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“My Author Journey” Part One: First Fantasy Book Publication (Ash Born)

So, I met up with a writer-friend yesterday (she’s a freelance writer like myself) and she gave me some great advice. It was simple advice, sure, but effective. She said I need to talk about my work more. To shout-out about my achievements. And so, this post is about me shouting-out. Actually, there will be a series of posts about my bragging, because there’s kind of a lot to say…

I’ll start with “Ash Born“. Anyone who has followed my journey or known me for a while should have heard of “Ash Born” at least once. If not, I really have failed it. Ash Born is the first book I ever published, well, it wasn’t always known by this name.

Wind back to 2013, when the book was first released in September, Ash Born was known as “No Secrets“. Yes, I know, this isn’t as cool a title; that’s exactly why I changed it! But back in 2013, I was a mere teenager. I was 18 years old, and I had just finished college and I was meant to be going off to university. For reasons I needn’t go into (for it’s irrelevant), I decided against university at the time.

No Secrets was born when I was about 14 years old. It was a much smaller “book” at the time, and I had only shown it to my mom, my sister, and my book-lover friend at school. My friend loved it and she was the first person to truly give me any confidence in my writing. My cousin’s fiance, at the time, was an English graduate and so he helped to edit the book over some time, too. It was finally becoming something.

Fast forward to when I’m 16, and I have this “book” that I’ve been working on (on and off) for years now. This book was quite obviously something special to me – otherwise, I would have dropped it and moved on to something else long ago, like I had done with all the other stories I’d written since I was about 8 years old. My mom thought it was something special, too, and so our excited little selves decided to pursue publishing.

We had no idea what we were doing, though, naturally. We did very little research, I admit, and were working blind. Blinded by excitement; blinded by the potential of dreams fulfilled, perhaps.

Anyway, after contacting Bloombury (as I’m a Potterhead), we were told that they couldn’t take work that wasn’t represented by an agent and something about me being too young anyway. I don’t fully remember how that went, but we were a little dejected.

Until we found an American publishing house. This publishing house, I won’t say its name, was actually a self-publishing company, where they helped you to publish your book but you had to pay them to do so. I had money from my dad’s inheritance and so I kind of felt like this was his way of supporting my dream from the beyond. And so, we went for it.

It cost less than £1,000 but more than £400, we’ll just say that, and when I look back, I think “oh god! What a fool?” But at the time, as I said, we didn’t know much better and we were just so excited to see my book printed. It took some time, a lot of editing on my part and recruiting my friends’ help, then it was finally ready. I submitted the book, and they designed the interior and asked me to find an image from a set site for the cover and what fonts I wanted, etc.

Then boom! my book was ready.

At the time, in Septemeber 2013, I was in a bad place. My life had taken a turn and it was so sad that my book happened to be published at the same time. This is why when my sister handed me the first copy of my book saying, “here, this will make you happy,” I didn’t feel as happy as I should have.

No Secrets
No Secrets, edition one, first in the Eternity Series

But later, I came to terms with it. I was an author. Self-published or not, young or not, it didn’t matter. I had a physical copy of my book. I had people buying it online. I had actual readers; I even gained a fan! She’s read my books several times over, and owns every edition and book in the Eternity Series! I love you, Michele Woodhouse!

Anyway, the book didn’t sell much. I think there were two big reasons for this. One, I didn’t know how to market it. And two, the paperback was £21. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people willing to spend £21 on a book! It’s offputting. Yes, the eBook was much cheaper, but at the time, people kept saying to me that they wanted the paperback, but couldn’t afford it.

Over the years, I’ve become used to excuses as to why people won’t buy my books. If you’re an author, too, you will go through this. It’s only natural. But I thought to myself, yeah, they’re right. This book isn’t selling, and I need to fix it.

And so, I cancelled my book through that American company and got to work self-publishing it again through Amazon. Amazon is a godsend. It really is. So easy to use; so perfect for budding authors. I believe I was 20 when I republished “No Secrets: Remastered”.

