Adventures in Self-Publishing: Writing My Paris Memoir

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Writing My Paris Memoir

Paris Memoir
Krystal Kenney, author of "Paris, a Life Less Ordinary" © Krystal Kenney

Paris has been inspiring writers from all nationalities and walks of life for centuries. When you think of Paris you may imagine a cafe full of thoughtful writers such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. This city inspired them to share their lives in the same ways it may inspire you.

I moved to Paris in 2012 and started my photography business, but in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to write a book one day. At the same time, it seemed so difficult. Who was I to think I could be a writer? Like most people who dream of a certain job, instead of showing up to my dream, I befriended every other person who was living it. Paris journalists and novelists became the people I chose to spend my downtime with, examining their lives and ideas for my podcast, and having lots of drinks around town.

It wasn’t until the pandemic caused the world to be put on pause that I felt like I finally had the time to pursue my goal. My family and friends had been hounding me for years to write a book. My husband saw the way my eyes lit up when I mentioned I wanted to be a writer. They all told me, “Krystal, just do it!” Still, I hesitated until another friend told me she had a book coach and was planning to write her first book that I finally gave myself permission.

The author enjoying a break at a Paris café while taking photos around town ©Krystal Kenney

Memories of Paris

I decided to write a memoir about my life in Paris. I had arrived in the city of light at the age of 26 and from there my life was a roller coaster ride of ups and downs trying to hold onto the dream of living here. I had dating blunders, love stories, celebrity encounters, and homelessness on my list of experiences. That’s how Paris, a Life Less Ordinary was born.

I wanted to write a book that wasn’t fluffy or sugar-coated but funny and real. I wanted to expose the hard and exhausting work it takes for many of us foreigners to be here. For instance, the book opens with me finding out my French boyfriend was cheating on me. Needing to quickly move out to avoid further heartbreak, I checked into a local hostel and lived with 10 other girls. They were all on vacation, dizzy with excitement to visit the city of love. I on the other hand wanted nothing more than to cry out my heartbreak and find a new game plan for my life in Paris.

The book also talks a lot about some of the wild events I covered through my photography work, including attending the Cannes Film festival. I was lucky enough to walk the red carpet and sit in the same room with Kristin Stewart and so many other icons. One evening, I attended a party on a row of yachts where we danced the night away to a live concert from Run DMC. That story ends with a flying leap onto another yacht – if you want to hear more, pick up the book!

Read more about Krystal’s podcast La Vie Creative HERE

The author interviews artists with French connections for her weekly podcast © Krystal Kenney

Pursuing the dream

In writing my memoir, I was excited to explore something new. I’ve been a photographer for the last 15 years of my life. I know it so well, my gear, how to work with people, how to build a business. But writing a book was something I knew nothing about. I wanted a new challenge and a new lesson in something I adored. The most fun part of writing a book was learning the process. I worried that my brain wouldn’t recall much of my life here. But I quickly realized that once you start opening doors in your mind, a whole flood of ideas and emotions come rolling out. Writing a memoir was like having 10 years of therapy in 3 months. I revisited traumas and things I had long forgotten but hadn’t forgotten me.

I became obsessed with reading every book on how to write a memoir including, The Art of Memoir, On Writing, as well as memoirs written by people I love such as Eat, Pray, Love, Almost French, and Everything I know about Love. I also reached out to writers I admired asking for help and was so shocked and surprised when people like Samantha Vérant, Laura Bradbury, and Claudine Hemingway graciously accepted and jumped right in with advice. What I learned is that it’s important to read as much as you write. Even more, it’s essential to make a writing schedule and stick to it no matter what, just like a gym schedule. I told myself no matter what, I needed to put myself in front of my computer for 2 hours and make time to write. It’s hard to show up some days. Sometimes nothing comes out, other times great things do. But once you get rolling, you feel so happy and rewarded after.

The cover and back flap of the author’s self-published memoir © Krystal Kenney

The path to self-publishing

I chose to go the route of self-publishing after carefully examining the experiences of my friends. I quickly learned that self-publishing meant more investment on my part but also more control and faster publication which really meant a lot to me. I had this story bubbling inside of me for years, and I wanted to share it. However, self-publishing meant I had to pay my own editor, cover designers, and a company to format the book. These days, you do have the option to do all of that yourself using cheap and basically free online resources such as Canva but I wanted the pros to help me feel pro on my first book.

When it came to searching for people to help me, I invested time in researching editors, cover designers, and people who could format the book so it printed correctly. I carefully looked at dozens of portfolios until I found the ones that resonated with my look and feel. I then reached out to them for pricing and to get a feel for how they worked and how long the project would take. There are lots of low-budget places like Fiverr and Upwork to find these types of professionals.

The best part of self-publishing is you can just upload your masterpiece to Amazon and voila! people can buy the Kindle version and paperback directly from you. Generally, you get 70 percent of the profits from self-publishing as well, whereas with a traditional publishing house you normally get an upfront sum and then 5 to 10 percent on each sale after. On the other hand, a traditional publisher will take care of everything including cover design, proofreading, and getting your book on book store shelves.

Ebooks have been a boon to both avid readers and self-publishers © James Tarbotton/Unsplash

But I have no regrets about self-publishing because it’s more and more accessible and acceptable. Years ago, some people may have looked down on you for self-publishing but for me, it was a great way to get my voice heard on my own terms and faster than the years of pitching to agents and publishers and hoping for the best.

Now that I have successfully gone through the process myself, I mentor others on how to get their books published and the best marketing tools to publicize their work. Having people find your book is just as important as writing it! There are specific ways of using social media, reaching out to local bookstores and libraries, and much more that can help you get seen. One of my favorite experiences was having virtual book tours with fellow authors with similar projects, such as other French memoirs.

The most surprising part of writing was how quickly it came out of me, within 3 months I had a book! A rough draft of course, but after years of coming up with excuses about how impossible it would be, I could never have predicted how fast it flowed. So if you’re thinking about releasing your own book but struggling, remember once your pen gets moving it may be hard to stop. I wrote my book for fun and as a passion project, I never expect to get rich from it but I do hope to empower other people to chase down their Paris dreams, knowing a little more about how challenging but worthwhile it can be.



one + fourteen =

All comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment right away, please be patient. It may be posted soon. There's no need to post your comment a second time. Thank you!