Self-Pub 101: An Indie Author’s Introduction to Self-Publishing

I’ve mentioned before how I sort of fell accidentally into the self-publishing world. (Or, more accurately, how Laura VanArendonk Baugh pushed me into the self-publishing world.) I’ve never really talked about why I made the decision to go for it, what resources I used, what I wish I’d known beforehand, and what I’ve learned from the process.

I have a close friend who is contemplating going the indie route with her LGBT urban fantasy novel, and she’s asked me some good questions that have me thinking about this. At the same time, I have another friend who has pointed a couple of young authors to me for advice, or at least commiseration. So I got to thinking, why not create a series of blog posts about my thoughts on indie publishing?

I know I won’t be covering any ground that hasn’t been covered before, and probably better than I can. But on the other hand, I’ve had an excellent mentor in the indie business, and if I can pass along anything from my own point of view to someone else, I’ll feel like I’m paying it forward, so to speak. Plus, I have an academic background, where we learn early to credit our sources. So I’ll definitely be linking to my favorite resources as well.

Some of the questions I’ve been asked:

  • What did you read to get yourself ready to publish?
  • Are there any good books/articles on self-publishing?
  • Did you learn anything publishing Stormsinger that you’ll do differently in future?

Some topics I’m thinking of covering:

  • Favorite blogs by indie authors, traditionally published authors, social media marketing experts, book reviewers, and agents.
  • Cover art
  • Books to read
  • Networking
  • Marketing
  • Formatting
  • Financial/Business stuff
  • Mental and Emotional crap involved with self-publishing

To answer my friend’s questions flippantly, I read all the blogs. Yes, there are good books and articles on self-publishing, and of course there are lots of things I have done different with Stormshadow and plan to do differently with To Sow the Wind and other future books.

But before I go into any details (that’ll be in a later post), I’d like to talk about the gradual progression that led me to choose indie publishing.

My Journey to Indie-dom

I’ve been reading blogs about the publishing industry for at least five years now, and reading books about the publishing industry for a couple of decades. For most of that time, I felt like legacy publishing was the only way to go. I wasn’t interested in vanity press or anything so desperate as self-publishing. Self-publishing, in my mind, was only for people who couldn’t hack it in the traditional publishing system.

I was acquainted with Elizabeth McCoy via a mutual friend, but I assumed her self-publishing success was due to her background in the gaming world. She must have a good platform and connections, but it seemed unlikely to me that I could ever achieve that.

Then a couple of years ago, I met Laura. She happened to be Tweeting interesting stuff from Midwest Writers Workshop, and I followed her on Twitter. We Tweeted back and forth for a couple of months and realized we wrote the same sort of stuff and didn’t live too far from each other, and eventually made plans to meet up.

After we met, I read her historical fantasy Kitsune-Tsuki and I was hooked. I didn’t realize at first that it was self-published. It was good, it was interesting, and when I finally cottoned on, I realized I didn’t care who published it. I just wanted more.

At the same time, I was beginning to see more talk on the blogs about self-publishing. I had been at a workshop where Jane Friedman discussed how easy it was to publish something on Amazon, thanks to e-readers gaining in popularity.

All of this combined to make me much more open to the notion of indie publishing when Laura told me about Joe Konrath’s 8-Hour e-Book Challenge. I’ve blogged elsewhere about the challenge, so here I’ll just say that was the tipping point. I decided I might as well give it a try, and if I failed, I was only out the price of the stock image I’d used on the cover and eight hours of my life.

Turned out, I had a blast with Stormsinger. Has it had phenomenal sales? No. It’s a short, and the bulk of the copies “sold” last year were on the free days coinciding with the challenge. But it gave me a taste of the process. It whetted my appetite. And the more I dug into new ways to promote my work, find more readers, and sell more copies, the more I enjoyed the marketing work.

For one thing, I do a lot of marketing as part of my day job. I’m our webmaster and social media manager (along with lots of other things–it’s a tiny museum, so we all wear many hats). For another, ALL authors, whether indie pubbed or traditionally pubbed, are having to do a lot more marketing. If I’m going to have to do the work anyway, why not be an indie author, where I control every step of the process and get better royalties?

Does all this mean I’m opposed to being published by a traditional publisher? No way!

I’ve got a novel out on submission right now. Partly because, as much as I do enjoy the marketing, it also takes away from my writing time. Right now, I’m working 40 hours a week between my two part-time day jobs, and then I’m working two part-time night jobs being a writer and a book marketer. If I could turn some of those duties over to people who are better trained than I am, you better believe I will! It doesn’t mean I won’t do the work–it just means I want to learn better ways of doing the work from people who know more.

But at the same time that I’m submitting that novel, I’m also prepping my next project for publication. I’ve sent cover ideas to Phuoc Quan, I’ve got two critique partners looking at my most recent draft (number four or five, I think), and I’m planning to release To Sow the Wind in early August.

Are you an indie author? What did your path to self-pub look like?


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