13 Jun 2022

Reflections on becoming a self-published author

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. - Stephen King

I always enjoyed reading and writing, and dreamed of writing a book one day. After years of writing blogs to develop my own style and confidence in my writing ability, the time was right to give it a go. 

The best advice I was given was to write about stuff you know and are passionate about.

For me, two strong themes converged. I enjoyed writing about shared AWOL (Adventurous Women On the Loose) experiences, and about change and transitions in work and life.

That’s how Going AWOL -  Inspiration and Insights from Adventurous Women On the Loose was conceived. 

If you are thinking about writing a book, or interested in the highs and lows, some typical questions are answered below.  

How to go about it ... 

I didn’t just sit down and start writing. I began with a book outline and a rough idea of the order of chapters and themes I wanted to cover. Then I set specific and realistic writing goals. 

I spent some time researching topics and interviewing people to get their views. 

The Going AWOL book is full of feedback from frequent AWOL adventurers about their experiences and what ‘being adventurous’ means to them. Their company on AWOL adventures made them more special, and I appreciated the support of my partner, Steve.

One of the most important things as a writer is finding your own authentic voice. You learn more about yourself - what you are drawn to and what matters most. 

Alongside that, you need good advice. 

I was grateful to have a best-selling author, Scott Allan, as my writing coach with Zoom coaching calls every four to six weeks. Sometimes I joined in on group coaching calls.  

How long to self-publish my book? 

From start to finish, it took about nine months. 

I began writing in earnest in early August 2021. Four months later I produced a rough draft.  Then I spent a month self-editing before handing it over to a professional editor. Copy editing took six weeks, then another six weeks for cover design, formatting and layout for Kindle and print versions. 

The e-book was launched on Amazon in early April 2022. A month later the paperback was released. 

Who is the book for?

Although Going AWOL has a dedicated following among women who enjoy reading about and going on fun adventures, it appeals to anyone who is interested in living a fuller more authentic life, or who has an interest in New Zealand places and experiences. 

What was the hardest part?

Staying focused on writing the rough draft over four months was a mental marathon, accepting some days were harder than others. On the plus side, you decide what to write and when. 

Finding the right people to work with for the next stages was a real challenge. I was fortunate to find a brilliant editor, Catherine Turner, to work with and an excellent cover designer, Rica Cabrex. 

The hardest part was formatting the finished manuscript into e-book and paperback versions for publication with colour photos. This took longer than I expected. 

What was the best part?

Initially, it was a toss-up between the elation of leafing through the finished book for the first time and getting wonderful feedback and positive reviews from readers. Over time it has sparked some really interesting conversations, and strong interest from readers in diving deeper into Going AWOL themes.

Each person gets something different out of it which is not surprising. My book covers a lot of ground – outdoor adventures, inner and outer journeys, connecting with nature, with self and others, staying active, and living an authentic fulfilled life. 

So what have I learned? 

Putting the book together involved lots of reading, research and completing courses along the way. I learned a lot about myself, reflecting on what was important, what to leave in and, more importantly, what to leave out. 

First time around you are bound to make some mistakes. To some extent, I was flying blind. I was learning who I could trust to work with – editors, cover designers and formatters. 

We are spoiled for choice of books to read and finding time to read them. For an author, finding your ideal readers takes time and I am still working on that. 

Writing a book is an adventure in itself. I have discovered many more wonderful writers and readers on this book-writing journey. New adventures await!

Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. – Mary Oliver 

Check out the reviews and find out more about my book on Amazon and InsideOutWorks



Mary Somervell

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