The good, the bad, and the ugly!
Click here to buy my book: The Captain & the Mermaid: A Mystical Conquest by Laura Cyrena Kellogg
How it began
How far back should I go, exactly? I could go back to elementary school years, when I used to spend my playtime writing stories with a pencil and a notebook. I could recount all of the times in middle school when I wrote short stories on Microsoft Word, printed them out, drew illustrations on each page, and then stapled it together and called it a “book.”
Nah, let’s begin with this particular story. I had been blogging for a few years now. My confidence as a writer was growing, as my blog was gaining an audience, and I was receiving a lot of positive feedback from total strangers.
I also became more open about my passion for writing. I started telling people how I had a blog, and how I used much of my free-time to write. They would always say, “have you written a book?” In which, I would tell them no, and they’d reply, “you have to write a book!” Because, apparently, being a writer automatically means you must write a book.
Writing a book, a real book, had always been a dream of mine. But I thought it was silly — especially with age. Yet still, there I was, continuing to write little stories in my free time.
Birth of The Captain & the Mermaid
In late 2018, I posted my first piece of fiction on my blog called “Demons & Destiny.” It was short story that I was very nervous to post. But as soon as I did, I realized it wasn’t all that scary. And that’s what lead to the first chapter of “The Captain & the Mermaid” that I wrote and posted in early 2019.
From there forward, I would occasionally come back to this story and post a new chapter. I posted the second chapter a few months later, followed by the third, and so forth. Sometimes I went months between chapters, sometimes only days. It was very sporadic.
Commitment to book-writing
The story really grew on me, and eventually I made it to ten chapters, the last chapter being the grand conclusion. In January 2021, the start of a new year, I determined that this would be my first book.
The blog posts were my first draft. I went chapter by chapter, and added much more detail, stretching out the word count to twenty-one full chapters. I also made a few changes to the plot line.
It really helped, having an outline already laid out for myself. It made the entire process feel less overwhelming. I certainly picked up speed as I got further along in the book.
Book-writing requires great commitment. Blogging comes with quick gratification; book-writing means spending an entire day writing and then falling asleep that night without any “likes” or other notifications. For the first few months, I didn’t even tell anyone that I was writing a book, because I wanted it to be a surprise.
In order to prevent myself from giving up, I had to keep reminding myself of the feeling that I would have once the book was finally published. I had to visualize that satisfaction that I would be eventually rewarded with.
Editing, marketing, and cover art
Here comes the fun part — honestly! Once I was up to the final touches, I really enjoyed putting it all together. Editing was cool because I was able to read my own story for the first time from an outsider’s perspective. I read almost the entire book out loud to help myself catch any spelling or grammar errors.
Making the cover art was awesome. I already had an idea in my head of a photo that I had taken almost ten years ago. I went through a photography phase and I had all of these beautiful photos of the beach — I knew that would be perfect! Personally, I like when book covers do not have too much detail, because it allows the reader to use more of their imagination as to what the story looks like.
And finally, I could tell people that I had a book in the works. My “marketing” was simply just making posts about it on my blog and my Instagram account — which hardly has many followers. But seeing the reaction of my friends and family was a beautiful feeling. Most of my friends were flabbergasted that I had found the time and the motivation to write an entire book.
Amazon makes it very easy for self-publishers. After submitting my book, it wasn’t long after that my book got approved. I made my book available on both ebook and paperback.
And viola! There is was — my own book!
It took a total of six months to write my book and publish it. But keep in mind, I was working with a rough draft that I had written almost two years prior. In January of 2021, I told myself that I was going to publish a book — and in July of 2021, it happened.
Feedback — both gratifying and disappointing
Honestly, to sound totally cheesy, I felt like a superstar. I felt like my childhood dream that I had locked away many years ago had finally come true. I felt like a very accomplished badass.
But I’ll be even more honest — my sales were not a huge success. Release month had the most sales, and that was fifteen copies. From then on, I would get an occasional sale every few months or so at most.
