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Thinking of going indie?
Self-publishing can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding endeavor. But get ready for an eclectic collection of hats, because you’ll be wearing many. It’s important to realize you’re selling a product that should be of the highest quality.
Here are some tips and resources to help you through the process.
By the time you’re ready to publish, you should have already gone through developmental editing of concept, character, and plot issues. Now, you need a proofreader/copy editor.
Don’t rely on a random friend or relative. Keep self-published books a strong and respected force in the market by having your manuscripts edited professionally or by a trusted, experienced critique partner. (Whenever you hire an outside service, be sure to have a contract.) See my list of editors from author recommendations.
Tip: Other indie authors can be a great resource for any self-publishing questions.
There are three cover options:
DIY: Royalty-free images are available online, such as this site, which you can use to design your cover.
Pre-made covers. Google “pre-made book covers,” and you’ll find quite a few.
Custom cover design. I’ve compiled a list of recommended cover designers. Bibliocrunch and Girl Friday Productions offer editing, cover design, and other help for indies on a budget.
Do you need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?
Not necessarily, but most retailers and publishers require one. (Amazon.com does not.)
With an ISBN, your book will be more discover-able by readers, bookstores, and libraries.
Currently the price for an ISBN (purchased through Bowker) is $125—not cheap. And you need one for the ebook and paperback of each title. If you plan to publish several books, you can buy them in bulk at greatly reduced prices; they never expire. Some businesses buy ISBNs in large quantities so they can then sell them at reduced cost.
There’s some controversy about the validity of these or “free” ISBNs, so obtain one from a reputable source. See Joel Friedlander's article on ISBNs and the ISBN website.
Formatting and Publishing
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and they accept Word docs. Amazon’s print service, Createspace, is free and requires only a PDF. They also offer professional publishing services.
Smashwords is an ebook publisher, accepts Word docs, but has a style guide that must be followed.
Smashwords has distribution agreements with all major online retailers and with Baker&Taylor, which libraries use to purchase books.
Draft2Digital publishes ebook and print books. They accept simple Word docs with no style guide to follow. They offer editing and cover design as well, and distribution agreements.
Smashwords or Draft2Digital? Here’s one blogger’s analysis.
IngramSpark is a print and ebook publisher with distribution agreements. They have a style guide to follow, and you may need a professional formatter. See blogger Linda Austin on IngramSpark vs. Createspace (book doctor Stacey Aaronson says it’s beneficial to use both)!
To price your book, check other books in your genre. A common price for ebooks is $3.99.
The freebie can be a good marketing tool when you have a series: offer the first book for free in the hope that the reader will buy the other books in the series.
Experiment with pricing; see where that “sweet point” is. Just remember, you’ve worked hard and deserve to be paid a reasonable price.
Marketing and Promotion
Local schools, libraries, and bookstores. Ask if libraries and bookstores will carry your book. Contact schools to do author visits. Author Alexis O’Neill’s blog is a great resource on school visits.
Subscribe to newsletters for publishing news, tips, classes, freebies, and generally “knowing your industry.” Some good ones are:
- Publishing expert Jane Friedman’s newsletter. Included in her latest newsletter were 98 book marketing ideas.
- Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf
- Child_lit List Serve has great discussions on children’s literature. Members include authors, teachers, and librarians.
- Booklife by Publishers Weekly. Booklife recently offered a free webinar (the first of four) on “Self-Publishing 101.”
Follow blogs, including those of your favorite YA authors. If you use Wordpress, you can follow tags in your reader to find others with similar interests. Good blogs for self-publishing include:
Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), check the website for resources, sign up for their newsletter, and get involved in your local chapter (you can join forces with other authors for book signings, etc.).
Use Social Media
- Get your books noticed through accounts on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites.
- Join some young adult author and reader groups on Facebook and Goodreads to meet and learn from other YA authors, and to expose your books to readers.
- Create a website. Pay someone or DIY with sites such as Wordpress.com and Wix. This article showcases some “stellar” author websites.
It’s tough for indie authors to get reviews. Ask for reviews on your website and social media. Put a request at the end of your books. Here’s one list of bloggers who review books. Though the title says middle grade literature, most will also review YA books.
Enter contests. Prizes can add credibility to and exposure for your books. There are many free contests and others, such as RONE, Chanticleer, and Literary Classics, have entrance fees. These three all have YA categories. And, of course, there are the biggies from ALA. See which awards accept indie books.
Advertise. Occasionally having a sale on your book and advertising can help boost visibility. Advertising prices and results vary. Most, if not all, of these promotional sites have YA categories. Missing from the list, but popular with authors, are The Fussy Librarian and Bookbub (expensive, but results can be worth it).
Self-publishing has lost its earlier stigma of “vanity publishing,” and readers are embracing indie authors and their books. Indies have discovered the advantages of self-publishing: control over content and cover design, higher royalties, and quicker time to market.
Do the research, put out a quality product, work on marketing, and you can find success and satisfaction as an indie author.
Linda Covella’s varied background and education (an AA degrees in art, an AS degree in mechanical drafting & design, and a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.
Her first official publication was a restaurant review column for a local newspaper. But when she published articles for various children’s magazines, she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She hopes to bring to kids and teens the feelings books gave her when she was a child: the worlds they opened, the things they taught, the feelings they expressed.
She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, Charlie, and dog, Ginger.
No matter what new paths Linda may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment. Find Linda at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and YouTube.