by Tari Lynn Jewett
Last year, my first book #PleaseSayYes, was published in a limited edition, boxed set with other authors. When I got my rights back I decided to indie publish that book, and write four more to make it a series. I knew it would be a learning experience, but I had no idea exactly what it was that I would learn.
I’m excited to be here to share 10 Things I learned Indie Publishing My First Book. In descending order, just for fun:
#10. No matter how many books you’ve read, workshops you’ve attended, classes you’ve taken, friends you have that have successfully published tons of books, and shared their brilliance…you still don’t know enough…
Don’t get me wrong, I knew when I decided to indie publish this first book that I still had a lot to learn. But I’ve always loved reading and writing. I devoured books from the time I could read, and turned nearly every job I’ve ever had into a ‘writing’ job. I wrote for magazines and newspapers for fifteen years, and I’d written fiction as a hobby, long before I began to write fiction for publication. All my friends and family thought I should write a book.
I got serious about writing fiction for publication, and took craft and how-to classes and workshops. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. When it came to indie publishing all that I knew was that you wrote a book, put a cover on it and loaded it on Amazon.
That sounded easy enough...
# 9. It’s vital to join professional organizations, take classes, attend conferences, network, do everything you can to learn about and keep up with the changes in your industry.
Indie authors have done something amazing. They’ve reached out to each other through organizations, social media, conferences, etc., in a way that I’ve never seen before. And they share! Yes, they share what they’ve learned about publishing, business, and marketing. They also work together to promote and support each other.
So, while you won’t learn everything from other people, you will learn more than you even realize you need to know by finding other writers who indie publish, and other writers in your genre. And not just writers! There’s a world of cover artists, editors, formatters, personal assistants, all out there sharing what they know…with you!
# 8. There is no ONE right answer. Get all that you can from experienced friends and colleagues…and when they conflict, choose what works for you.
One indie bestselling author is a pantser, another is a plotter. An author who’s making triple digits on her books says put everything in KU, and another… also making triple digits is doing it by going wide. You don’t know what KU is? Or what it means to go wide? You’ll learn this from other authors. And then, you’ll make educated decisions about your career.
# 7. Don’t give yourself a tight deadline for your first books.
What? You planned on doing a pre-order and gleaning all you can ahead of time to try to make a bestsellers list? As I said, there’s no one answer that’s right for everyone, but I’m so glad that I haven’t yet written my deadlines in stone.
Working on my first cover was a back and forth process that took longer than I expected…because I wanted it custom. I can write a draft pretty quickly, but revisions, not so much.
I also went back and forth with my formatter several times. The man is a saint. No matter what I screwed up, he’s yet to call me an idiot, and some of the things I did wrong were really embarrassing. But you don’t know what you don’t know until you have to do it!
So, I’m not yet ready for pre-sale, and I know it now. Maybe after book 3, or 4. I might even wait until the second series.
# 6. Writing and editing are the easy parts.
So far, I’m spending less time writing and more on the mechanics. And by mechanics, I mean learning what I need for formatting, about copyrights, and the need for two covers: one for print, one for digital. I've learned to have the book formatted twice, how to upload my books and how to price them. Pricing is much more complicated than I ever knew! I also had to learn the difference between ISBN numbers and AISN numbers and whether I need both. And did I talk about copyright? Because seriously, that’s lots of fun.
# 5. Hiring professionals for editing, cover art, formatting is imperative.
If you want to produce a professional work, you must hire professionals. Otherwise, it’s probably smarter to submit. Indie publishing and traditional publishing are both legitimate choices, but if you submit your work traditionally, you’re going to have a professional editor, cover artist and formatter to put out your book. Why would you not do the same if you indie publish?
Even if you are a professional cover artist and can do your own cover, or even your own formatting, I recommend you always hire your editors. Just like a doctor shouldn’t treat himself, a writer should never edit their own work, even if they’re a professional editor. Again, just my opinion.
# 4. Thankfully, nothing is set in stone.
Well, unless you’ve scheduled a pre-order on Amazon. That’s pretty much set in stone. But if your book isn’t selling, you can change your cover, tweak your blurb, find a new editor. Because you’re doing this yourself, you can always change things.
# 3. You’re not just a writer, you’re a business person, a sales person, a marketer, and you better learn to love social media.
This is the part that’s hardest for most of us. I had no idea when I started this several years ago, that social media was going to become such a big part of my life. Honestly, just like almost every writer that I know, all I want to do is hide in my library and write books. I don’t want to be a salesperson. And I don’t want to feel like a pusher, or pimp for my books, but if I don’t tell people about my work, who will? And sadly, this is one thing we now have to do whether we’re indie or traditional authors.
The part that is easy to love is the readers. They talk to you, they want to know more about you, and they want to know more about your characters, and that makes the social media part more fun.
# 2. I LOVE having control.
I had no idea, because truly all I want to do is write, but I love that I get to pick my editor, make decisions about every detail of my cover, and every word of my blurb. If it doesn’t work, it’s on me, but if it does, well that’s on me too.
# 1. I have the best job in the world.
There is nothing I’d rather be doing at this point in my life than writing. And after putting out my first book, and learning some hard lessons, I still want to do this. Will I publish traditionally? I hope so, but I’ll probably always indie publish as well. Book 2 #FireworksintheFog is releasing in just a few weeks, and the learning curve is still steep, but it’s worth every minute.
So, those are just 10 of the things I learned indie publishing my first book. Oh, believe me, there were many more, but it would take a book to write all of them…and maybe someday I will, and I’ll probably indie publish it!
If you're an indie author, what lessons do you have to share? If you want to be an indie author, what are your most pressing questions?
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Tari Lynn Jewett lives in Southern California with her husband of nearly thirty years (also known as Hunky Hubby). They have three amazing sons, a board game designer, a sound engineer and a musician, all who live nearby. For more than fifteen years she wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers, wrote television commercials, radio spots, numerous press releases, and many, MANY PTA newsletters. As much as she loved writing those things, she always wanted to write fiction…and now she is.
She also believes in happily ever afters…because she’s living hers.