Indie and Self Publishing Tips & Tricks

The links below are things we’ve found useful as we’ve stumbled through the world of Indie Publishing. These are our Indie and Self Publishing Tips & Tricks that we hope others will find informative.

As an author, when you decide to become your own master publisher, you are taking on all the roles that would normally be supplied by this relationship: authorship, editing, cover design, layout design, publishing, marketing.

Authorship

So, this one is fairly self-explanatory, this is when you write the book. You can be as self-indulgent, egotistical and flaky as you like, it’s what writers are known for ;P – but, remember, without an agent, or a publisher prodding you for that next draft, you do have to be your own task master.

  • ADVICE: write everyday – whether it’s your magnum opus, or a drabble (100 word piece), write, practice, write some more, get into the habit of expressing yourself, if you’re interested in honing your word skills weekly by attempting a drabble, you’ll find a fun weekly challenge, The Drabble Cascades, over at one of Wittegen Press’ blog, Fantasy Boys XXX
  • For the more macabre minded among us, this is a useful reference when thinking about poisoning a character: The Mystery Writer’s Guide to Poisons compiled by Clarissa Draper
  • Talk to other authors, join forums, e.g. Google+ has many communities for writers – give and take, e.g. rewtweet other things you find interesting, +1 on Google posts, interact
  • Be aware, not all advice will be appropriate for you, read, listen, but be prepared to ignore.
  • Joss Whedon’s Writing Tips
  • Software for writers.You can write in anything, anywhere, but if you’re going to turn it into a published book, you might find some of these pieces of software useful:
    • Microsoft Word Even if you don’t like Windows, one of the easiest ways to upload documents to Smashwords and Amazon is via a .doc(x).
    • Scrivener – this is a popular editor, research compiler and it can also be used to output eBook formats, linking in to KindleGen from Amazon, although, unfortunately, the Windows version is a lot less friendly than the Mac version.
    • Freeplane – do you like brainstorming your ideas? Well, mindmaps are great for that, and this is a great FREE tool for creating those maps.
    • Mediawiki – if you are of a techie disposition, you might like to create your own wiki containing searchable info for your novel(s). One step further, is Semantic Mediawiki, which gives you even more data handling capability.

Editing

There are lots of different tasks to do with editing a manuscript and different types of editing. But, basically, when it comes to it, you need to have your work checked on two fronts. The first is a technical examination for grammar, structure and vocabulary. The second is leaning towards the art side of things, general consistency of your plot, characters and everything to do with the world you’ve constructed.

  • You can’t do ALL your own editing, you’re biased and you’ll skip over mistakes
  • HOWEVER, when copy editing your own work for grammar, spelling and punctuation, there are several tips to showing up the errors that you’d read over in your original document, because you’ve been looking at it so much.
    • Walk away for at least a month, leave it alone, don’t touch, do something else. This means that when you come back, you have fresh eyes.
    • Change the formatting, e.g. turn it landscape and have two columns, or put it on your eBook reader – this means your eye is not scanning the same page as before and you’ll see more mistakes
    • THEN you can give to someone else for checking
  • Beta-readers, who check your work for consistency, plot etc, come in many shapes and sizes, use at least two, who read differently, e.g. a quick reader and a slow reader, because they will find different issues with your text.
  • If you can afford it, hire an editor, if you can’t make sure the person who is doing the editing has the right skills and will be honest with you.
  • If you have skills, you may be able to trade them with someone else in the same position, e.g. edit each other’s work, or cover art for editing, etc.

Layout Design

If you’re publishing your own book, then you’re going to have to do the layout of the proof yourself. You’ll have to think about font, page breaks, headers, preamble and all those little things we don’t notice in books unless they’re wrong. If you’re looking for a low-cost option, there are two major formats open to indie publishers, eBook and Print On Demand paperback.

  • How to format your eBook
  • POD Printers (check them out to see if their service is for you). Be aware, formatting print books is a lot more involved than eBooks, but Create Space do offer templates.

Cover Design

There are several roles involved in cover design. Creating the artwork for the cover and the layout are two major parts.

