Julie Ryan shares what she has learnt through her writing journey.

It seems strange to think that a year ago I hadn’t published anything. Then in September 2013 I self-published my first novel, Jenna’s Journey and now my second book, Sophia’s Secret, is out. It has been such a steep learning curve that I wanted to share with you what I’ve learnt. Here are some of the things I wish I’d known as an aspiring writer.

Using social media

The world of publishing has changed so much over the last few years that whether you are traditionally published or self-published you need to establish an online presence if you want to sell books and make fans. However, this does not mean ‘friending’ every author you can find then bombarding them with requests to like your page or buy your book. It will likely result in you being very quickly ‘unfriended,’ blocked and badmouthed so don’t do it! You wouldn’t go up to a total stranger in the street and say ‘ hey, I’ve written a book. Why don’t you buy it?” so don’t do it online either.


Hopefully I haven’t hacked too many people off! Used wisely, however, social media can be a great tool in promoting your books and you really need to be establishing yourself well in advance of publication; that way you’ll already have plenty of friends and contacts when you do decide to publish.

I’d also recommend setting up a separate author page – it means that you can keep your personal posts separate from your author posts and also your family won’t get fed up of hearing about your latest masterpiece.

Editing and proofreading

So, you’ve actually written a book? Now you can relax and breathe easy? Wrong. Now comes the most time-consuming part of all. If you want readers to take you seriously then this is the most important part. Even if you are so excited to get your book out to a wider public, don’t skimp at this stage.

You need to get your book into the best condition possible. This means either paying for an editor and proofreader or at the very least putting your book out to beta readers and then going through it with a fine toothcomb. As a writer, you become so familiar with your own work that it’s almost impossible to detach yourself sufficiently in order to spot mistakes; you develop a kind of word blindness.

It will be well worth all the effort in the end though even if there are times when you never want to look at your own book ever again!

Don’t give up the day job!

If you manage to get as far as finishing a novel then you should congratulate yourself. So many people say they want to write a book yet comparatively few of those see it through to the end. I will say though that you need to be realistic.

For sure, hold on to the dream but most writers, unless they are very lucky, extremely talented and have been writing for a long time, will still have another job besides writing. Keep at it but most writers write because they can’t imagine not writing. For those fortunate enough to make a living from it, I can only aspire to be like you one day!

Dealing with criticism

After you’ve toiled on your masterpiece for years, had sleepless nights and missed important events just to get it finished, any criticism hurts! However, if it’s levelled in a constructive way then I feel it is justified. After all, you can’t please all the people all the time. What I really object to are the trolls who have never read the book in question, using personal criticism to attack an author. So far I’ve been lucky in this respect but retaliating just gives them more fuel to pour on the fire. Better to keep your dignity and ignore them.


You will need this by the bucketful. Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Better to have pages of what you think are ‘rubbish’ that can be edited than a blank page. Remind yourself of the successes and push any negativity to the back of your mind. Easier said than done I know but take it step by step and if you want it badly enough, it will happen. Surround yourself by inspirational people who will support you. For me, it took a chance meeting with a new neighbour to convince me that I should finish a short story I’d been working on. That story became Jenna’s Journey. So remember, if I can do it, so can you!


Sophia's secretKat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth.

Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty-year-old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing church treasure?

Julie Ryan was brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail. Jenna’s Journey is her debut novel set in Greece, a country to which she has a strong attachment. Sophia’s Story is the second book in the series.

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