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How I Wrote and Published My Debut Novel - The Secret Life of Ashley Miles

Updated on July 31, 2017
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Lena Kovadlo is a writer for various content-sharing websites. She's the author of 12 books and helps other authors publish theirs.

Ever since I mastered the English language it was my dream to be a published author with many books to my name. I didn't want to just publish poetry and lyric books. I wanted to write and publish my own novel. It took a while but finally I made that dream a reality. Finally, I have brought to life my debut novel called The Secret Life of Ashley Miles, which is now available on, Amazon, and online at Barnes and Noble as a paperback and on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks in e-book format.

I wanted to share with you my journey of bringing The Secret Life of Ashley Miles to life - what led me to write the novel, the process of writing it, which involved editing, and finally getting it published into a paperback book. Hopefully, you will find what I share with you useful and will be able to apply it if you are thinking of writing and publishing a novel yourself.

The Secret Life of Ashley Miles by Lena Kovadlo
The Secret Life of Ashley Miles by Lena Kovadlo | Source

What Led Me to Write The Secret Life of Ashley Miles

Sometimes stories are born from a title or a phrase that pops into a writer's head. That is what happened to me and how my debut novel The Secret Life of Ashley Miles came to life.

A few years ago, as I was walking home from the library one day, the title The Secret Life of Ashley Miles came into my head. I have no idea why it happened, and why that particular title appeared as opposed to another one, but I am sure glad it did because after this title came to me a story idea was beginning to come together in my head. The main character would be Ashley Miles and the story would be about her life after graduating high school. It would include struggles of finding work, moving out on your own, falling in love and establishing a lasting relationship, and making your dreams a reality... something that many teens face and what I had faced as well and was actually facing still at the moment of writing the novel...

My Journey Writing The Secret Life of Ashley Miles

As soon as I came home that day, I opened up a blank Word document and wrote down the title and jotted down the story ideas that had come to me. They included things happening to Ashley and other characters that would be in the story. Doing that I realized that the things I was writing down resembled my own personal experiences. The things that the main character (Ashley Miles) was going to go through were things that I had gone through and experienced in my own life. Now the story would take on a whole new meaning for me because it would be based on what I had gone through and experienced in my own life. I would essentially be sharing a part of myself with the world.

After getting those ideas down on paper I began to write the story. I didn't care about grammar, punctuation, spelling or formatting. All I cared about was bringing the story to life. So, while writing, I focused solely on getting the story on paper and nothing else. The thorough editing would come once I finished writing the story. I will admit though that there were moments where I had written some lines and then rewrote them as I had slightly different ideas or different wording pop into my head right after the original thought. For the most part though I didn't really edit as that wasn't my goal at that moment. Starting and finishing the story was.

Little by little the story began to unfold. Since it was based on my own personal experiences writing the story came naturally and with ease. I was happy with the way things were turning out and how the story was coming together. Unfortunately, about midway through writing the novel I hit a roadblock, which was quite unexpected for me.

It was time to write a new chapter in the story but my mind drew a blank and I had no idea how to proceed further. Whenever I managed to come up with something I ended up rejecting it. I was left with a blank page and had to start all over again. I didn't want to force anything so I put the novel aside and didn't work on it any further for a while. It was after that hiatus, which lasted probably at least a few months, that things started to progress in the story. The words just started coming to me. A new chapter was born and the story continued. After that it was smooth sailing in terms of writing the story until its ending. There were no more roadblocks like that to face.

I am not sure how long it actually took me to write the novel from start to finish, but it doesn't really matter. The important thing was that it was brought to life. All that was left to do was edit it and then I would be ready to share the novel with the world.

Having edited the novel many times I thought the novel was ready to be shared with the world so I chose to publish it on Lulu. I started the book project and was ready to upload the file, get an ISBN for my book, create the book cover and then complete the rest of the process to get my book published... Before proceeding though I decided it would be best to get some people to read the novel first and let me know their thoughts on it. This way, in the event that I had missed something, whether it'd be typos or minor flaws in the storyline or the flow of the story, I'd be able to get it fixed before publishing the novel.

I didn't want to email people my manuscript, for fear of it being intercepted, so I published the novel on, made it a private item, and set a passkey for it so it could be accessed by those to whom I sent the link. No one else would have access to the novel but those few people.

The few people (people I knew) that I had asked to read my novel and provide feedback for it gave positive feedback. They told me that they loved the story, enjoyed reading it from start to finish and that they would not change anything in the story. That made me feel great about the novel and I was ready to get back to my book project on Lulu and proceed to upload the manuscript, create my book cover, and finally publish the book.

Then things suddenly came to a stop when I received feedback from one member (someone I didn't know whom I had asked to read and comment on my novel). That person gave me negative feedback, which greatly affected me and not in a good way. It made me feel that my novel was not good enough, and not worthy of being published and shared with others. This led me to push the novel aside and delete the book project from Lulu. I almost deleted the actual manuscript from my computer. Thankfully I never went through with it and I am glad I didn't because, now that the negative feedback no longer affects me and I realize that that person's opinion is just one opinion and doesn't mean the novel is bad, I chose to finally publish the novel. It is now available as a paperback and an e-book to share with the world.