Several months later, I had a “bookstagram” reviewer reach out to me about marketing. That lead to many, many more bookstagram accounts reaching out, and I had many people reading, reviewing, and advertising my book. That was a fun experience, but financially not completely worth it, and did not lead to much more sales.
I also tried marketing through the Amazon service, in which you pay money for your book to be boosted on search engines. And that did not help at all!
Having said that, I was also pleasantly surprised by many reactions. Friends who I hadn’t been in contact with for a long time reached out to me to congratulate me. My closest friends bought the paperback and one of them left a very thoughtful review on Amazon. Many of my mom’s friends bought my book and read it. Most of my sales came from people who knew me personally — and honestly, that means a lot more than total strangers, because they did that to support me.
Of course, my family bought them too. My cousin-in-law sent me a photo of her ten-year old daughter reading my book in the car — that absolutely melted my heart!
The thing is — if you want to make book sales, you’re going to have to ask people to buy your book. It will put you in an uncomfortable position, it will make you feel a little desperate, but it will push you out of your comfort zone which in turn ends up building your confidence.
My second book: Forbidden Knowledge
I was already on a roll when I decided to write my second book. Similar to my first, I had written a rough draft on my blog beforehand. As soon as I published my first book, I began writing my second.
In March of 2022, I published “Forbidden Knowledge.” The sales were slightly less successful than my prior, but I still received a decent amount of support from friends and family.
Recording the audiobook
In December of 2022, I recorded the audiobook for “The Captain & the Mermaid.” Why did I make an audiobook? I did it because it brought the book to life and gave the story accessibility. Plenty of people said to me that they wanted to read my book, but that they struggle with book-reading in general (which is pretty standard for today’s society.)
I could have paid for an actor to read my book. But not only did I not want to spend the money, I also wanted it to be more personal.
I thought about selling the audiobook on Amazon. But that wasn’t the point of the audiobook. The point was for me to relish in the accomplishment of writing an entire book and just have fun with the whole process!
Moving forward: a sequel?
So, what’s next? This is not the end of my book-writing journey. I’ve had many people ask about a sequel, and yes, I would love to write a sequel someday. But for now, I’m simply appreciating the book itself.
Before writing a sequel, I’d like to publish a second edition of my first book. I want to change the format of the text style as well as fix a few typos I didn’t catch.
The reason I published my second book so quickly is because I had been writing both drafts at the same time, originally. The stories are total opposites, but I’d like to think of them as “sister stories” who complete each other. “C&M” represents the feminine, maternal, artistic, lighthearted, and confident side of myself — while “FB” represents the masculine, paternal, logical, dark, and cautious side of myself. The two books complete each other and I couldn’t have published one without the other. If you have only read one, I would recommend reading the other one too.
The cool thing about book-publishing is that it’s not a “one and done” type of deal — the success can last you a lifetime. In the years forward, I can continue promoting my book, writing posts and making art about my book, editing new editions, and so forth. Books are not recipes for instant success — they are seed that you plant, nurture, grow, and enjoy in the longterm. Ten years from now, I can still hop on the internet and be like, “hey! Please buy my book that I wrote over a decade ago!”
Should you publish a book?
In my experience, do I think that you should write and publish a book? It depends on your objective.
If you’re looking for a career or significant financial gain, then I would be weary. Unless you are already social media-famous with a huge following, you will likely struggle to make sales. It’s a highly competitive business, and most people these days do not have the attention-span to read an entire novel, unfortunately.
But if you’re okay with that — then YES! I would do it all over again if I had to. If you’re less concerned with money, and more focused on internal satisfaction, gaining confidence, moving outside of your comfort zone, creating artwork, building discipline, and having your loved ones feel proud of you — then YES! You should definitely go for it!
Buy “The Captain & the Mermaid: A Mystical Conquest” here!
Buy “Forbidden Knowledge” as ebook or paperback here!
Listen to “The Captain & the Mermaid” (FREE!) audiobook here!