I first learned of indie publishing in late 2012, long past the initial frenzied days in which a writer could upload her novel, set a few free promotions, and watch her book climb the bestsellers’ lists. Now, a smart writer will begin with a few initial steps before publishing that first novel.
As I begin my writing career and prepare my first novel for publication, I’m learning that indie publishing is not about constant self-promotion, getting the sale, or climbing the charts. It’s about creating a quality product and building an audience for your work.
A daunting task. So where does a new indie author begin? One step at a time…
Start saving your money.
Self-publishing success depends on hiring professionals. You are the professional writer. You supply the words. But those words then need to be professionally edited, formatted into a compatible ebook, and then adorned by a professionally-designed cover before hitting that publish button.
All of that professional work costs money.
Editing is a major, and necessary, expense. Line-by-line manuscript editing from Scribendi for a 60,000 word novel will set a writer back about $1000. Well-known editors with a couple bestsellers on their resumes charge higher fees but are possibly worth the expense. Emma Dryden starts her fees at $6000 for a line-by-line edit of a novel.
The price of cover art can vary even more widely, from around $50 for a premade cover to hundreds for a custom cover.
Think of your book as a long-term investment. Create the best product you can to give it the best chance to succeed.
Start a blog.
A blog is a writer’s home on the Internet, and yes, every writer needs one. A place where YOU control the message. Dan Blank (guest posting on Jane Friedman’s blog) reminds writers that “social media is amazing in the moment, but eventually disappears into a black hole. Blogging, like books, have a very long shelf life…”
A blog is home base for writers to link to all the other places readers might find their books. What happens when Facebook makes a change you don’t like? Or Twitter? Or Amazon? If you rely on your readers following you on these sites, you don’t have ultimate control. But if readers can still find you on your blog, and especially if you’re collecting subscribers in a mailing list, you can reach your readers no matter what changes happen with the latest social networking site.
If you have never blogged before, or if you can’t clearly see the value of starting one, consider a course in blogging and social media. I blogged for three years off-and-on with little effect, but when I decided to self-publish my fiction, I enrolled in Blog Academy. I learned more in the first class than I discovered on my own in those three years prior, and within four weeks, I had more comments and interactions on my blog than I ever thought possible for a new author.
Start making friends online.
Are you on Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? How about Google+, Instagram, or Pinterest? Feeling your head spin? Trust me, so did I.
But these social networks are valuable in finding other authors, sharing information, and making yourself visible to potential readers. Again, it’s not about making sales. It’s about finding your audience. The important part of social networking is the social part. Be friendly, not pushy. Be helpful, not bothersome. And have fun! Don’t begrudgingly check your Twitter account every hour, responding to mentions if you find it tedious. It should be fun and social to interact. If it’s not, find another way you enjoy to interact with others online.
When picking and choosing from the unlimited offer of social media, the rule I follow is one I learned from author Kathi Appelt, whom I saw speak at a writing conference in my hometown. She advised writers to only do the marketing and promotion tasks that they enjoyed. For example, Kathi did not enjoy blogging all that much, but she did find she liked “vlogging” or video-blogging, and so incorporated more videos into her blog.
Always remember, the best promotion for an indie author is to keep publishing new books. So don’t forget to keep writing!