Allison Maruska

Things You Don’t Know When You Decide to Self-publish Your Book

Hey y’all… I’m starting a new 5 part series about things I didn’t know when I set out on this writing journey three years ago. I’m making the assumption that unless you already know someone in the business or were born into a literary family – you don’t either. For my author friends, feel free to add in your experiences or elaborate in the comments. 

A bit about my experience: I.Had.None. Aside from being gifted with words and arranging them (i.e. a good writer) I knew NOTHING about writing a book. 

I seriously took three novels (I’ll elaborate more in future weeks) and highlighted dialogue tags and studied structure. It was totally uncharted territory, and I was more than scared about my ability to tell a tale. I’d tried before (not in earnest) and failed but this time, it was different. I was different. The day I wrote the opening lines for my first book The Waiting, I knew I had something special and worth fighting for. 

There’s no way to prepare yourself for all that comes along with self-publishing, but hopefully this will show you rookie mistakes to avoid and ways to get a step ahead. So without further adieu, here’s the first thing you don’t know when you decide to self-publish. 

1) You will step out of your comfort zone. 

I’m an introvert. Like, bad. Plus, most of the time, I’m socially awkward as hell. I feel things, express things that most normal people walking around don’t, and this can lead to them getting very overwhelmed by me and my personality. For the most part, becoming a nurse (and the natural extrovert qualities you MUST possess to do that job) helped me overcome this or rather, tone myself down, because let’s just be honest, no one wants a teary nurse who may or may not be crying because she’s 1) angry 2) sad or 3) happy. 

Kristen Bell (of Frozen fame for those of you who’ve lived in a box for the past three years) said if she’s not within a 3-7 on the emotional scale, she’s crying. Seriously, this is me. If I am even a half step past those numbers, I’m weeping – or trying not to. Btw, if you’ve never seen her sloth video, it’s a must watch! (Kristen Bell on Ellen)

All this to say, it’s not easy for me to step out of my cocoon and put myself and my books (essentially my children) out for the world to see and scrutinize. I’ll admit, I’ve received more praise and acceptance than critical comments, but even positive accolades take me to an uncomfortable place where I have to talk about myself and what I do. But I believe in order to grow as a person and as a writer, we have to be willing to put ourselves in situations where we are totally and completely uncomfortable. I liken it to fight or flight. Sinking or swimming. How do we hold up under pressure? Do we shy away? Or do we meet the challenge head on?

Yesterday, I took part in my very first video interview. I was asked the evening before by J.A. Allen of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins as a prize for winning her weekly challenge (check them out on her blog under #SSC) and though I was hesitant, I said yes. Now that I think about it, having to decide in less than five minutes was probably for the best. I’m a planner with extremely sudden burst of impulsiveness and I’m glad (for once) my spontaneous side took over. 

J.A. is a co-host on a weekly show on YouTube (Writers off Task with Friends) along with Dan Alatorre and Allison Maruska. And even though, I was nervous, those three were a blast and made me feel comfortable from the start. That’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of super weird wandering eyes, over-exaggerated Southern accent, and general overall awkwardness, but that’s okay. Vulnerable is beautiful. It’s authentic and it stretches you to become a better version of yourself. So take the chance and get out of the comfort zone! You never know what’s on the other side.

Vulnerable is Beautiful artwork by my supremely talented Sister of the Moon, Sierrah. She is also Starling Hopewell. 

For Your Reading Pleasure…Allison Maruska


We have Allison Maruska here today. Her YA novel will release soon so be sure and check out her blog and Facebook page for updates!!!

1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page)

In addition to being a writer, I’m a wife, mom, teacher, owl enthusiast, and Colorado native.
Author website and blog:
Twitter: @allisonmaruska

2. How do you choose names for your characters?

It depends, but most of the time I’ll imagine the character’s features and mannerisms, then I resort to my Name Dice app. I literally roll the dice until I land on a name that “feels” right. If the character is from a time in the past, I research popular baby names from that time period and use one of those.

3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real? Yes, especially when hashing out ideas with someone. Sometimes I forget my characters aren’t real and get sad when reality hits again. They begin to feel like friends I haven’t seen for a long time but I know completely.

4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind?

Nope, I need it quiet. But a few of my characters have “adopted” songs to match their personalities, so I’ll listen to those before writing about them.

