From the Author’s Perspective: Writing and Publishing The Fearless List

In seventh grade, I watched a Youtube video of two sisters facing some of their greatest fears, and I was immediately inspired to do the same. As I was writing down my list, I thought, what if I made this a book? Four years later, my novel The Fearless List is now published and available in many online stores and the Frisco Public Library!

The Fearless List is a contemporary coming-of-age novel about Lenna Singer, a shy and anxious eighth-grade girl whose persuaded by her best friend, outgoing Winn Guadalupe, to face a list of her worst fears. The genres are Middle Grade to Young Adult, and the story uncovers what it means to be fearless and live life to the fullest.

Writing and publishing my novel took years of research and included numerous steps and hurdles. Here are all the specifics with my insights about the process!

Writing the Novel

I’ve always loved creative writing, and being an author has been a dream of mine since age 5. I’d attempted writing novels in the past, but writer’s block or new story ideas usually stopped me from finishing any of them.

When I first drafted The Fearless List, I did not follow outlines or story structures. Instead, I had a basic concept of the plot and character development arcs I wanted, and I wrote chapter to chapter without a real guide. Midway through writing the first draft, I learned about the Three Act Story Structure, which guided most of my novel writing for the rest of the process. This structure separates a story into three acts with different plot and character development devices applicable to all. I recommend watching Abbie Emmon’s YouTube videos regarding the Three Act Story Structure for more information, as I often watched her videos to guide my outlining. The most valuable piece of advice that I learned from her channel was that a plot should not simply be intriguing. Instead, it should specifically matter and affect a character, potentially because of their backstory or characteristic traits. The story is ultimately character-driven, making it matter to the reader and your character(s). 


In March 2020, I finished my first draft at about 50,000 words. The next phase in the process was developmental editing, meaning editing the story/plot. Many authors recommend stepping away from the novel for at least three months after finishing your first draft. After the break, you can see more potential errors or plot holes due to the distance from your work. During my break period, I had friends and family read the novel, and I wrote down all the notes they gave me regarding characters, conflicts, continuity errors, etc. I then revised the book with them and looked for professional editing as the next step.

I used Reedsy, an online hub for editing/designing/marketing freelancers, to find my developmental editor. Since I was under eighteen, I needed parental consent to use the platform. I sent a brief with a sample of my novel to my potential developmental editors, and I chose my final editor based on price comparisons and timelines. My developmental editor finished reading The Fearless List in about a month and sent back a document with her thoughts on different aspects of the book (pacing, characters, dialogue, chapter length, etc.). Over the next year, I completed several drafts revising elements of the story and ensuring I was satisfied with the end product. 

Once my book was finalized, I used Reedsy for two more rounds of editing. First, copyediting, which edits grammar, structure, clarity, etc. Once this was completed, I moved on to proofreading, the final round of editing that usually looks for format issues and any last clerical errors. I inputted my manuscript into a site called Vellum which lays out your book in the proper novel format.

By the end of this process, my novel had been through around 20 drafts concerning all forms of editing and rewriting. The title, character names, plot elements, and much more had shifted over the two years of editing. Before I finalized my manuscript for publication, I read through it all one last time to ensure it was ready. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to a project I’d been working on for so many years, and it was equally difficult to stop myself from continuing to fix one last word or phrase and instead realize that the book was done. However, by then, I was excited to actualize the publishing dreams I have held on to since I was a little kid.

Designing the Cover

My book cover design process included many trials and errors. Some potential book cover designs fell through due to my timeline, but some sites I looked at were Reedsy, 99Designs, and GetCovers. After significant research, I finally chose @BringDesigns from Fiverr to illustrate the paperback and hardback covers.

To design the cover, my illustrator needed book dimensions, the book blurb, my author bio/picture, the publishing company logo, etc. I used IngramSpark to create the book cover dimensions after inputting the page count and desired height/width (which followed industry standards for my genre). After gathering the rest of the needed information, I explained my basic concept for the cover. I received a mock drawing in sketch form and relayed some of my edits. After several conversations, I received my final cover designs in jpeg and pdf format. I loved the results, and it was so exciting to see characters in my mind be brought to life in full color!

If you are interested in designing your book cover, there are many Youtube videos, including one from Abbie Emmons, detailing the process in step-by-step format!

Publishing Logistics

The entire publishing industry was a mystery to me before I published The Fearless List. I read articles and watched many Youtube videos on publishing to fully understand the logistics. It can be extremely overwhelming, especially as a teen author, to navigate the many different factors of publishing, so research is instrumental, and mistakes are inevitable!

First, I was unsure whether to pursue self-publishing or traditional publishing, as many pros and cons were there for both sides. For a brief overview, traditional publishing usually incorporates querying a literary agent who connects your book to a publishing company that distributes your book to online and in-person bookstores. They help market and publicize your novel, but you usually have less control over editing, titles, cover designs, and royalty rates. In contrast, self-publishing is independent and allows for control over all aspects of the publishing/writing/designing process, with higher royalty amounts. However, marketing and putting your book in physical bookstores is more difficult and all up to you. For creative liberty, I decided to pursue self-publishing for my debut novel!

After perfecting my manuscript and obtaining the cover design, I had to work out some publishing logistics. For instance, I used Bowker to gain ISBNs for barcodes, created an LCCN number to make my book available for libraries, and formed an LLC company (named Janice Macken Press after my childhood writing penname). These components are very confusing at face value, so I recommend watching Mandi Lynn, Bethany Atazadeh, or M.K. Williams on Youtube for more information.

I used a mix of KDP and IngramSpark to upload my books. KDP is Amazon’s author hub for print-on-demand distribution, meaning you can upload your novel to the website, and they will print the books in their factory and ship them out to all buyers. As an author, you sacrifice a cut from your profit for their printing/shipping costs to passively make income without shipping a personal inventory. 

With KDP, you can order physical proof copies before your book is published, and getting to hold my book for the first time was probably the best part of my author journey. I also used IngramSpark, which is the same type of print-on-demand distributor as KDP, but it distributes books to all sorts of online bookstores, including Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. IngramSpark is less user-friendly, difficult to contact, and prone to errors. However, it opens up distribution to many stores, allows for preorders, produces hardcovers, and allows the potential physical bookstores to put your book in their stores with wide distribution and wholesale discounts.

I put my book in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover format for preorder during January and February. During that time, I used BookSirens and a NetGalley co-op to obtain free and honest reviews of my book. These sites allow an author to give eager readers the opportunity for a free read of your book in return for an honest review online. Many of my reviews went to Goodreads, and it was so exciting to see so many strangers rate and describe their positive thoughts on my story!


Since the release of The Fearless List in March 2023, I’ve made an official author website, entered and won a Silver Key in the Scholastic Writing and Arts Awards, been featured in an author Frisco Enterprise article, and attended/hosted two book signings, all to help market my book! 

My first book signing was a local author book fair in February at Fabled, a local bookstore in Waco, and the second was a personal book signing hosted at Write On! Creative Writing Center in Frisco. My book has now been able to reach #1 in certain New Release categories on Amazon and IngramSpark, with about 500 sales in total due to many friends, family members, and new readers! 

I’m so thankful for all the support I have been given from the community, and I hope to continue publicizing The Fearless List and writing and publishing new works in the future! If you are interested in publishing a novel yourself, especially as a teen, I hope this article helps guide you in the right direction. Writing and publishing a book can be a long process, but it is possible and worthwhile for anyone interested!