Making the decision to become an indie is not easy. It is not a get rich quick scheme. It is going to cost you time, energy, and money. It is going to require dedication. It is also one of the most rewarding things a person can do, if they want to be a published writer.
I was lucky enough to have a choice; I could be traditionally published or I could be self-published. I choose to be an indie author.
Before making the decision to go with self-publishing, I think everyone should be aware of what they are in for:
- You are going to have to pay a cover artist, unless you are a graphic designer, but even then, you’ll have the cost of images. A good artist runs anywhere from $75 – $250 a cover. It depends on your needs. Shop around! Look at portfolios of cover designers. Have they done anything similar to what you want?
- Ask other indie authors who they use if you like their covers. Talk to the cover artists and find out exactly what you are paying for; how many drafts are they going to make, how many revisions can you ask for, how long will the entire process take. Most of all, don’t settle! It will cost you more in the long run (I know because I have done 13 cover replacements!).
- You are going to need an editor. This is a person that doesn’t just proof your book, but reads it. They are looking for plot holes, chapters that seem out of place, sentences that just don’t make sense, etc. While they will find errors, that is not their primary job. In the end, you are free to take or leave their advice, but they may find things that you never realized was confusing. For example; one of my books featured a drug called Krokodil.
- It isn’t a really popular drug in the US, but since I knew about it, I sort of figured it was common knowledge. My editor was incredibly confused over why I couldn’t spell crocodile and why crocodiles were causing people’s skin to rot off. Once I realized she had never heard of it, I went back and added an explanation of Krokodil when the word was first used and the entire thing made sense to her.
- It turns out, a huge portion of my readers had never heard of it either, they went and looked it up to see if it was real. But I took for granted that it was just common public knowledge. Again, don’t settle. You can’t expect an editor that solely does romance to do a great job on your intense psychological thriller. Shop around. Find a good fit for your book.
- You should pay a proofreader. Editors will catch a huge amount of mistakes, but proofers are actually there to do a line-by-line proofreading of your book. They are the ones that are going to catch “your” when you meant “you’re” and they will remind you of how to use colons, semi-colons, commas, and everything else you forgot from grammar class. However, like an editor, a proofreader needs to be a good fit. My books contain some very graphic violence. It isn’t gratuitous, but it is necessary (I do write serial killer horror). So, a proofreader with a weak stomach would not be my first choice.
- Notice the upfront costs are starting to pile up? Publishing your book isn’t cheap, even today. Editors, cover artists, proofreaders, they all want to get paid, just like you do. They also charge accordingly, usually by the page for editors and proofreaders. Be specific when talking to them. How many words do they consider a page (it varies between 200 and 250 generally). How much do they charge per page? You need to know how much to budget for these.
- Categorizing your book is a big thing. It might be one of the most important things. If it isn’t in the correct genres, the wrong readers are going to be buying it and there’s a good chance they are not going to like it. This leads to a book with a lot of negatives reviews and almost no opportunity for sales. The best example I have ever seen of this came from a thriller I bought a few years ago. It said nothing about having graphic sex scenes or that it had a romantic plot.
The detective was chasing a serial killer with the help of the only survivor. My type of book, right up to the part where they were in the middle of a car chase and stopped to have sex for NINE PAGES! Not only was it ridiculous, but it was graphic. I don’t mind some blood and gore, but nine pages of thrusting, sweating, and grunting was too much for me.
I put it down and wrote a review giving the book only 1 star. I still get comments from other reviewers and it is listed as the #1 most helpful review of the book. It was marketed to the wrong readers, it should have marketed as a romantic suspense, not a psychological thriller.
Pricing is another big thing. We would all love to believe our work is worth its weight in gold. It isn’t and with more books being published every day, it’s hard to justify some indie prices. I have seen a lot of authors complain about not making sales. After convincing them to lower their price from $6.99 or $9.99 for the ebook, they were astounded by how well it sold.
Be reasonable here… If I can get a Liz Schulte romance for $3.99 or some other indie for $7.99 that I’ve never heard of, there’s a great chance that I’m buying Liz’s next book. I consider the magic number to be $4.99 or less for indies. After all, we are keeping most of our money. We don’t have to share with agents and publishing houses. If you are producing high-quality books for $4.99 or less, you will see your sales swell.
Market, market, market. Not just your books, but yourself. Honestly, you aren’t just selling a book, you are selling yourself as an author who can be taken seriously. Run adverts. Be active in social media. Do book tours. Make friends with bloggers. Join clubs with other authors. I spend about half my “work hours” writing and the other half marketing myself and my books.
Finally, enjoy it. If you don’t love writing, don’t become a self-published author. It’s more work than people think. The returns are low to begin with (I’m getting ready to release my 20th book in March and I’ve been self-published for four years, but last year was the first year I could say I do it full time… no other job required) and it takes a while to build up your brand and your books. If you don’t love it, you won’t put in the effort, and you will do nothing but damage your reputation as an author.
Hadena James began writing at the age of eight. By the time she graduated high school, she had published a couple of short stories in literary magazines. She completed writing her first novel at seventeen. Hadena began college as an English major, but quickly changed to a history major. However, she continued to write and took several extra classes in creative writing.
College showed her that while she could write short stories, novel writing was truly where her heart lay. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in European History with minors in German and Russian Studies. During this time, she received a couple of contract offers from publishing houses, but ultimately turned them all down.
In August 2012, she self-published her first novel. In retrospect, she is appreciative of the contracts offers she received when she was younger, but believes she made the right decision with self-publishing.
When she isn’t busy writing, Hadena enjoys playing in a steel-tip dart league. She loves to travel throughout North America and Europe. Her favorite cities to visit are Chicago, Illinois and Berlin, Germany. She is an avid reader, with her favorites being classic literature; Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, Gaston LeRoux, and Jane Austen; modern favorites include Clive Barker, James Patterson, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Her favorite book is “Good Omens” by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. She writes all of her books while listening to music and the bands tend to get “honorable mentions” within the pages. Some of her favorite bands are Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Rammstein, U2, Marilyn Manson, Oomph!, and Rob Zombie.
Author: Hadena James
Aislinn Cain and the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit have just finished up another case when they get the call. Now they are packing their bags and heading for Alaska in March. The team must overcome the hostile locals and harsh climate to catch a killer before he strikes again.
Hadena James is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card.