5. How long have you been writing?

I started blogging in March of 2012; consisting mostly of humor, parenting, and teaching posts. Fiction writing came later. I had the characters for my first book in my head around this time, but it took me a year to figure out their story. That was after five attempts.

6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be’ a writer.

Oh, wow. I’m not sure. Looking back, it seems like it should have been obvious. When I was in fifth grade, I won a short story contest at school and had to read it in front of everyone. I didn’t tell my mom until the morning before it was supposed to happen because the attention embarrassed me.
I didn’t think I could really be a writer – like someone who could do this for a living – until much much later. Like a month ago. Ha.

7. Do you have a muse?

Not really… sometimes ideas just seem to pop out of nowhere.

8. How do you improve as a writer? (Workshops, conferences, reading)

I’ve done quite a bit of reading and have my favorite “writing” authors – Chuck Wendig and Nathan Bransford are two. But I’d say the biggest source of improvement is my online writing community at Critique Circle. There are writers representing every genre and skill level from all over the world. In the group that critiques my work, I have one writer who focuses on how I’ve developed my characters, while another picks out my unnecessary wordiness. The other seven offer suggestions from their own strengths – plausibility, sentence construction, etc. And I offer suggestions to them in their work. Once the trust is established, only constructive criticism and improvement follow.

9. Writing quirks or superstitions?

No, but I’m open to suggestions.

10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress.

I guess I have two – the one in the critique group now and I’m polishing is an adult mystery/suspense novel about four strangers who learn their ancestors worked together to bury something in a locked safe in a Virginia courthouse a century ago. Their ancestors came from diverse backgrounds, having no obvious reason to work together. The descendants have to find the keys left to their families to unlock the mystery, which ends up being much more serious than they could have imagined.
The book I’m actively writing probably couldn’t be more different – it’s a YA urban fantasy/dystopian about a teenage boy who survives a global pandemic along with a handful of other teens. Instead of the virus killing them, they develop the ability to shape shift into various flying creatures. It’s a story of how they all try to fit into their new world.

11. What book are you reading now?

Mostly my friends’ projects in my critique group. As far as actual published books go, I’ve been reading a lot of self-published work by authors I’ve met in the critique group or on Twitter. Recent titles include Savvy Stories by Dan Alatorre; IA: Initiate by John Winston; and I’m currently reading Necromancer Awakening by Nat Russo.

12. What genre do you write in? What about PoV?

I favor mystery/suspense, but my work seems to always have bits of sci-fi in there too. Third person limited is my fallback POV for novels, but short stories are usually in first person.

13. Tell us about writing preparation. Character Profiles? Outlines?

I plan the major plot points ahead of time but “pants” most of the in between events. I’ve outlined a couple books more thoroughly, but I found myself changing a lot of what I planned as I went along.

14. Do you know how your stories will end?

Not usually at the beginning. I have to get a feel for the characters and how the story’s going before I can figure out a great twist and satisfying ending. I love twists. Readers of my short stories are nodding in agreement right now.

15. Do you books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment?

I’m not sure I consciously have a theme, but one usually emerges as I’m going along. Since all but one of my books so far are YA, the theme usually is in the spirit of finding your place in the world, learning who you really are, and fighting for what matters. But the reason I write is to entertain.

16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing?

If I’m stuck I eat sweets. If I’m cruising along I usually forget to eat.

17. Tell us about your other passions.

First place would be my husband and our two elementary-aged sons. Listening to my boys read is one of my favorite parts of my day.

I’ve been an elementary school teacher for thirteen years; I had my own classroom for the first ten years. I’m currently a part time “certified interventionist” at a school with a high-poverty population. The kids are amazing and funny.

I also serve in our church as a second grade teacher and as a keyboard player on the worship team. It can be a lot of work sometimes but I love it.

18. What’s something interesting about you?

I can drink a gallon of milk in ten seconds.
I really can’t, but whoever knows what that’s from gets a million bonus points.

19. Share a small sample(limit to one paragraph, please) of your writing… can be a WIP or already published.

This is the first paragraph from my soon-to-be-released YA novel.

Levin looked away from his computer screen and back to the torn open envelope on his desk. At first, he’d kept it in a drawer, but he found himself opening the drawer repeatedly to ensure the envelope was still there. He moved it to his desk top for more convenient visual confirmation of its presence.

20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers?

THANK YOU!! I obviously wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for you.

Thanks Allison! Looking forward to your release day!!