No Secrets: Remastered
No Secrets: Remastered, edition two, first in the Eternity Series

Now, this edition sold a lot better. It was much cheaper, and I was better at marketing it. I made the most of social media, connecting with other authors and fantasy readers.

Twitter S. R. Crawford
Twitter page for @S_ R_Crawford

I even started a marketing campaign where I sought actors to play the roles of my characters, reciting lines from the book. It was so much fun, and definitely something that helped to boost intrigue. People did really like that, as visuals work well. Check out some of the videos below (but bear in mind that this was made in 2016, and the titles and synopsis etc. have since changed…)

However, in 2017, when I was 21, my author-friend said to me that my books (the sequel was out by then, but that will be explained in another post) weren’t working. They didn’t look as good as they could; the titles were rubbish in terms of marketing and catching someone’s eye; and the synopsis was just poor, thus not enticing anyone.

OK, so she wasn’t that harsh with me, but as soon as she said it I knew it was true. I didn’t argue or get sad; instead, I got to work again, this time harder and with more research. This is how the current “Ash Born” came to be. I thank her so much for all the advice she’s given me over the years, and of course for her amazing cover designs on the new editions of the books from the Eternity Series.

The book has since sold a lot better. People are intrigued by the covers and love the titles and synopsis.

Ash Born is 616 pages long and has received many reviews, when taking into account all of the past editions. It is a young adult fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy that has been enjoyed all over the world in the UK, parts of Europe, America, and even Africa! It has been featured in newspapers and I’ve been interviewed about it 3 times.

Colebridge news article about No Secrets
Colebridge news article on No Secrets after first publication

What I learned:

Reading through this, you may think “wow, what a lot of mistakes”. Well, I hope you don’t think that. What I see is a dedicated, excitable young woman chasing after her dream of being an author. And you know what, I am an author. I don’t regret using the American company, because without that “mistake” I may never have had the courage to pursue publishing at all. I may not have used Amazon at all. I probably wouldn’t be writing the book that I’m writing now, with the plan to finally traditionally publish with an agent next year.

Everything happens for a reason, and I’m not ashamed of my journey or the “mistakes” I made to be the writer I am today. Each mistake was a learning curve. Each a new lesson to take onboard and go further.

Each pushed me and tested my passion, but I always got back up and fixed whatever needed fixing. Now that’s the dedication and love I put into all of my writing and editing. Because editing is such a huge part of a book. Writing it is the easy part. All you have to do is put any and all ideas on paper. Editing is where the magic happens. Editing is where the book is truly made.

And with No Secrets/Ash Born, I’ve learned so much and become a better writer and editor, and person in general. I am proud of myself to have done this from the age of 16-21, and I’ve only got more of this tenacity to come in the future.

Ash Born Synopsis:

A Coming of Age Fantasy with a twist…

Three worlds.
Seven species.
One war and one girl to change everything…

Letti Kane has always been an outsider. Perhaps this was why she foolishly fell for the dangerous Kaizen D’Anna at first sight. However, mingling with the D’Anna family will mean discovering the dark secrets of her own. Secrets of which are catching up to Letti’s mother, the infamous Bellemere Kane.

Unknown predators from her mother’s past are forcing Letti into the darkness that exists right under her nose. Once exposed, what will it mean for Letti though? What is her place going to be in this unforgiving world? Scared, betrayed and losing herself along the way, Letti must find her inner strength before it’s too late.

As she’s thrust deeper into these perilous realms, her mother has only one question on her mind: will the inferno of their world and the upcoming war consume Letti altogether, or will she rise from the ashes?

“The world isn’t big enough for all of us.”

Ash Born is a Young Adult, Paranormal Fantasy novel filled with mystery, romance and angst.

Check out Ash Born on Goodreads today, and add it to your to-read list!

Or get your copy of the latest edition of Ash Born here.

Check out my author’s site, S.R. Crawford’s site, where you can keep up to date on my published works and any progress with my current WIP.

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