Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 14, 2019

10 Things I Learned Indie-Publishing My First Book

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 bookOh, 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?

* * * * * *

About Tari 

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. 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon

23 comments on “10 Things I Learned Indie-Publishing My First Book”

  1. I've got about 30 indie works out there now, some original, some back list titles, some bundles or collections, and there's one more rule. Be prepared for the rules to change. What I did to publish book 1 is not the same as book 30. On the bright side, it's easier as the conversion software gets better. Draft2Digital has just about eliminated the need for a formatter for ebooks. But the distribution channels will change their rules and you have to be willing to deal with it.

    1. Oh my gosh Terry! So true. As I was putting out the first book things changed!! And have changed in other ways between the first and 2nd that I'm finishing now. I'm hoping that at least I'll understand better as I release more books! Thank you for reading and sharing!

  2. Great lessons, Tari! Thanks for sharing! I agree with all of them. I think the biggest lesson I've learned over the last few years of indie publishing...or have been reminded of - is to treat my writing business - like a business. When we do that, it definitely pays off. All the best to you!

    1. Thank you Sharon! Excellent advice. Writing may be a love and a passion, but publishing is a business, and if you don't take your work seriously, and treat it as a business, why should anyone else?

  3. So much wisdom for an almost-newbie! Tari, I've known you from the beginning and I couldn't be prouder of you! Clearly, you've got this. The two lessons I've learned along the way are: you're an entrepreneur/small-business owner, not just a writer; and this is not a way to get rich quick. Thanks for being my friend and fellow word warrior...and for sharing your experience with the WITS community!

    1. Thank you Chris! I'm so glad we're taking this journey together. Your support and friendship mean so much to me. While there are some people who manage to 'get rich quick' doing this, I think that if that's why someone gets into this, they may be disappointed. Most of the successful people I know have done it through lots of hard work! Thank you as always for your support and friendship. Can't wait to see what happens next!

  4. I'm probably the newest newbie of all your commenters so far, and that's okay. Your points are well taken, and I'm living them now, ready to publish my first book ever, indie-style, in my late seventies. One thing I've learned so far is that everything takes longer than you think, or want!
    Brava to you and all the other writers on this train, Tari Lynn. By the way, your covers are engaging! 🙂

    I still don't know what putting everything "in KU" means . . . or "going wide." ;-/

    1. You made me smile Marian! I agree with you. This has taken much longer than I expected, and book two is taking less time, but still longer than I planned. But, I've decided (and it sounds like you have too) that whatever it takes, I'm going to work hard and do this to the best of my ability. I hope you'll send me a message at tari@tarilynnjewett.com or friend me on facebook, I'm easy to find, and let me know when your book releases!!

      KU is Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, and your books can only be on Amazon to be in KU, many authors swear by it! Going Wide, is putting your books out with retailers everywhere, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, etc. And, it's not an easy decision.

      Thank you for the compliment on the covers, my son is the cover artist, and custom designed them for me from a photo of the real Hermosa Beach, where my stories are set.

      1. Tara, I appreciate your interest. I'll check out your Facebook page, and send you an email message as well. (My artist husband designed my cover, but I had a design firm do the overall layout and formatting; We are lucky to have "insider" help!)

        1. That's awesome Marian! I can't tell you how special it's made the process to work with my son on the covers! We had some back and forth on certain issues, and it took him a little while to get my vision, but once he did, he had it. I think the hardest part for him was realizing that while he could put his personal stamp on it, the cover still needed to fit my genre...and my genre, romcom, wasn't HIS genre. I'm so proud of him for the covers, and I have to tell you, they're prettier in print!!

          I'll look forward to hearing from you!

  5. Thanks for the info, since I'll be indie-publishing a book (or hopefully two) before the end of year! And congrats on your releases. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I hope some of this is helps good luck! I can't wait to hear about your releases!

  6. Yes, publishing the first book took way longer than I thought. Try eighteen months instead of the six I thought—and the book was already finished. I had also identified my dream editor and dream cover artist, so I didn't have to search for them. I learned that "soft" publishing benchmarks made me less crazy, and that since I set the dates, I could change them. Best wishes for much success!

    1. I'm so with you Fae! At least for now, I'm going to stick with soft publishing dates! I don't want to make myself crazy, and I want to feel good about the book! And thank you!

  7. Tari, I think self publishing suits you. Lots of wisdom here. Romance is a great place to go indie - most NY publishers are getting out of the romance business (except, of course, for the big sellers).

    Also glad you're looking to go to NY for your Women's Fiction title!

    I've only done a novella and a WF indie....and believe me, either path you choose has potholes!

    Thanks for blogging with us!

    1. Thank you Laura! There's definitely a lot of work involved, but I think there's a lot of work either way, just different.

      I think it's good to try both paths, and learn what works for you. I'm excited to begin submitting my WF! Who knows what will happen.

      Thank you for all of your support, and for having me here!

    1. Thank you dholcomb1! I appreciate the comment, and that you spent your time here! I hope some of it was helpful!

  8. HI Tara, and thanks for putting into a succinct article so much of what I've learned in the 18 months since I decided to Indie publish my first novel, which has won awards now. One thing I learned too late, is that if you want to distribute ARCs (advanced reader copies) and get enthusiastic quotes to put on your cover, you need to do that at least six months before your public launch. I now have plenty of quotes, so could re-do my cover and front matter to include some, but I wish I had waited.

    I began by going wide, because my book is quite international, and that worked at first. My sales, including sales I did myself at signings, are at 500, but have stalled. So I decided to use KU and will see how that works.

    Thanks again.

    1. Congratulations Ann! What is your book (or your last name)? I'd love to look it up. I actually released my ebook ahead of my print book, so I put one review quote on the back of the print cover, and I think I'll do that again next time, but I think you're advice about ARC's is great. I might plan that for future books. Good luck with KU, I'd love to hear how it goes for you. I know lots of people love it.

      1. The book title is Another Ocean to Cross; my last name is Griffin. I like the idea of releasing the ebook ahead of the print book, too. I may try that next time.

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