How to Become an Indie Author (Indie Author Day)
This, my friends, is a topic that I could go on about forever. There is simply too much to say, too many variables, too many steps to recount. As overwhelming as that sounds, it’s actually very easy! I hope to write an in-depth post detailing the specific steps that must be taken in the process of self-publishing (particularly through certain platforms), as well as guides to pre- and post-launch promotion, self-editing, etc.
The point is, so much goes into becoming and remaining an indie author—the same is true for being a traditional author. The actual process of publishing your book is stupid simple, which means a lot of writers (including me) dive headfirst into self-publishing without completing a few small but important steps beforehand.
Hence why I’ve been a published author for nearly three years and am just now creating a following and garnering readers.
So today’s post is going to be all about some of the overlooked and underrated steps you need to take before clicking publish—steps that will determine your success as an indie author (or even a trad author, for that matter)!
Polish your manuscript. Seriously. I didn’t do this, and I wish I had, since I’ve had to go back in and edit Held Captive about eight times since I released it. Polishing includes everything from proofreading your manuscript several times, correcting any inconsistencies, rewriting scenes that don’t jive, and even completely revising certain aspects. Whatever needs to be done to put your book in a state of near perfection—at least as close as one person can get it. Something that I’ve found helps when it comes to polishing and editing is to set the manuscript aside for a few months, maybe even start on another project in the meantime, and wait to come back to the story until you’ve “fallen out of love” with it, so to speak. Wait until you can come back with an editor’s eye and maybe even improved writing!
Have beta-readers and editors. I would typically advise authors not to pay for an editor for their first book, so just ask some readers you trust to act as proofreaders for your manuscript and take whatever feedback you can from beta-readers. Editors are typically insanely expensive (trust me, three cent a word adds up) and sometimes they’re not exactly worth it. Especially when you have -0 dollars in your bank account. So, for starters, work with friends, family, fellow writers, your old English teacher - whoever has time on their hands and a love for words to help you create the best story you can!
Start a website/blog. Now this is a lifelong investment you will not regret, people. A website is a mainstay that offers you a way to communicate and connect with readers, show off all your work, and regularly update your followers. It’s also something that reflects your style, your personality, and what you write. Having this kind of online presence adds to your credibility and marketability, makes you easier to reach, and is really quite fun! A website can be free (like a forever free Wordpress or Wix site), or you can pay for a premium site (not always worth it, but often nice to have) once you start making some profit. You can include a blog and be a regular poster, only post the occasional update, or skip it entirely. Whatever you do, choose something that you can manage right now, but leave yourself room to grow. And make sure that you have a clean, professional, engaging site. Sure, that can cost you $3000 for a professional job, or you can watch a couple YouTube videos on web design to help you create a site that passes the test. (Or, you know, trial and error. I myself am a self-taught web designer...in Wix, at least...which means you too have the capabilities of teaching yourself how to create your own website!)
Create a mailing list. This goes hand-in-hand with a website, since your newsletter subscription form is typically found on your site, and for many authors, it takes the place of a blog, offering authors a more secure and personal way of updating and connecting with readers. Mailing lists are simply another platform that helps you establish a larger following and readership, as well as giving you chances to target your subscribers specifically with things like sneak peeks, giveaways, discounts, freebies, and more! The whole point of having a website and newsletter before you publish is to establish your presence and author platform, as well as a readership. All before you ever hit publish. Wouldn’t you rather read a book by that fun, unique blogger you’ve been following for six months than one you’ve never heard of and can’t find on the internet? That’s what I thought—which is why establishing a platform is the first step to establishing a readership! You’ll be bringing in all your blog followers, site surfers, and email subscribers to purchase, read, and hopefully review your book—sometimes even the day it comes out!
Get a NICE cover. Now, some people will tell you that you’ll have to spend upwards of $500 to get a quality cover. Not true. There are some amazing designers on Fiverr who charge no more than 30 bucks for a beautiful, high quality cover. You can also find a great deal of inexpensive but insanely talented designers in the writing community—like Victoria Lynn, Hannah Linder, and Roseanna M. White. You want to start cheap, as this is, after all, your first book, but you also want to make a good impression—so go with what fits your vision, requirements, and your budget. Don’t settle for second best.
Promote before you publish. Now that you have a website and mailing list—and probably a few personal social media accounts, if not a couple author accounts as well—you have the perfect outlets for promotion and marketing! Share the blurb, do a cover reveal, post graphics, share quotes, post sneak peeks, do whatever you can to create buzz about your book even before its released!
Start a launch/street team. A launch team is a group of fellow writers, bloggers, and influencers—or just friends and family—who can take the time to share about your book on their social media, with their friends, and even read and review the book before it releases. A street team, on the other hand, is very similar—the only difference is that instead of just promoting a single release, a street team is there for the long haul, to promote all of your books and other creative endeavors! Just offer signups on your website (Google Forms is great for that) and create Facebook group or Slack workspace or just operate through email. A launch team will provide you with reviews, interview opportunities, free advertising, and the possibility for a blog tour closer to the release date.
Research the best publishing platform. The main three are Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), IngramSpark, and Draft2Digital. Now, IngramSpark is pretty popular...but it also costs more to publish through (royalties, not upfront costs). D2D is great for widespread distribution and easy formatting...but not for paperbacks yet or adding a creative touch. KDP, which I use, is the very best for beginners. Extremely simple, easy to use, with all the resources you need, and even though your books will only be sold on Amazon, that’s really all that matters. To be honest, people don’t buy from anywhere else these days—myself included. (I would know...I haven’t sold a single copy on B&N or Apple or Kobo yet, despite my latest release being distributed to them.)
Get an ISBN. Now, this step is optional. I myself have never purchased an ISBN for a book, mainly because they’re outrageously expensive and not always necessary. KDP, D2D, and IngramSpark all offer free ISBNs—and, when it comes to Kindle ebooks, you get an ASIN and don’t need an ISBN at all (although you can use one). The only downside to a free ISBN is that your book will always have the distributor’s name on it (for example, my paperbacks are all listed as "Independently published", so unless I purchase my own ISBN, I can’t use my own name—Sky’s the Limit Press). If that doesn’t bother you at all, then I suggest skipping the ISBN part. Plus, if you use Draft2Digital, they’ll supply you with a free ISBN and let you use your own company name!
Create a Goodreads author account. This is very, very important, as you can reach a ton of new readers through Goodreads! It’s basically Facebook for readers and writers, allowing bookworms, reviewers, authors, and publishers to connect and share everything from book quotes, reading status, and blog posts! It’s completely safe and easy to use, plus once your book releases, it’s automatically added to their database. All you have to do is claim your author profile! The same goes for BookBub, which is geared more toward paid advertisements rather than socialization—but you can still review and recommend books as a user and have a hub for your published works as an author!
These are just a few of the steps that I failed to take before I hit publish back in 2019 and wish that I did—steps that will help you become a better, more successful indie author even before your book releases! I hope these tips help in some way—let me know which one you found the most helpful in the comments! Also, how many of y’all are up for a post all about clicking publish? Or a post about how Kindle Direct Publishing works? What would y’all like to read about next?