One English Grad's Self-Publishing Story And Tips For Aspiring Writers

One English Grad’s Self-Publishing Story And Tips For Aspiring Writers


Mallory O’Brien is constantly slipping in and out of other worlds.

It’s how she developed the plot for her novel, Keagan’s Story.

“It has been in my head for many, many years, and gradually sort of gelled into a coherent narrative,” she says. “I was influenced by writers such as Stephen King and Jeff Smith.”

The novel is a must-read for anyone who enjoys fantasy and dark humour, states Mallory.

Keagan’s Story is set in a world quickly becoming devoid of magic. One of the characters, Erana Flynn, is struggling to handle the loss of people close to her. Erana’s best friend is about to be married, and her mentor Matthias is one of the last remaining magical people in the land.

One day, a lonely traveler named Tilkin arrives with news about a strange new people called the Niorans who are living across the sea. Soon, Tilkin’s worst predictions become a terrifying reality, and events that threaten to forever change the face of the continent are set in motion.

Mallory, who spends each working day as a web content specialist at Wilfrid Laurier University, considers finishing the novel a personal triumph.

A university graduate with an English Literature degree and an avid reader who loves putting words onto paper, she always dreamed of writing her own page-turner. It was a long and arduous process but she overcame the time constraints that came with having a full-time job, and motivated herself through friends’ feedback to self-publish Keagan’s Story in the fall of 2013.

Now, while exploring new avenues for her work, Mallory is happy to offer tips to other aspiring writers. She believes the most important thing to consider is why you want to self-publish. Is it to catch the eye of a publisher, make money, or simply share your work with others?

Mallory chose the self-publishing route because of how notoriously difficult it is to break into traditional publishing.

For others who are releasing their first book, she insists the best way to get people reading is to offer it for free. “People scoop up free eBooks, and I’ve gotten great reviews by individuals who said they picked up my book because there was no charge,” she says.

“You’re an unknown author when you start, so it’s a great way to build readership.”

She also has advice for writers hoping to make money from their endeavour.

“If you’re looking to make money, you’re probably going to want to just make eBooks, and a lot of ’em, and you’re going to want those eBooks on as many platforms as possible to reach the widest audience you can. I chose to release my book via Amazon and its subsidiary CreateSpace,” she says.

“Since this is a part-time hobby for me, Amazon was an easy way to get my work to a lot of readers with minimal time spent on my end.”

Amazon, like other platforms, allows self-publishers to choose a number of options like taking the novel to Kindle, print, and audio in multiple languages to expand their potential audience. Mallory chose the print option, and had family and friends wrapping paperbacks of Keagan’s Story to give as gifts during the holidays. This is a surefire way to use word of mouth to boost sales.

Before her books were printed, Mallory worked with an illustrator to design the cover. Despite the popular saying to never judge a book by its cover, she emphasizes the importance of putting the best image forward.

“Just because you’re a self-publisher doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality,” Mallory says. “There are many high-quality books available that have been self-published, so readers have come to expect a high level of professionalism in indie titles. Even if you’re going the eBook-only route, you should ensure your work is professionally edited and has a well-designed cover. If you have the proper skills you can save money, but it’s probably worth the investment otherwise.”

To learn even more about how to find success through self-publishing, aspiring writers are able to attend workshops at nearby universities, local libraries, and groups like the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC).

About the author

Jacqueline Martinz graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008 with an honours bachelor of arts in English and Global Studies. She has written for The Globe and Mail's Canadian University Report Card 2011, Metro, The Toronto Star's Speak Your Mind blog and CTV News Channel. When she isn't writing, Jacqueline enjoys playing the piano, sailing, and exploring Toronto.