How I ended up writing a bestselling novel that got published when I was 17.
I have always loved reading. I’ve always had bookshelves bursting with books that I either can’t wait to read or have read a dozen times over. And I think it’s from my love of reading that my love of writing grew.
There’s just something about letting your imagination run totally wild that I love.
And for at least the last ten years – literally, half of my life – I’ve loved writing stories. When I got an old laptop, when I was 12, I started writing more. And more, and more, and more. It was an obsession, to say the least.
I’d stay up late into the night, when everyone else in the house was fast asleep, tapping away at my keyboard in the darkness of my room. And quite honestly, I was embarrassed about my love of writing. I let my parents think I was on Facebook. I just didn’t want them asking to read what I was writing. It’d take the fun out of it, I thought. And I couldn’t tell my friends – what if they laughed at me?
When I was 15, that all changed.
Twilight had bombarded the cinemas and the bestseller spots in bookstores, and in its wake, a million other paranormal YA novels followed – to the point where the only YA books I could find were, surprise, surprise, full of vampires/werewolves/fallen angels/etc.
You know what? I was so. Goddamn. Bored.
I just wanted a regular high school romance. Sure, I loved the bad-boy characters and the never-been-kissed female protagonists, but God, I was so tired of vampires.
I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read. So, I wrote my own.
Literally, that was how it started. I was bored so wrote the book I wanted to read. (Crazy, right?)
I was practically possessed, writing that book. I called it ‘The Kissing Booth’ and after a little while, started uploading it to Wattpad. I’d already posted one book on there and had a couple of hundred fans, but The Kissing Booth gathered an insanely huge audience. In the end, it had 19 million reads.
19 million. If I had a pound for every read, just think of how many books that would buy…
Anyway. Back to it: The Kissing Booth got really popular on Wattpad, and I couldn’t really believe it, because hell, I was just writing for fun! And then, when I was 17, back in 2012, an editor from (Penguin) Random House contacted me to say they wanted to publish my book.
I swear to God, when I read that message, the sound that came out of my mouth was not human.
I’d been getting such good feedback online that it made me feel good about my writing, and that gave me the confidence to share my love of writing more openly in real life. It also gave me the confidence to, eventually, stop hanging out with people who weren’t really my friends, and hang out with people I did get on with instead, and who were incredibly supportive when I told them that I was going to be having a book published.
It was a whirlwind sort of journey. One minute, my mum is shouting upstairs for me to get off my laptop and do the washing up… and the next, my mum is shouting upstairs for me to get off my laptop and do the washing up, and I’ve got a book deal.
So, there you have it! My utterly crazy, seemingly straightforward, story of how I got published. Every time I talk about it, I swear I want to crack up laughing because it’s still so surreal that this is a thing that happened to me, even three years down the line.
And it all happened because I wrote the sort of book that I wanted to read.
BUT, I didn’t want to talk all about me (although it may be too late for that…) so I’m also about to share my top three tips for growing your audience when you publish a book online!
1. Make use of social media: create a Twitter account, a blog, a Facebook page, and use them to talk to your fans. Share covers for your books (also: super important tip, make sure you make a cover for your book. Even if it’s rubbish – the effort will be appreciated.), share links to the latest and first chapter of your story, etc.
2. Reply to comments and messages! Talk to your fans and readers, and interact with them. Send out new messages to all of them, and reply to individual ones – especially questions.
3. Update regularly. Whether regularly is, for you, once a week, or three times a week, it doesn’t matter. Just try and stick to some sort of schedule when it comes to your uploads. Make it every Thursday afternoon. Let people know if it’s going to be a late upload, or if you won’t upload next week because you’re on holiday. It’ll keep your readers coming back for your content.
There you have it! It might take a while (it did for me) and you won’t notice an overnight spike of ten million readers from three hundred – but work at it, and be patient, and hopefully you’ll see a difference.