There’s a lot to do and consider before Indie Publishing. A friend asked me for my advice and I decided to think it through for a few days and share it here as well.
I put this list together so my friend could make a decision and then start to prepare with as much information as possible. That doesn’t mean I’m blind to the costs. Yes, I had friends who edited. Yes, I have a friend in PR I could go to. Yes, I found a cover for cheap (although, if you follow my blog you know that I waited until I got a good cover. It actually held up publication. Don’t go live with a bad cover, an unedited product, or any other bad corners cut off to spite your face. Also, ignore any mixed-metaphors in this post.)
I worked under the assumption you did all the pre-work. You wrote a good book. You revised and edited and had beta readers and worked that thing until it was so shiny it blinded you. You’ve made a conscious decision to self-publish your book and you asked yourself the two important questions first. Everything on this lists comes after that.
So, here’s the list I came up with. I’m sure as I get further from my original pub date and closer to my next launch, I’ll find a few things to add to it. Right now, I feel pretty confident in handing this off.
- Pay a full service editor. Even with a writing degree and copy editing cert, I want to have the security that it was done and done right. Courtney Milan really convinced me of this.
- Edit the book again. Yes, I know. You hired an editor. Some Indie Authors hire two…or three. Maybe you can’t afford that, but hiring at lease one is not the place to skimp. Now, do your writer thing and work through all those edits with your brain on.
- Research. Research your genre. Who are they? How are they tagging? Who is selling the most? Why are they selling? What do the best genre book covers look like? Do they blog? What do they blog about? How are they advertising? Don’t move to the next things on the list till you do the research.
- A cover. Start looking now. I actually do a run through of some sites to see if I can get another great deal. With the cover for It’s in His Kiss I was lucky to find a double sale for $22 – and I love it. The cover counts a lot.
- The Title: Check that the title works for the story, genre and readers. Make it catchy and memorable…If you’re anyone but me, make sure a really, really, really famous author with the same last name doesn’t have a book with the same title *head desk* And seriously, no one in the Invisible Posse picked it up either until I paid for the cover.
- Join groups. For example:
- Join Kindleboards. There’s a lot of good info and support there.
- Romance Divas and the Rom Indie yahoo group. I’m a lurker in both of these places but, they’re great for specific Rom stuff. Find some in your genre.
- Join reader forums. No, you’re not going to pimp your book, but you need to be out there where your genre fans are. It’s going to do several things: Keep you in the loop and get your name familiar.Remember, the needs of today’s readers can be filled more quickly by Indie Authors. (To add: If you aren’t a fan of your genre and there anyway for the fun stuff, maybe you’re writing the wrong thing.)
- Set up your Amazon author page and author central stuff so you’re ready to go.
- Tag your book on Amazon. These help people find your book based on their interests. I also ask people if they liked It’s in His Kiss to please hit the “Like” button at the top. I’ve been told (although I have no proof) this bumps you up the search ranks. Regardless, it is something I look at now – did people like the book enough to come back and hit that button?
- UPDATE: If they like you as an author, tell them they can also “Like” you personally. If you click the author’s name on any of their book pages, it brings you to their Author Central homepage. Toward the top, right-hand corner is a “Like” button. We’ve been told that magic might happen when you hit certain numbers.
- Set up a Goodreads author account separate from your account. I can’t stress this enough. I estimate that about 70% of my sales come from GR reviews and recommendations.
- Start blogging and tweeting about it 3 months in advance (during edits) just like you would a trad book deal and share the ride to publication and launch date with your readers. But remember, only talking about your book is boring, rude and exhausting. If you have nothing else to say, maybe just avoid social media.
- Write an actual promo plan.
- Are you going to advertise? If so, where?
- Does your blurb stand alone? Is it well-edited?
- Do you have a promo timeline?
- Set up a blog tour. Note this isn’t part of the promo plan. Yes, you’ll work it into the plan, but this is a must.
- Send out ARCs for review – This is scary, but I’ll definitely do it next time. I had a few reviewers write-up It’s in His Kiss just because. They were so encouraging and I know for a fact their readers tried me because of their reviews.
- Giveaways: There are two types of giveaways.
- From You: If you have a following, these will go wonderfully. You’re tribe will be looking forward to getting their hands on your book. Do some the week before it comes out and the two weeks after that.
- From Others: It wouldn’t hurt to offer free copies to a few places that review or discuss books as reader giveaways. They’ll reach people you’d never be able to on your own.
- Schedule your Business Hours. When will you be online networking and marketing? If it’s written down, you’re more likely to do it. Also, you’re more likely to limit yourself to that instead of getting sucked into the *refresh* addiction.
- Barter, Beg, Steal… Okay, don’t steal. But, use your resources.
A. Formatting: This was hard. I stunk at it. On top of that, the wrong version accidentally got uploaded.
If I didn’t have two friends who are gifted come along side me and fix my mess and explain stuff to me, I’d be in a boatload of trouble – One reader told me later (when I mentioned I was having a corrected version uploaded) that she saw the format mess, but was pulled into the story so much that she forgot about it and never let me know.
This was incredibly flattering, but I know the only reason I got away with that was it was a short.
Do not skimp on formatting. Period. It’s the difference between a new reader for life and someone who doesn’t trust you to put out a quality product.
Also, where are you going to publish? I’m currently only on Amazon, but the second check is earmarked for formatting for Smashwords and BN.
B. Proofing: Yes, even after you pay for an editor the book still needs to be proofed. At a minimum, find someone you trust to mark it up even as a “finished product” and you’ll be golden. A nice Starbucks card goes a long way here.
- Get a cover quote or two. No seriously. If you have the connections or (the you-know-what that rhymes with falls) contact another writer to see if she’d give you one. Who are the successful Indie Authors in your genre?
- Set up your budget: How much are you willing to pay total? How much are you willing to pay for each thing? Are you going to do advertising? Where does it work the best (hint: check Kindleboards for this type of data)
- Set up a tracking system. I’ll be blogging about this later. But, do not go live without someway to track your expenses and income.
This is a business. Treat it seriously.
- Send an email to friends saying how excited you are about this. Share that you’re nervous about doing it without the support of a publisher and that their support has been invaluable. I gave my Invisible Posse each a copy. I know what you’re saying, this costs me money and gets me nothing – Dude, say thank you. Always say thank you.
- I’m working on a blog called How To Love Your Indie Friend… because the support needed is more moral. People don’t know how to help and support you if you don’t tell them.
The best advice I can give you: DO NOT RUSH. I know, I know. You can’t wait to get it out there in the world. But do it right and give it the wings it needs to really knock it out of the park (remember, we’re not mocking mixed metaphors today) – So, go forth and be successful.