The What, Why and How of Self-Publishing a Book

Before we start, it might be helpful to explain what I mean when I describe myself and others as being indie authors.

What is an Indie Author?

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In my opinion, an “Indie Author” is someone who:

  • Writes their own content
  • Does 90% of the editing (the other 10% is usually bartered for, or they’re lucky enough to have a friend or two who are grammar gurus and will go over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb)
  • Does all of the revising
  • Buys their own ISBNs, copyrights, and trademarks
  • Is responsible for the designing of their book covers
  • Is responsible for formatting the content for print or e-publication
  • Is responsible for the branding of their websites and social media pages for their books
  • Owns the branded websites and social media pages for their books
  • Is responsible for all the marketing and promotion of their books
  • Pays for all of the expenses associated with the creation, publishing, and marketing of their books (including postage, ads, book design, and even the gas necessary to drop off sold books in person)

That to me is being an “indie” author – a role I happily signed up for when I decided to self-publish my first book back in 2008. By 2013, when my fourth book was published, I’d learned something about being an “indie”. It’s exhausting and doesn’t pay very well, if at all.

So why did I do it, and why do I encourage, coach, and help others to do the same thing? Simple. It is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Why Go the Indie Route?

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To hold a printed, properly bound book that I not only wrote the content for, but that I created – save for the printing and binding – and own outright, is a feeling close to that time when I first held my daughter in my arms.  

Seriously. There is just something about having complete creative control from start to finish, that is truly a natural and addicting high.

Did I mention though, it’s also exhausting? Much like in real life, when I brought my newborn daughter home, there is a boat load of things to get done even after “giving birth” to your book. And heaven help you, if you have a full-time job at the same time.

I’m telling you, the old adage proved right for me, in that scenario:

There just don’t seem to be enough hours in a day.

WHEW!

Handling every aspect of your book, from creation to publication to marketing, can plumb wear you out.

My first four books were produced in the span of five years. During that same five years, I worked full time, spent two years in grad school full time, and was in the last few years of hands-on single-parenting.  

I honestly don’t know how I managed.

I’m fifty years old now and in the time between that first published book and now, the world of self-publishing has exploded. There are so many ways to do it and so many people, companies, and programs to help you with every aspect of your publishing journey.  

You’re reading this as a post on one such company’s site right now.  You, as an “indie” author no longer have to do it all by yourself. While you’re responsible for every aspect of your book, you can outsource a few of the steps along the way.

And that is a wonderful thing.

My Recommendations

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So, while I still urge people to go the indie route, I accept that the route has changed. As a result, I coach my clients to take the following six things into consideration.

1. LEARN Your Craft 

First and foremost, learn how to tell a good story. No matter the genre, the format, the subject matter – fiction or non – if you can’t catch and keep a reader’s attention, you might as well not be writing.

2. FINISH the Draft.  

You can’t imagine how many people I meet who say they want to be published, but seem to want to skip right over the most important part: getting that first draft done. There’s no way around this one – if you want to be published, you have to write.

3. Hire a Good EDITOR.

Editing can be really expensive, but in the long run, this is how your work goes from good to great. Be selective. Don’t just settle for someone because they charge a butt ton of money – or because they don’t.

Interview them. Ask for references and samples. You wouldn’t let just anybody house sit, baby sit, or pet sit your pride and joy; the same goes for your book project. Find someone who understands your style and vision; someone who will give you strong, constructive, feedback.

4. Create a MARKETING PLAN

Having a marketing plan or strategy from early on in the process helps shape how the book is edited (what to leave in, what to take out). You’ll also need to know who you’re marketing to, and where you plan to market it, when you set out to design your book cover.

5. HIRE Someone to Handle the Marketing.

This is one case where I’m not practicing what I preach at this moment, but best believe, it’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, and plan on correcting as soon as I can. You live and you learn!

I went about marketing in some interesting and regrettable ways for my first couple of books, and since then, have reduced my marketing efforts to barely-read posts and notes on my blog.  

If you want the world to know your book is available, then you need to get the word out there. Having a team of professionals (like black CATastrophy) working on your behalf, who know how to leverage social media to your advantage, is gold. It will pay for itself with each book you sell.

Like finding the right editor, you’ll want to talk with each firm you’re interested in. Make sure:

  • their vision for your book aligns with yours,
  • that they have the expertise to reach your desired audience,
  • and that you’re on the same page when it comes to what to expect in terms of sales.

6. CELEBRATE Being on this Journey.

And finally, once you decide that it’s “publish or bust”, and you double down and decide to go the “indie” route, take time to revel in the feeling of being on a path that few have successfully taken, or even driven all the way to the end.

Each book published felt like my first when I held it in my hands; or better yet, when I sold the first copy out of the box. If you stick to it, you will join the ranks of the few, the proud, the PUBLISHED AUTHORS.

And trust me, there is no feeling like it in the world.

(well… almost 😉 )

Black Catastrophy

About the Author

Dana Ellington is owner, principal author, and primary consultant with Nowata Press. She holds a Masters of Professional Writing, with a concentration in Creative Writing. She has been independently published since 2008.

About Nowata Press

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Nowata Press is a small publisher of unique, independent fiction that may struggle to find a home in a more traditional setting. Nowata also provides coaching for new writers and takes them from blank page to published in 6 months or less – guaranteed!

Nowata’s partnership with Alexis Chateau PR, and their black CATastrophy division provides authors with access to public relations, marketing, and graphic design services for their book.

The Nowata Press website and logo were created by Alexis Chateau PR.

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