Fewer people are reading today, and there’s more competition to sell your book than ever, especially if you are a self-published author. Why do I write? Not only is writing an absolute passion of mine, I write to entertain and hopefully educate while at it. Writing is also, sort of, a therapy for me. I am given the opportunity to express myself, and can also vent through the different characters I develop, also sweep up ideas of my mind into orderly thoughts and hopefully provoke change. Many of my characters are developed around society’s social ills and controversial issues, therefore allowing me a persuasive voice to get those points across.

During the 90’s, I started writing poems for the school paper and the local community paper, then short stories and essays. Since then, I’ve written a book of poems (Journeys), a book of essays, My Dear Liberia (Recollection), several children’s books, A is For Africa, Good Manners Alphabet, I’m About To, Where in the World is Liberia (a word search puzzle book), two collections of short stories, The Dowry of Virgins & other stories and Montserrado Stories, my first novel, Heart Men, in 2010 and its sequel Dead Gods (HM2) released in 2014, Liberia Unscrabbled (a gamebook) and Solomon’s Porch (a compilation of parables and proverbs from around the world). I went through the effort to become a published author and the task was… mystifying, to say the least.

Writing has also given me the opportunity to ‘dip my foot into publishing’. When I started writing during the 90’s, it was next to impossible to get a major publisher interested in a book deal, especially if you were a novice writer without an established platform. I, along with two business partners, started Village Tales Publishing and was able to self-publish my first book, My Dear Liberia (Recollections) in 2004. Today Village Tales Publishing provides those services other writers need to publish, or even self-publish their book. Self-publishing enabled me to determine my own fate; becoming a professional writer and published author. But, self-publishing is not easy!

No one will trust you to publish a book until you have published a book. The role of the self-publisher is to produce a book that reads, looks and feels like any book from a major publisher. A quality book needs content editing, copyediting, layout and production, cover design and an ISBN (a unique tracking number for your book that identifies a title’s edition). Then, marketing and distribution! Oh, and accounting! You wear many hats.

My personal journey went from selecting the genre of my book to countless hours of research, to writing, re-writing, re-checking and re-editing as many times as I needed to, selecting the graphic for the book cover, fonts, typesetting interior pages, obtaining an ISBN for each title/format from Bowker (the official U.S. ISBN agency), book barcodes, copyright registration with the Library of Congress and registration of the title in Bowker Books in Print, which is used by all the major search engines and most bookstores and libraries. I acquired the skills of Microsoft Office (Publisher, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel & Access) and several Adobe programs (Photoshop, PageMaker, InDesign & Illustrator)… then, I understood what it takes to publish or get published. By the way, I also acquired the skills of website building (Dreamweaver, HTML and XHTML languages, Joomla and WordPress) and the importance of social media (Tweeter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Goodreads).

As a writer/publisher—the obligation, that is, is double the pleasure; double the load! Writing is challenging, and getting it from manuscript into a book is even more challenging. Being a writer/publisher is like assuming the roles of mother and doctor at the same time—giving birth and doing the delivering yourself. You work very hard. You work long hours. But this is my passion. I love what I do and enjoy doing it. So, I approach every writing project as a labor of love and every book, a new baby.

Is all this hard work actually worth it? For me, YES! The reward is immeasurable! It’s almost not financial, but the reward lies invalidation, appreciation and a sense of worth. When the readers fall in love with your creative world and its characters, the admiration is priceless. Money is important, of course, since it is a source of income. But it’s the readers that motivate me to keep writing.

If you are thinking about writing a book or publishing one, or both, do not do it for financial gain. Financial success is far from reality (some writers do gain financial rewards), but that should never be the reason for writing or getting published. The journey is wonderfully challenging, so no matter what, never give up and… be encouraged.