Food for Thought

  • Let me tell you that while writing the story may be hard, editing the story is even harder. In this step you not only have to make sure that all your grammar, punctuation and spelling is correct, but you also have to make sure that everything flows smoothly and that there are no flaws in the story. You have to sit there reading every chapter, not only with your head but with your eyes and edit it as you read. Then when you are done you have to read the novel again from start to finish and most likely edit some more. It seems like a never-ending process and it is hard to tell yourself that you are finally done and that no more editing is required. You want the novel to be perfect and it can be hard to decide if you got there or if there are still minor things that need to be altered. To help you with all this it is a good idea to get other people to read the novel and offer their feedback. This can help you fix any issues you may have overlooked and improve the story.
  • When you get negative feedback for your novel do not get discouraged. If your novel is published don't unpublish it. And if you were planning to publish it don't stop. That negative feedback is just the opinion of that person and does not mean that your novel is of a poor quality and that the story is not good enough to be published and shared with the world. You can't please everyone. There will always be haters. See if you can get something positive out of that negative feedback and then push it aside!

My Journey Publishing The Secret Life of Ashley Miles

Once the editing of The Secret Life of Ashley Miles was complete I now had to ready the file for publication. I had to turn the Word document into an actual manuscript. I needed to have a title page, a copyright page, and an author bio. Then I needed to number the pages, include the title of the novel and author name in the header, set the page size to 6x9 (as my book would be 6x9 size), set the margins and choose the font for the novel. And since I was publishing the novel with Lulu I also had to make sure that page count was divisible by four and that the last page of the manuscript was left completely blank.

I wasn't done there. Since I was planning to sell the book outside of Lulu, in places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, etc. I needed to get an ISBN for my book. (Just selling the book on Lulu doesn't require an ISBN). I didn't want to deal with trying to obtain an ISBN for my book on my own, and didn't even know where to get one, so I opted to get an ISBN directly from Lulu, which was free. All I had to do was start a new book project on Lulu and select the option to obtain an ISBN for the book directly from Lulu. I got an ISBN for the book right away and was able to insert it into the copyright page of the manuscript. This ISBN can only be used with Lulu but it doesn't matter to me. I am not planning on finding another publisher for it.

After getting the ISBN into the manuscript I saved the file as a PDF and uploaded it into my book project. It was then that I had to move on to the next step, which was to create a book cover for my novel. I could have used one of the images and/or backgrounds that were available on Lulu but I didn't want to do that as I wanted the book cover to be unique and not contain images that others may use in their books. So, I had to come with something on my own.

I knew that I wanted a diary on the front cover but I didn't want it to take up the entire page. This meant that I also needed a background image for the front cover and for the back cover as well. I didn't want the background to be plain solid color, so I had to create the background images myself. I didn't have any pictures of my own to use and didn't want to use anything from the Internet as I may have ended up with an image that I wasn't allowed to use or that was used by someone else. That's where my creativity kicked in.

For the diary I took an image of my own leather diary that had a lock and a key hanging from it. And for the background I took a picture of one of my couch pillows. I changed the color of the pillow picture so it was brighter and matched the diary more color-wise. Then I uploaded all the images into Lulu's cover creator and tweaked them until I was pleased with what I saw. Then I added the title and author name to the front cover and the spine, the Lulu logo to the spine, and the book description to the back cover along with a photo of me and a few words about me. I was done. I clicked to make the cover into a PDF and save it and then proceeded to include relevant book information, choose the price of the book, and hit the button to publish the project. My book was now published an available for sale on Lulu and then distributed to Amazon, Barnes and Noble (online)... Then I published an e-book version of the book as people prefer to read e-books nowadays.

The Secret Life of Ashley Miles by Lena Kovadlo
The Secret Life of Ashley Miles by Lena Kovadlo | Source

Why I Chose to Publish My Novel With Lulu

  • I have total control over how my book cover looks, how my interior looks and how the story unfolds... There is no one to tell me what to do!
  • I can make changes to the manuscript and re-upload the manuscript and fix the book cover, if needed, even after the book has been published and available for sale.
  • I get a free ISBN for my book and I don't have to pay to get my book published as it's free to publish a book with Lulu.
  • I decide how much I make per each book sale and what the price of the book will be.
  • When I buy my own book I pay what it costs to manufacture the book not the retail price of the book, which means that I save money.
  • When someone buys my book I can see when it was bought, where it was bought from and how much I made for that book.
  • I need to earn as little as $5 to get paid my royalties, which are sent to my PayPal account. The payments are made monthly, not quarterly or longer than that.
  • I don't have to go through the following - search for an agent, suffer through writing a query letter, find a publisher for my book and face rejection after rejection after hopefully finally finding a publisher who will want to publish my novel into a book.

Please take a moment and answer two questions...

Have you written and published a novel or plan to write and publish one in the future?

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How did you publish your novel or plan to publish one?

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© 2014 Lena Kovadlo


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