This post is the start of a series sharing my experiences in publishing. This is targeted at writers looking to go indie. As I write this, I am concluding my first month as a published author. I released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, my debut novel about an inept witch hunter who seems to drown in personal drama and attracts witches like flies to honey. This was the second-ever book I finished. Putting it out in the world was a tremendous learning experience. Within about a day of hitting publish on the KDP dashboard, I learned twice as much about publishing as I did leading up to it. That comes in spite of a series of interviews with other authors asking them specifically about their experiences.
The first post in this series is just a checklist. Before you hit ‘publish’ go through this list. If you’re absolutely set on traditional publishing also go through it. Most of it is still relevant.
- [Y | N] – I have 1 book ready to go right now, and at least 3 more that could be ready to publish in the next 12 months.
- [Y | N] – At least 2 of my books belong to the same series (book 1 / book 2)
- [Y | N] – I have developed and memorized 5-second and 30-second pitches.
- [Y | N] – All of my work has been read by others, I have received and incorporated feedback.
- [Y | N] – I have, at a bare minimum, used an application like Grammarly to edit my work or asked a competent friend to proof-read. For indie authors, you will have, ideally, hired an editor.
- [Y | N] – I believe I know who my core audience is (YA/Middle Grade/Women aged 18-32 etc…)
- [Y | N] – I have researched other books similar to mine and authors that have a similar style.
- [Y | N] – I have asked those who have read my work, what authors and books it is most similar to.
- [Y | N] – I have connected with other writers about their experiences and asked for advice (you will not be selling your book to these folks, they are your colleagues, not your audience)
- [Y | N] – I have developed a social media presence – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blog
- [Y | N] – I have developed a plan for advertising & marketing
- [Y | N] – I have researched local bookstores and am prepared to engage owners / managers in a discussion about hosting an author event.
- [Y | N] – I am prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on advertising
- [Y | N] – I have mentally prepared myself for a single page-read on KU, and no more than 10 total book sales in the first month, and maybe a single review.
- [Y | N] – I am prepared to talk with people about my work, my book, writing in general, and other books similar to mine or that helped me learn the craft.
For indie authors only:
- [Y | N] – I have purchased or have access to software that can layout my books (InDesign, Vellum, Scrivener, etc…)
- [Y | N] – I have access to software to produce a book cover (InDesign/Canva) or have contracted with a designer
- [Y | N] – I know exactly where and how I am going to publish my book and on which platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, IngramSpark, Lulu, etc…)
If you have answered No to ANY of the above. You may not quite ready to go yet – keeping in mind that this is the opinion of a debut author but were I to do it over again, I’d make damn sure all of them were YES before moving forward. All of these items on the list are not things I consider myself an expert at. These are listed because they’re what I have or am struggling with. I don’t intend this to be the fully-unabridged version of how to prepare yourself, by any means. Every day that goes by is a new experience for me that threatens to add one more bullet point. That said, we can all help one another out and, as item number 9 suggests above, be prepared to ‘pay it forward’ to help out your fellow authors and community. We are all stronger that way.
What do you think? Should there be another item on the list? What would it be? Leave a comment below.
My main quibble is with the idea that you HAVE to write a series. It’s true that readers like them, but if your story is too thin for a series, then you can’t force it into one. It’s better to have a strong single volume than three volumes that feel stretched.
Besides, for iconoclasts like me, we write what calls to us and expect the readers to keep up. Crazy, I know! But that’s why I publish independently.
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I’m actually with you on this point, in spite of what i said. I tend to avoid series as a reader, they often go on way too long. I just happened to write something I planned as a series for a different platform that wound up being a workable novel. This was purely from a marketing perspective and from the perspective of readers hitting book 1 and asking about book 2 – even for the stand-alone book I’m working on now. I also realized pretty quick that having two or three books in a set opens up options for marketing that otherwise don’t make sense. In any case, as I said, i know I’m no expert here and everyone does their best work in their own way. It’s just my immediate reaction to getting out there and publishing.
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