day Book Writing Challenge by Joshua Sprague. It took you through a process which meant that, by the end of 30 days, you had the makings of a book. It wasn’t perfect, but given that I had started and restarted this book 7 times over, it got me further than I had ever been before.
A few days in, the course required that I sit and write for 2 x 25 minute slots every day. Sometimes I wrote in flow†, and those were the parts of the book I’m most happy with. Sometimes I felt like I had to force the words, and those became the parts of the book I like the least.
By the end of it, I had a first edit, but it felt far from finished. I ended up procrastinating a bit after that, making tiny edits here and there and wondering when I would feel like it was a done thing. I felt like I would just know – like falling in love 😂
I swung wildly between being excited about it and wanting to get it out there and wanting to trash the entire thing – “Why would anyone read this?!” I felt sure that there were a million other books just like it out there written by far more accomplished writers than me. I’m grateful that I was surrounded by some encouraging people, some of whom were good enough to review it for me.
† If you don’t know what “flow” is, you will no doubt have experienced it at some point in life. Flow is when whatever you’re doing just happens in the best way possible with no effort at all, and it’s almost like you’re not even doing it, but something is doing it through you. People who understand about higher selves are grinning their faces off right now.
The Review Process
Once I had a good first edit, I wanted someone else to read it. I had lots of volunteers, but it was nearly impossible to find anyone who actually would read it once I’d given it to them. I didn’t really want just anyone to read it, I ideally wanted someone who understood the target audience, or was the target audience to read it so I could get a feel for how helpful/interesting/offensive/original etc it all was.
In the end four people who I gave it to gave me actionable feedback, with the most useful feedback coming from friends who were reading it from a casual reader perspective, and a friend who has written a few books in the past himself.
These reviewers picked up on the fact that I sometimes spiralled into a way of writing with negative undertones. This didn’t happen intentionally, but was probably related to how I was feeling on the day I was writing. They were also great at pointing out parts that were incongruous or diluted the message, and on challenging me on some of my thinking.
When you’ve been looking at the same text for what feels like days on end its hard to see the wood for the trees. It was so helpful having people point out that some bits just didn’t make sense to anyone who wasn’t in my head, or were in the wrong place entirely.
I’m very grateful to all my reviewers, whatever progress they made.
Initially I started to look for a bonafide publisher to publish my book. I found one that I thought would fit really well, wrote my first ever book proposal, submitted it and never heard anything back.
Turns out their submission process was broken. The company (other than their social media manager) wasn’t great at communicating and it took weeks to get a successful submission. After which I still didn’t hear anything.
After that experience I decided that I didn’t want to use a publisher after all. In this day and age, it’s totally possible to self-publish. Why should your message be held back by someone else?
There are a few self-publishing options out there. The one that offered the widest distribution was Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Using their system I was able to setup paperback and eBook versions of my book. If someone bought a paperback, KDP would print the book and and post it off. Ideal.
The next part was the marketing.
I didn’t do this right, as my wife would likely tell you! Partly because I didn’t understand KDPs process, and partly because once my book was live the horse left the stable before I had the chance to saddle up, so to speak.
The day it went live I told various friends out of excitement, they told other friends, people started buying it and so it went on. This isn’t a bad thing! But here’s how you’re supposed to do it:
- Pick a release date and configure your post-review go-live date for that date.
- Grow your audience – connect with as many people as possible who will be most interested in your book.
- Prepare for launch – announce the release of your book, and offer an incentive for people to buy it on the day of release (and ideally leave a review of the book). This gives you the most chance of hitting best seller lists, increases general chatter and spreads the message to a wider audience.
- Launch and detach
This is not an insignificant thing to coordinate. It requires a decent social media presence on most platforms and an existing network of a decent size, unless you’re willing to hold off releasing until your network grows, which could take a long, long time.
Post Release Feelings
One of my friends asked me how I felt about it once it had gone live, and this was my response:
“Honestly? Wracked with self doubt! There are still bits I’m not totally sure of. It’s a real balance between the 80-20 rule and wanting it to be perfect.
I expected to feel 100% happy and proud and not scared at all. Instead I’m unsure and worried about what people will say and think. That’s if anyone even buys it…”
That about sums it up, really! Some people have bought my book – I have no idea exactly how many because KDP reporting is shockingly bad. That means some people will be reading it soon, and all I can do is sit back and wait for the varied responses.
It’s unrealistic to believe that everyone will love it, find it helpful or even agree with it. This is a world filled with billions of unique people and a wide preference spectrum. But still, I hope that it’s useful for some people. Mainly the people that spend money on it! 😅
Even reading it now I can spot things that I want to change 🙈 Edition 2, coming to a store near you!
Buy My Book
If you buy it, leave a review and send me proof of having done so in the month of June, 2022, I will enter your name into a hat to win a copy of one of my favourite books: The Human Condition, by Thomas Keating. That way you get two books for the price of one 😄
Tell someone about my book on your chosen social media platform and send me proof via Twitter or DM me on Facebook Messenger and I’ll enter you name to win a signed, dedicated copy of the book itself!