  • Beginner’s Guide to Cover Design
  • Always make sure the artwork you use for your cover is your own, or royalty free, check the licence of any photo you want to use, since there may be limits to number of copies it can be used for.
  • When designing your book cover, there is no such thing as individuality. You are trying to tell a reader what type of book is inside the cover/cover image on first look, so make your book look like your genre, check out the latest fashions and imitate them.
    • check font, serif/sans serif, shading etc
    • check layout, e.g. where’s the author’s name/title, how big are they?
    • How does the back blurb layout if you’re doing a physical book?
  • Amazon and some other places offer Front Cover designers – but make sure you know how a book cover works, before using any of these.
  • If in doubt, hire a professional, there are some very good and reasonable professionals out there.

Publishing

You have two choices when going it alone in publishing, you can either become a self-published author using your own name and no publishing company, or you can create your own publishing company. Much of the advice and links below are valid for both routes, but there are some specifics you may want to know if you are setting up your own company in the UK.

  • Setting up your own publisher, will give you a brand. You will need to:
    • Choose a name, use Google and Companies’ House to check for a unique name, also make sure your domain name is available, you can do this via names.co.uk.
    • If you wish to protect the name of your brand, making sure no-one else in the UK can use it, register your company with Companies’ House. There are people who will do this for you for a fee.
      • You can park your company to maintain the name without having to fully run a company until you have sufficient income to warrant it. This will cost you a fee each year and you need to fill in the required documentation, but it is a lot less than when you are running a full company.
    • Create a logo, if you don’t have experience with this, hire someone else to work with you.
    • Set up a website to host your books. Some people just use a blog, but this has its limitations. You can link to all the places your books are published from your brand site, and this link tells you how to find out what those links are for some of the trickier publishers. 🙂
    • Your publisher identity:
      • this can be entered as a field in Amazon and Google
      • You can set up a publisher account in Smashwords as well as an author account and the author account can transfer the publishing rights to the publisher account. This is useful if you are using more than one writing pseudonym, or you are publishing for more than one author, but want to control the publishing from one account.
  • Indie or Self Pub
    • Whether self, or indie publishing, you will need to interact with the US Tax Authorities, since Amazon.com will be your biggest market. You will need a US Tax code to avoid being charged 50% tax on your royalties. This post tells you how to do this.
    • Where to publish eBooks
    • Registering your books. The universal reference for all books is the ISBN. There are several ways to get ISBNs.
      • You can buy a set of ISBNs yourself from Nielsen UK ISBN Agency. – this means you are registered as the publisher of the books.
      • Amazon, Google Books have internal identifiers so ISBNs aren’t required
      • Smashwords will give you a Smashwords ISBN if you want one, which registers them as the publisher.
    • Setting up your author pages:
      • Smashwords – you need a login to be able to upload books
      • Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon – this will get your books up onto Amazon, but will not manage your author identity.
      • Amazon Author Central – you can create an author page for your Amazon books and claim the books as your own.
      • Goodreads – you can add your own books to Goodreads when you are a member
      • Google Play
    • Writing the blurb for your books is really difficult, but really important
      • Make sure it is all spelt correctly
      • Write long, edit short.
      • Think about what it is you want to encapsulate about your book
      • Do not give away the ending, or indeed too much of the plot
      • Some more hints and tips can be found here.

Marketing

There are lots of ways to market books that involve spending quite a lot of money very rapidly, this is not what this section is about. This is about marketing and using social networks to get your presence and book out there on a shoestring (zero) budget.

  • social media is your friend, but you have to be clear on who your audience is and what each site is good for. Check out this link for details on different social media sites.
  • Create a blog, see this link for details of how and what to blog.
  • When talking about your book, you need to know what your message is. Shah Wharton did an interesting post on this called ‘Finding Your Why‘.
  • Have a mailing list to send out updates to fans – this can be run from your blog, or your brand website.
  • To find out what your name is turning up against, you can create Google Alerts against your name (you might want to put Author in the search if your name is not unique). You can also do this with your brand name.
  • Make sure all your authorship material on the web is attributed to you in Google.
  • Get involved in events local to you
  • Go to book fairs
  • Have a set of business cards made up with your brand/author identity. Keep them with you, you never know when they’ll come in useful. moocards are reasonably priced and have funky little mini cards and dispensers.
  • Promotional links within your eBook – you can link to your own brand website within an eBook, publicising other books by you, or other books in the series. You can also put in small snippets to encourage readers. Be careful not to link to other distributor’s websites, though, since this may get your book denied by Apple and others.
  • Authorgraph – this wonderful site allows you to sign in as an author, add your books via their ASIN’s from Amazon and then you can offer autographs to your readers. Just add the Authorgraph Widget to your blog.

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