The Indie Learning Curve

Marg Indie IconI’ve always enjoyed the benefits of technology, so it’s not surprising that I should embrace the advances in publishing with delight and anticipation. I’ve been uploading ebooks to my various sites for years, long before Amazon set the bar higher by bringing out its first Kindle. There was a big difference, though – ‘ebooks’ back then were usually just PDF files, which you could download and print out, or read on your computer. No auto adjustment of page size. No reading on a convenient Kindle!

Today, nobody has to be tethered to a computer. Tablets, both Apple and Android, have set us free to read books, surf the web, watch videos and a whole lot more, wherever we happen to be. You can use apps for Kindle, Kobo and others on your tablet, or buy ebook readers that can be read in full sunlight without that pesky reflective screen.

Kindle Kids Book CreatorAnd best of all, authors are not tethered to traditional publishers. We can publish pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want: non-fiction or fiction for adults and children in huge range of genres. Did you know that Amazon has recently brought out the the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator Tool to help you publish your illustrated book for kids? Available for Welcome Kindle Kids Book Creatorboth Mac and Windows, this is a huge advance – and it will only get better. Read more here:

The Learning Curve

Thousands of authors have dived into self-publishing headfirst, revelling in the freedom that Indie publishing brings. Others are more hesitant. Some peek through the door of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and hastily retreat, thinking that they’d never be able to cope with writing, formatting, uploading and (heart palpitations) marketing their own books. All by themselves. They’d much rather have an editor and publisher to do all that for them.

The authors who are intimidated by the thought of self-publishing usually do one of two things.

One: they doggedly continue to tread the traditional path.

  • Write, edit and polish the book.
  • Query the publisher, and hope they get an invitation to send the manuscript, or try to get an agent.
  • Get a rejection and try the next publisher, or
  • Get a ‘yes’, wait for publication, and then wait a year for the first royalties to appear – which are commonly fairly low: between 5% and 10% of net receipts.
  • Write the next book and repeat the process – unless they are lucky enough to have signed a multi-book contract.

Two: they sign up with an ebook publisher that will do everything but write the book.

Stay away from publishing sharks!This often ends in tears. Some writers have been trapped in expensive (and unnecessary) contracts, and then find that sales are miniscule anyway. There are plenty of sharks out there, circling the murky waters of self-publishing, hoping you’ll swim their way. (I had one writer contact me to ask whether I thought she should spend $7,000 with one of these. My advice was “run, run, as fast as you can!”) If you educate yourself, you are less likely to be caught.

Not all services for writers are bad. Draft2Digital, for example, offers a good, straightforward service and takes a reasonable cut for distributing your books to a range of platforms. If you’re suffering panic attacks at the thought of doing anything yourself, this is a good alternative. However, I would recommend that you learn to upload books to Amazon yourself, and then use D2D for the rest (they’ll distribute to Kobo, Nook, iBooks etc.) You can take back control of your books at any time and revert to selling them yourself.

Go here to find out about their pricing:

If you’re keen to do everything yourself, fine. Just make sure that it doesn’t take time away from your writing – because without more than one book, it doesn’t matter how great you are at formatting and uploading and marketing etc. etc., you’re still going to find it a battle.

Writing comes first. Always.

Take it One Step at a Time

Look upon your Indie journey as an adventure. As fun. Give yourself permission to learn how to do it, one step at a time. Baby steps are permitted. 🙂

If you start worrying about everything you need to know, you’ll probably scare yourself to death. On the other hand, to reach the destination, you need to plan your journey. Work out what you want, and then look at what you have to do to get there.

Here is a list of ‘stuff’ you need to do/learn. It’s not in any particular oder, except for step one (because without a book, you can’t publish). Some of this you can do concurrently. If you are creating a children’s picture book, you will also need to source high quality illustrations.

Remember… one step at a time.

  1. Write the book.
  2. Get feedback on the book
  3. Edit for style/structure/spelling/grammar.
  4. Commission a cover. (Don’t do it yourself unless graphic design is one of your skills. Covers are vitally important.)
  5. Format the book correctly for the platform of your choice. (Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, etc. You can also format for Createspace, Kindle’s Print on Demand publishing service for paperbacks.) This can be outsourced if you find it daunting.
  6. Upload the book and set a price.
  7. Figure out how you’re going to connect with readers. You can do this via an email list, a blog, a Facebook page (posts and/or ads), Twitter, or Pinterest (good for children’s picture books). If you are not into social media, join the club – many, many writers aren’t. But they do it, because they want to establish a successful writing career. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media – in fact, you shouldn’t. Spend most of your time writing.

Taking it to the Next Level

If you’ve already dipped a toe into the waters of Indie publishing, you probably see its potential, and you’re keen to take it to the next level. Maybe you’re already earning a few hundred each month, but you want to turn that into $500 a month, or $1,000 a month. Maybe you want to earn the equivalent of the basic wage. Maybe you want to pay off the mortgage through your writing income.

How do you build from where you are now?

We’ll be looking at all of that in the months to come. If I were to keep typing right now, I’d be sitting here for days or weeks, and this would be a book, not a blog post.

Baby steps – whether you’re a beginner, or aiming to boost your sales and your profile.

For now, set yourself a daily quota of words (no matter how small) and WRITE.

And stay away from the sharks.


The Indie Learning Curve — 6 Comments

  1. I have been Indie publishing since June, 2010 and it was a bit of a learning curve because I did everything myself, but it does get easier. I took courses on creating professional covers and interior layout.

    For step 5, I was planning on using Scrivener to create my PDF file for Createspace, but it was not good enough, so I downloaded Scribus (free) which is very similar to InDesign. It was a bit of a learning curve, so I wrote a non-fiction book called Creating Print on Demand Interiors & Covers Using Scribus 1.4.1, once I figured it out. I still refer to my Creating book every time I do the interior and cover for each Createspace book.

    The best part is I put each Creating chapter up on my blog without pictures, and the articles are still available for anyone to visit and copy if they want, or, they can purchase the eBook or print book if they wish to keep it for future reference.

    However, I am still struggling with marketing, even though I have a list (very very small) set up on my writer, author and publisher sites.

    So, I am looking forward to your ideas for marketing that does not involve Facebook or Twitter. 🙂

    • Hi Diane.
      Yes, it does get easier. And I love, love, love Scrivener. I use it for so many things now! Thanks for the heads-up on info on your blog.
      As for marketing… we’ll be looking at the various options. I’m involved in a Beta group right now trying something (she said mysteriously) and I’ll tell everyone about it when it’s finished.
      As for FB and Twitter… I’m not crazy about either, but I will use them. Um, maybe not Twitter. 🙂 We’ll see… I’m willing to be persuaded by a Twitterholic if they can show me the right kind of numbers.

  2. Well, I’ve read your words of wisdom and so far am not freaked out, which was how I’ve been feeling about the whole indie prospect.
    You’ve made it seem feasible for me that I’ll get my head round it, with application. Meanwhile I’ll keep polishing cutting etc!

  3. I self published with I find this company delivers what they promise and are not sharks like some companies that ask thousands of dollars for publishing services. After my experiences with a tradional publishers, I still prefer self-publishing and went back to
    Also, I live in Canada. Isn’t there something I need before I can sell on Kindle?

    • Lulu is definitely not one of the ‘sharks’, Grace! I’m not sure how well they’re holding up with sales vs. some of the other competitors. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘needing something before selling on Kindle’ – do you mean a tax agreement? There are plenty of Canadians selling books on the Kindle platform.

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