Paula Johnston is a hugely successful self-published author… this is how she did it.

April 4, 2022



Paula Johnston is an author I’ve noticed on twitter with her eye-catching novel, The Lies She Told, circulating around socials. When I was introduced to her through another author, I quickly became interested in Paula’s road to publication. I instantly realised how she had crushed the publication industry, by going off and doing it her own way! I take my hat off to her. I think you need to be really intelligent and savvy to do it yourself in this competitive business and most people understand that whether you have a publisher or not, doesn’t necessarily earn you a place on the bestseller lists.

Paula shows us this. She is EVERYWHERE, getting noticed, getting praised and showing hopeful, aspiring authors that you can carve your own way to the bookshops, without the traditional support of a publisher. She also explains that you need to do your research. What she isn’t mentioning however, is the determination, self-esteem, bravery she must have in getting herself and her book out there for fans all over to enjoy! I love stories like this. Thanks for sharing, Paula!

How long have you been writing?

It took over a year and a half to write my debut but in general, I used to always enjoy writing stories when I was younger. I’d often fold up bits of paper to make a book and then I’d create a little story to fill it with and then draw a front cover to match. I always knew I enjoyed writing but had no idea what to do with it. I studied journalism when I was 18 and dropped out one month before completing the course. I didn’t feel like it was right type of writing for me but had no idea what else I could at that point so hopped between a few different careers. I privately journaled, wrote poetry, posted some blog posts and even started writing blurbs or promotions for peoples businesses.

What led to the publication of your novel?

I chose to self-publish my first novel via Amazon KDP.  With no formal writing experience behind me, I didn’t think I was qualified enough to attract the attention of an agent or publisher so I didn’t get my hopes up. I was working in an office job at the time and was completely miserable. My health took a decline and I was forced to take some time out, just before COVID hit. I’d almost finished the manuscript when that happened so with a lot of time in isolation, I signed up for courses and did mountains of research on how to get my debut out into the world.

Did you try submitting to agents/publishers? Why/Why not?

I did submit to a handful of agents and publishers but I wasn’t expecting much. It was more for the experience that I send submissions. Fortunately the book was successful without that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much and decided to just enjoy the new path I made for myself.

How long did it take to write your novel?

I started the novel a handful on times over the years but always scrapped the idea. I think a lot of writers feel some sort of imposter syndrome that tells them that they won’t be good enough. One day, I was bored in work and had an hour for my lunch break. I opened up a blank word document and away I went from there. I had an urge to finally go for it and used all my lunch breaks after that to write. It probably took a year an a half from start to finish.

Any tips for writers starting out?

In terms of starting out with self-publishing, my advice would be to do as much research as possible. The best thing you can do is take time to learn how things are done and then put it into practice when you fully understand what’s required. It also gives you a great understanding of the what goes on in the publishing industry. When writing your novel, I’d say try not to put too much pressure on yourself and try not to compare your journey to other peoples. Write what you feel passionate about and don’t stress about how long it takes.

Your first reaction when you saw your book?

It was very surreal. I knew that I was holding my debut novel in my hands but it wasn’t sinking in. It really was my childhood dream to become an author, as cliche as that sounds and I still feel really overwhelmed every time I see it in a store or online – even when I see it on my own bookshelf! I don’t think it will ever totally sink in for me because I never thought it was possible. I created something very special to me and then brought it to life for others to enjoy. I’m extremely grateful.

What’s next for you?

A lot of readers wanted to see the sequel to The Lies She Told, but I really wanted to create something brand new. I feel more confident in my writing now thanks to some fantastic reviews from authors and readers from all over the world, and I’m really excited to be able to offer something else for people to devour. I’m currently writing into the long hours of the night to finalise my next novel – hopefully before the end of the year! I do plan to submit to a handful of agents but if there’s no perfect match, I’m more than happy to self-publish for a second time.

This is the perfect story for writers to hear about, knowing that they don’t have to take that predictable, tradition route towards publication. That’s not to say that what Paula has achieved isn’t difficult. It takes a lot to achieve the success Paula has, and I can’t wait to see this success continuing for her.

You can purchase her novel here and follow Paula here.

Thanks for stopping by!