A few years back I published a couple of non-fiction books with the largest independent publishing house in America, Kensington. After the second book, I had exhausted what I had to say on the subject of how Americans funeralize their dead and moved into fiction. Unfortunately, the market for genre fiction was a bit softer than I anticipated. Instead of continuing to beat my head against the wall (query, denial, query, denial, query, denial…you get the idea), I decided to go the route more and more authors are choosing and indie pub my mystery.
The nice thing about getting a book published the traditional way is the publishing house does everything for you (they even pick your title). For someone like me who was used to handing in a manuscript, and waiting to be mailed the ARCs, there was a bit of a learning curve, and a lot to do! While I am no means an expert at indie pubbing, and am, admittedly, still learning, here are five pearls of wisdom if you’re thinking about going out and doing it on your own:
Editing is everything. If you’re going to have a successful indie pubbed book it needs to look as professional, and clean as possible. Enter the editor. You can pay for a variety of editing services: developmental, copy, or line, but at the very least hire an editor to copyedit your book to minimize typos and grammatical errors.
So, Todd, how do I find an editor for my work? Start by Googling “editing services,” look in the back of Writer’s Digest, or ask the authors whom you admire (in the genre you write) who does their editing. There are plenty of hired guns out there. Gather several potential candidates and ask them to sample edit a chapter and give you a price quote on the entire project. Once you have the sample edits back, it should be fairly obvious who you’ll want delving into your piece.
And yes, mistakes can (and do) happen, even with big publishing houses. I found several typos in the final product (wince) of Over Our Dead Bodies, one of the books I published with Kensington. Even the big guys make errors. Your editor may too. The nice thing about indie pubbing is if you find an error after the fact you can go in and correct it yourself.
Aldo Gucci—of the shoe and handbag fame—was quoted as saying; “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.” Don’t skimp on your cover!! Your cover is the calling card that’s going to entice readers. If you have an amateur, unappealing cover chances are they’re going to click right past it. A free cover is free for a reason.
The nice thing about indie pubbing is you have complete control over the cover design. That can be a blessing for visually creative authors, not being told by their publishing house what the cover will be, but it can be a burden for other authors. Look at successful authors in the genre you’re writing in. What are the similar characteristics of their book covers? What’s appealing to you? Share those with your cover designer to give them a jumping off point. There are numerous design services available such as: 99designs.com, bookflydesign.com, or bookbaby.com.
Get a third set of eyes on your piece! Not your best friend. Not your sibling, and certainly not your spouse. You need a disinterested third party who will carefully comb through your manuscript looking for anything your editor missed. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, you can probably get this done for nothing. If you have a really strong beta reader, ask him/her to go through the final draft one last time.
4) Project Manager
I’ll admit it: I’m lazy. The truth is with juggling a full time job, raising a family, and writing in my spare time I didn’t want to take time away from any of those things to do the hard slog of putting together a book, so I hired a project manager to bring all the pieces together for me. I let her manage the editing, proofing, formatting, ISBNs, cover design, uploading, and all the other minutiae that makes my head hurt just thinking about it. Is it lazy? Yeah, kinda. Did I lose any control over my project? No. I still weigh in on everything, but it’s a quick email or phone call as opposed to me wading in and spending the time to figure it out.
So how do you find a project manager? Again, back to the hired guns things. Personally, I’ve been nibbling at the fringes of the industry for long enough that I happened to use an old contact, Caren Estesen (johnsonbooksandmedia.com). Use your writer’s network to find the project manager that’s right for you, and if you’re just starting out, join a writer’s group (or three) and attend some conferences to start building your network.
Unless you are Stephen King or Lee Child a traditional publisher may not spend much time, money, or effort on marketing. The burden is always going to be on the author—traditional or indie pubbed. There are a number of ways to spread the word about your exciting new book. If you don’t have a website, stop now, and create one. It is a must have. There are a lot of sites where you can create a low cost, professional looking website (jigsy.com, sitecube.com, doodlekit.com).
Of course, there’s the old social media avenue where you can broadcast from the mountain tops by doing something you’re probably already doing—interacting with other writers and readers. (Don’t make the mistake of constantly selling. You want to educate/inform/entertain your followers about your brand as an author, and yes, you may occasionally mention when you have a new product out.) And then there are email lists. Download an email management program like MailChimp, LISTSERV or Atomic List, to collect and manage email addresses. The email management programs all you to send out fancy emails whenever you have updates, events, or new books coming out.
Guest posting (like I’m doing now) is a great way to reach a new audience, and it doesn’t hurt to spend a buck and do some advertising. Facebook ads are a great way to reach readers, as well as Google Ad Words, or something a bit more targeted like BookBub.
Todd is the author of Mortuary Confidential and Over Our Dead Bodies, non-fiction books about the funeral profession. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer and certified post mortem reconstructionist and cremationist, and works for the family business in Wilmington, Delaware.
His newest book, Grave Matters, is an indie published novel, and the first in a series. Order here.