Jess Gosling International teacher, author of 'Becoming a Successful International Teacher' and creator of 'New to International Schools Teachers' page and group,

Jess Gosling explains the process of self-publishing a book from her blog, and the challenges and rewards of this process.

Have a blog and thinking about writing a book? Read on! 

When I first thought about writing a book, I didn’t realize the personal journey that I would embark upon. There was so much I didn’t know about the new skill sets needed, such as the style of writing a book, the cover, correct formatting, and publishing the final work. In addition, the project would require deep reflection on the teaching experiences of both myself and my colleagues. The idea of such a text had developed from my blog. Through creating and developing this blog I came to realise just how much there was to say about being an international teacher.

Creating a Community

It was midway through 2020 when I started my blog, which centred on what teachers needed to do to teach internationally, as well as my personal experiences of international teaching. I then considered the best way to share this writing, which I decided would be through my own website. Prospective international teachers contacted me through the website, and it occurred to me that this information could also support a much wider audience. So, I set up a Facebook page and group called “New to International School Teachers,” which aimed to specifically support teachers contemplating a move, or those who are new to teaching overseas. 

Some teachers were suffering from exhaustion, they felt over-worked, and often experienced a lack of support from senior management in their school.

Through both my group and other UK-based Facebook teaching groups, I became aware that many teachers were unhappy in their home countries. Some teachers were suffering from exhaustion, they felt over-worked, and often experienced a lack of support from senior management in their school. Reading these posts, I recognized that their experiences had mimicked some of my own back home. I had left the UK in 2009, after I had become frustrated by the poor working conditions in state-maintained schools.

After my Facebook group had been online for several months, I wondered if I could write a guide to support these teachers, one that focused on an exciting and rewarding alternative career path overseas. With this in mind, I began to reflect upon what teachers needed to know to successfully relocate, such as a good overseas location and school, and once this was in place, how to thrive when living and teaching abroad. However, I didn’t want to include just my viewpoint on this, so I started to research and post questions on international teacher forums, as well as having discussions with my colleagues. 

I began to rework my original blog, which became a basic outline of the book, from which I could draw out chapters and subsections. I worked through the text with my editor, current and former colleagues, and shared the blog with others, who gave me lots of much appreciated feedback. 

Juggling full-time work and developing the book most evenings started to take a toll on me.

However, juggling full-time work and developing the book most evenings started to take a toll on me. I gave myself very little time to decompress and relax, as I simply didn’t know how to. As the Christmas holidays approached, I felt I needed to take a break, but at the same time, I carried a pang of nagging guilt for not sending further work through to my editor. At one point I took a week off to ‘slow down’ and didn’t work on the text. Self-reflecting on this time, I realise that these ‘breathers’ between writing chapters were helpful, as I was able to slow down and give colleagues more time to return the edited texts.

After this short breather, I returned to writing in January. By April, I was nearing the end of the drafting and redrafting process, and came to what I considered would be the penultimate chapter. I explained to my editor that I was done, as I didn’t think I needed to detail the different types of international teachers and their experiences which we had originally discussed. Upon hearing this, my editor paused, then told me that she felt that this was one of the most important parts of the book. So, somewhat reluctantly, I returned to the text. 

What I hadn’t expected was how much I would thoroughly enjoy creating two final chapters. I wondered how best to represent the varied experiences of international teachers. This section, I knew, would need to be approached differently from the remainder of the book to fully authenticate the thoughts and experiences of others. I involved them in the writing process by distributing questionnaires that provided detail-rich replies and valuable insights and feedback from spouses, teachers with children, teaching couples, single teachers, and other expats involved in education. 

When I had finished these last chapters, I assumed my work was done. However, there were further milestones to reach. I began by investigating how to create a great cover.

Creating the Cover

At this point, I naively thought the design of the interior of the book would be straightforward.

For this, I enlisted a group of trainee designers. At first, this didn’t work out, so I began to mock-up my own images to guide their design, and after a month of revisions, the cover was completed. At this point, I naively thought the design of the interior of the book would be straightforward.

After researching several interior designers through the freelancer online group, FiverrI decided upon a designer who used InDesign, specialised design software to create book interiors. His work looked beautiful, with dropped caps and strong headers, although I provided lots of suggestions and feedback during the design of the text, too. 

However, the designer had expected a fully reviewed, finished piece of work, so there was a very tense moment after I sent the work back with text changes, only for it to be returned abruptly in complaint. My heart sank, as I was so close to finishing. I was honest with him, explaining that as a self-published author I had no idea of this process, and I was truly sorry. Following this discussion, and the promise of a tip to compensate for the extra work, his responses returned to his usual upbeat style. 

Meanwhile, I was finding out how to obtain an ISBN in Taiwan. Through responses on Taipei-based Facebook forums, I discovered I should apply through the website of the National Library in Taipei. Immediately I became worried about this task as I struggled to understand a website translated through Google. However, with a little support via the helpdesk, the National Library issued ISBNs for both my digital and print copies.

Creating the Final Result

This process of finalising the book occupied my time for more than four weeks, three of which were in my school holidays. I felt guilty for this as after a period of online learning, I felt I needed to reconnect with my daughter in her school holidays. Nevertheless, after such a lengthy process, the moment came when I hit “publish”. My daughter embraced me and told me she was proud. It was a relief, but also a terrifying moment. What if it wasn’t good enough? 

No matter how many colleagues had read and applauded my work, as always, there was still a nagging doubt it wouldn’t be well received by the public. Several days after the publishing date, however, I received positive reviews from strangers, who included a director of an international teacher recruitment company. This was a turning point for me, towards believing my work is valuable and good enough for publication.

Writing the book was an all-consuming, but fascinating, experience.

To conclude, writing the book was an all-consuming, but fascinating, experience. The challenges of self-publishing were both frustrating and challenging at times. In the final stages, the sheer magnitude of the task felt overwhelming. 

However, my expertise developed, as did my understanding of the importance of working with others on what I had first considered a solo project. Through collaboration, the text was authenticated, expanded upon and developed, providing excellent insider knowledge. I also learned to slow down, to be patient, and wait for feedback, as some of the best insights from others took time. 

So what would my advice be for budding authors?

  • Have a strong idea for your book and develop this in draft form initially
  • Check out any competitors, are you offering something new and different?
  • Research your ideas, in terms of the content, through social media and contacts
  • Build up your own website and forums to support your book
  • Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to build a following and make contacts
  • Invest in a very good editor, preferably one who is knowledgeable about your field
  • Write every week, try to carve out time especially for working on your book
  • Get others in your field to review your work and listen to their feedback
  • When designing a book cover on a budget, produce a mock-up of what you envision
  • If using companies such as Fiverr for formatting, be clear on exactly what you need and whether they are able to do this.
  • Carefully price your book, check competitors prices. Do market research through friends and forums to find out what your prospective readers would be willing to pay.
  • When published, request ‘draft’ copies so you can check your work thoroughly

I feel proud that I have accomplished this huge task, and my knowledge of self-publishing has grown significantly. My little blog has transformed into something which may inspire unhappy teachers or those considering leaving the profession, to follow the advice contained in the guide thus giving them the confidence to change their lives by teaching abroad. 

My book is available worldwide, both digitally and in paperback:

I would love to know if you have your own blog, or if you are considering publishing your own book? Let me know!