Wednesday, 26 March 2014

My Top Tips for Becoming an Indie Author / Publisher

It's been 14 years since I had my first book published and I can honestly say that right here, right now, has never been a more exciting time to be a writer.

Back when I wrote my first book, like every other writer at the time, I was completely dependent on getting an agent and a traditional book deal. 

Back then, there was no other way to launch a career as a writer. But now . . .

Now anyone can publish a book.

Of course, this has the literary snobs in the UK wringing their hands in despair, but for those of us passionate about producing books in our own unique ways, this is great news indeed.

Back in November, I blogged about Daring to Self Publish.

I was just about to launch my own indie publishing imprint Dare to Dream, with the publication of a free e-book for people being bullied called Finding Your Inner Cherokee.

The launch went really well and it has inspired me to publish three further titles this year.

Becoming an indie publisher (and that is what you are when you decide to self publish) has been a steep learning curve.

But I'm lucky in that I've had eight books published traditionally, with another three in the pipeline.

In launching my Dare to Dream imprint, I drew upon all I have learnt from the traditional publishing model, as well as studying other authors who have chosen to go indie.

So, without further ado, here are my top tips for anyone thinking of going indie too:

  • Edit, edit, edit: When you have a book traditionally published it goes through three rigorous editing processes. A content edit, a copy edit and a proof read. If you want your books to be taken seriously, you must invest in a content and copy edit at the very least.

  • Invest in a professionally designed cover: Nothing screams amateur more than a cover that looks as if it's been designed by your Granny after one too many sherries. (Unless of course, your Granny is a cutting edge designer who needs a tipple to unleash her muse...)

  • Create your brand: If you are planning on publishing more than one book, it makes sense to create a recognisable brand. I used the same designer and the same font for all three of my upcoming novels for adults.

  • Think thumbnail: If you are publishing e-books (which you should be as this is the fastest growing market in publishing, with the biggest profit margins) then it's vital that your cover designs work well as a thumbnail image. This is the size they will be on Amazon and other online retailers. You need to make sure that the title and author name are clearly visible.

  • Make sure your books are correctly formatted: each online retailer requires your manuscript in a specific format. If, like me, you don't know your html from your elbow, invest in a professional formatter. There are loads of them around. I used Jane Dixon-Smith - she comes very highly recommended (and she also designs book covers too).

  • Launch more than one book initially: All indie authors seem to be in agreement on this - you don't start to see serious sales until you have more than one book on offer. We all know as readers that if we find a book we love, we immediately want to buy something else from that author. If you leave it years between books the danger is all of the fans you acquired for your first title will have forgotten all about you.

  • Play around with pricing plans: Having more than one book on offer also enables you to play around with pricing. This seems to work especially well if you have written a series. Many authors speak of dramatic spikes in sales and royalties after they've offered the first book in a series for 99p.

  • Find the sweet spot: Indie authors frequently talk about the 'sweet spot' when it comes to pricing. This currently seems to be around £2.99. Readers see this as being a bargain without it being so cheap that they assume the book must be rubbish.

  • Research other indie authors: The best book I've read on indie publishing is The Naked Truth About Self Publishing which features tons of inspiring and informative interviews with indie authors. There are also loads of interviews online if you give it a Google.

  • Plan a marketing campaign: Don't wait until your book is out there to start thinking about how you're going to market it. Try to send review copies out around two months prior to launch. Become au fait with social networking sites such as Goodreads. Offer to write guest blogs about your book or the themes it covers. Ask / beg / pay your friends to help whip up a word of mouth buzz. Again, study what other indie authors have done.

As you can probably tell from this blog post, indie publishing does involve a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun.

As someone who has experienced publishing from both sides of the fence, I love the freedom indie publishing gives me.

The freedom to have complete creative control over my covers.

The freedom to set my own prices - and give away books for free if I so desire.

The freedom to have an e-book royalty of 70%.

The freedom to manage my own career as a writer.

The next Dare to Write Workshop will be on Tuesday 1st April, 7.30 - 9.30pm, in the atmospheric tearoom Dar Papillon, High Street, Berkhamsted.

We will be looking at plotting and how to create a good strong opening. Vital, whether you're writing a short story, novel, non-fiction blog post or book. Hope to see you there. More info here.