About a year ago, I self-published my very first poetry book. It took me about 4 months to write it and then a few weeks to edit/publish it. I self-published on Amazon and enrolled my book in kindle unlimited. When I was publishing my book, I had no monetary expectation. I had just written my first poetry book and that too about my mother. The sentimental value that my writing held was far more meaningful than any monetary amount I’d receive. A year later, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about self-publishing my very first book — from the writing process to having people read what you wrote.
Writing poetry about someone is an emotional rollercoaster
There were so many experiences that I had to relive, through my mother’s lenses as I wrote about her. Most of my poetry was written in Bluebell’s cafe in Auckland or the library that overlooked Takapuna beach. There were moments in the cafe where I would daze off in space and would be interrupted by the young ladies working there. When I told them I was writing the first poetry book they promised not to disturb me. Whenever they’d see my iced latte cup less than half full they’d signal with their hands if I needed more. After one week of writing, they had successfully converted me from using plastic iced latte cups to a reusable one… I don’t blame them — I was using an awful lot of plastic cups.
Anyhow, when you’re writing about someone you hold so dear to your heart, you feel a responsibility towards getting their experiences and moments across in the best manner possible. There were moments through my writing process that I’d get teary-eyed and moments where I’d smile knowing that my mother possessed qualities I’ve not seen in anyone else. Her journey has been extraordinary and every day that I sat down to write poetry about her has been fulfilling.
Writing the truth is difficult
My mother wasn’t aware I was writing a poetry book about her. She came to know after I had published it. I am my mother’s best friend. She has shared with me so, so, so many of her experiences, instances, stories. She has confided in me in her weakest moments and cannot successfully pass a day without calling me and telling me everything about her day.
In the beginning, I was hesitant in writing about her. I wasn’t sure how she’d feel if I wrote about the truths of her life. I was unsure of how other people would perceive her. I was reluctant in writing about her experiences growing up in a conservative home in Pakistan, getting married at seventeen years old, moving across continents to America, accepting my father’s polygamous marriage, raising seven children. The list of sacrifices and compromises my mother has made are endless. I wanted to do justice to her experiences by making sure that the most important bits of her life are shared.
Throughout my writing process, I remembered Ernest Hemingway’s quote
Write the truest sentences you know
And that’s exactly what I did. I wrote the truest sentences I knew without caring about the repercussions.
Use an aspiring artist for the cover of your book
Kainat, the young lady who designed the cover of my book alongside the illustrations inside the book was found through Instagram. I reached out to her after scrolling her Instagram feed and knew that the girl had potential. She didn’t have thousands of followers and I reckon that many people equate followers with talent but I assure you that you should give someone a chance to perfect their art. Needless to say, she did an amazing job. Here’s her Instagram handle for anyone interested: @kainarts
Your first book should never be about money
It took me years to realize that when you do anything for money, the satisfaction is shortlived. When you do something because you truly enjoy it and are passionate about it, the rewards eventually follow. When I was writing my first book, I was doing it for myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I possessed the capability to write. That whenever I’d doubt my writing skills, I’d have a published book sitting on my shelf to remind me that I did it. Do it because you love it.
People who care about you will read your book
I’m not even talking about people who enjoy reading or care about writing. I’m talking about people who care about you. People who care about you — who value your talent and know that writing is meaningful to you will read your book. During the first week that my book was available on Amazon, I was nerve-wracked. I wasn’t sure if people would read it. I wanted my family and friends to read it. Some did and some did not. Girls I went to high school with read my book. Some of my closest family members read them. People I’ve never met read my book and reached out to me to show their appreciation. On the flip side, people who I had expected to be my true supporters didn’t even acknowledge my accomplishment. And I guess that’s one of the biggest lessons you learn through your triumphs and failures — the ones who support you and the ones that don’t.
Social media was my biggest marketing tool
The two platforms where I marketed my book were Instagram and Facebook. Those are the only two platforms I use on a daily basis. I shared a few poems on my Instagram page prior to the publication of my book. Weekly, I’d run ads on Instagram and Facebook showcasing some of my favourite poems from my book.
Writing is a learning experience
I’ve learned so much from writing my first poetry book. The things I can do with words, the impact it can leave on people is just wonderful. To construct poetry to have meaning and depth is an art. The more you write, the better you get.
I have always loved reading poetry. It inspires me to write my own. Writing is an experience. Every day that I sat down to write, it impacted me in some way. When I wrote about the particular experiences of my mother, I’d dwell in thought about them for the rest of the day. Every poem that I published in my book was first handwritten. That’s the only way I knew how to live and experience the emotions I was so eager to share.
When you write you recognize what you’re capable of. When I open up my book and read lines of poetry, I am at times surprised by what I wrote. Sometimes, it’s the structure of words or the usage of adjectives, other times it’s the meaning behind the poems that remind me that I do truly possess a skill that so many others do not.
If you’re holding back from publishing work that you’ve written I am here to tell you that fears are nothing but foolishness. Self-doubt rarely leads to anything good. You write for no one other than yourself — because it brings you satisfaction and contentment. So then why be afraid to bring it out in the open? Words already written cannot be undone so don’t be afraid!
For those interested, I’ve shared the Prologue chapter of my book in this post.
Also, Kindle Unlimited members can read my poetry book for free and/or purchase a paperback copy here!