8 Steps To Your First Indie Book
This is not a definitive how-to on the art of publishing.
There dozens and dozens of whole books devoted to walking newbies through the self-publishing their first title. Anything I say has already been said far better somewhere else.
Those same resources take hundreds of pages to explain a complex, constantly evolving and profoundly interesting business. I get 1,000 words and I’ve already used 65.
Instead, I’m offering a strategy and tools for hewing at that mountain of information so you can release your first title and avoid a stroke, embolism or acquiring a new addiction. It’s just eight big steps. You won’t get them done in a week but take one at a time, you will get them done, that’s a promise.
1. Decide you ARE going to indie publish
Be absolutely committed to this venture. The learning curve in publishing your first title is daunting and that’s without the mass of misinformation you’ll wade through.
2. Finish your manuscript
I’m staggered by wannabe authors who want to know how to publish when they have yet to finish their first manuscript. Some haven’t even started!
Complete your manuscript. You can’t do anything without a complete book, but finishing a book is far harder than most non-authors think. Finish the book before getting starry eyed about anything else to with publishing, then you can day-dream with abandon.
3. Polish your manuscript – and start keeping checklists
Cleaning your story is a multi-step process. What steps? You should build a checklist of steps and resources for developing a professional, high-quality book as you go. Here’s suggestions of possible steps:
Let the book ‘freeze’ for a month or more so you forget what you had written.
Read through as a reader for overall impression. No pen, no stopping to edit. Make note of anything that trips you up, but keep reading for flow, rythym and pacing. When you’re through, take notes about needs to change.
Now edit slowly and deeply, for maximum reader enjoyment.
A final line edit for grammar, spelling and simple formatting, to produce a draft manuscript (i.e.: story content only)
Get professional feedback
Now send it out for feedback: A professional editor and/or beta readers. There are dozens of resources for finding these people (we’ll also cover how to find them in another post). Try a Google search, asking other indie authors and the Kindle author boards.
Make changes to your story that the feedback indicates is needed, and clean up the manuscript again.
Edit like crazy for spelling, grammar, errors of fact. Move from the back of the book to the front, one page at a time, so you don’t get hooked into the narrative. This is your last chance to nail any errors.
Give the script to a line editor or service. Once done, your script should be virtually error free. This is your final draft.
While polishing and from now on, keep a checklist of every step you take. Also keep lists of resources (like editors, etc). This checklist will become your most valuable tool, that you use for every title you publish. It will evolve as you gain experience, and it will make publishing more efficient.
4. Decide what platforms you’re going to distribute through
Amazon only? Smashwords only? Print or ebook only? Everything, everywhere? Will you pick a fee-for-service that does a lot of the work for you?
Do your research and decide what is right for you. You can always change your platforms later. The key is: Do not give away your copyright under any circumstances. If a retail outlet asks for your copyright then walk away no matter how tempting the deal. If you control over your book you become a legacy author (again, perhaps).
I emphasise: Do your research. There are services that scalp authors for every penny, then come back for more.
5. Decide how much you’re going to do yourself
Again, this is a topic for another post or three, but the thumbnail version is: Of the steps involved in turning a final draft into a published book, decide which of them you:
Genuinely have the expertise to do yourself, or You don’t have the budget to hire an expert to do for you.
For tasks in (a): Do you want to do them? Do you have the money to hire someone? Would it save you time hiring someone? (In most situations, yes.)
For tasks (b), can you develop the skills yourself? Quickly? For many tasks, the answer is yes. For very few, I would advise against it. Designing covers is one example. Unless you are a graphic artist with commercial cover experience, don’t do it yourself. It’s not worth it.
Basic steps from final draft to publication include:
Collecting or writing front and back cover matter (burb, endorsements, review pull quotes, title)
Interior content (front and back matter)
Formatting your script for all ebook formats
Designing the print interior
Obtaining all necessary ISBNs
Researching and deciding on categories, tags, subgenres, classifications
Coordinating advance reviews, if possible.
Uploading to retail platforms
Building your site and/or the book’s promo page on your site.
6. Find your skilled contractors…and their lead times
When you’ve decided what tasks you’re going to farm out to other experts, bear in mind how much time they need:
a) to fit you into their schedule (advanced notice)
b) to complete the work
c) for review and any rework
d) and wriggle room for snafus.
Now is the time to find and choose your experts. Your research now and the resource lists you build will pay off with later books. If an expert goes out of business or proves less than stellar, you’ll have notes to remind you of that plus more experts to tap into.
7. Production phase
This is where you put your research into practice. Build your book (actually open a KDP account on Amazon, and/or a Smashwords account, etc, upload files and commit yourself). By now, you should feel far more in control of the process, with research and resources at your fingertips, so the scary what the hell am I doing???? feeling should never arise.
Particularly in this phase, take notes. Add every step you take to your checklist. Include the steps you take through menu systems to get to the right page on a site, plus the URL. Bookmark sites carefully and in an organized way. You’ll be glad you did, next book.
8. Release phase - Congratulations
You are now a published indie author. Celebrate with gusto. The morning after you get to rise, rinse and repeat.
Once you’ve completed the completely ordinary (by now) step of writing your next book, the checklist you built this time around will help you publish it even faster.
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes erotic vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published 21 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated three times for Book Of The Year. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a retired professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com