An Indie Author Timeline


While attending a seminar called ‘Standing out in the crowd’ with Susan May, I got the impression that many of the budding authors in the room wanted to know what steps to take to become an indie author. Although in a number of my posts I provide advice around specific steps I’ve taken, I haven’t yet pieced them altogether so folks can see the whole “journey”. So here it is:

1) Storyboard your idea. There are many ways to do this and plenty of tips online. A storyboard doesn’t have to be detailed but should outline the key points in your plot. I simply list out the important events in chronological order, including main character introductions.

2) Start writing. In my case I started with a fantasy novel but you could be writing a short story, a biography or a novella. The important thing is get to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet- you’ll develop your style and technique as you go. Certainly having a good grasp of grammar is important (Google can help) but it is not essential. An editor can help point out your weaknesses in the editing phase later.

3) Keep writing. I wrote a post about finding the time to write. It’s hard when you have a full time job or a family to look after, but you can do it. Keep plugging on until you feel you are 80% completed (for a novel I would say this is the 35-40,000 word mark). Make sure you read over your work and do a self-edit or two. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect but you might find some clear contradictions or statements that don’t make sense. You may find some of what you have written is no longer needed and can be removed.

4) Find a good editor. People always want to know how to find a good editor. In my case it was luck. There are plenty of web sites offering editing services online. Look at your local writers guild web site, go to a writers group, open the phone book. There are plenty around advertising their services, you just need to find one that is right for you. I suggest picking one that usually edits and/or writes in the same genre as you.

5) Submit to your editor. Now you have some time off from writing! How long depends on how long your submission is- for approx 40,000 words I’d say you’ve got 1-2 months of waiting. Now I suggest you start researching your market and looking at how you will market yourself as an indie author. Social media is a big one and you should really think about setting up a blog or a web site to reach your future readers. You don’t need to spend any money here, there are plenty of free DIY sites (blogger, wordpress, etc). Check out my Author Pimpin with Social Media post.

6) Take your editor comments on board and get to editing your work. This post about how many times you should edit your book might help. Because I had a great editor who I really respected, I basically did what ever she suggested, bar a few suggestions that clashed with my new found style of writing.

7) Finish your book and write a synopsis. I bet you found you had to remove great chunks after your edit. Its funny how what seemed important when we started writing a chapter became irrelevant to the storyline after a few more. For tips on how to keep going until you get to the end, check out my post called How to Finish Writing a Book. Nail a good synopsis that briefly describes your story without giving too much away. The synopsis should draw your readers in.

8) Send your book and synopsis to another Editor (or the same one if that suits). I like to get a second opinion and focus my second edit more on grammar and structure. At this stage, I’d suggest asking others to proof read your work as well. Family and friends are best. Check out my post on the Best Kind of Proofer.

9) Decide if Indie is for you. There are pros and cons for Indie vs. Traditional publishing. The biggest con for Indie as far as I have experienced is – doing your own marketing. It can seem like a full time job. If you don’t market yourself and your books, its very unlikely you will sell any. It takes time, effort and dedication. There are a bunch of other considerations though and its up to you to research them and decide what is right for you.

10) If Indie IS for you- then transfer your manuscript into the revenant self-publishing document template. It could be for eBook or print. I would focus on one first and see what is involved. If going with Amazon, you need to decide your book dimensions first and then download the relevant template. You could always start with a template when you start writing but I didn’t, it was easy enough to copy and paste each chapter into the template chapters. You can fill out the Title, dedication and acknowledgement sections. Don’t delete the blank pages in between because these are pages in your book now. There are a bunch of people that can help you with formatting. Just like editors, their services are advertised all over the place- you just need to look. I did all the formatting myself, which did take me a while but it cost me nothing 🙂 Once you have transferred your chapters, your book needs another good proof read- but this time, you should be checking formatting, page numbers, line spacing etc while you read through the story.

11) Design a book cover. Again, this is something you can do yourself or you can pay someone to do it. Doing it yourself requires the right tools (e.g. Illustrator). I did it myself but that was risky. Your cover is the first thing people see so it MUST look professional. You can buy covers online or hook up with a designer and tell them what you want.

12) Sign up for a “publishing site” account. In my case, I used Createspace but you could use Smashwords instead (note: these sites use different templates so make sure you’ve used the right one). You don’t need to upload your book yet but you can do if you like. It will be subject to an automated check which takes about 24 hours. You can fill out all the details about your book like the synopsis, title, whether it is part of a series etc. You also need to choose your distribution options and your costing model. This requires a bit of thought and I suggest researching other books similar to yours online to see what is an acceptable price. You need to consider whether you are publishing print, ebook or both and the prices should differ depending on the medium. You might also want to think about your Tax situation. In my case, because I wanted to sell my book on Amazon.com and I am an Australian, I had to do some work to get a TFN in the US. Check out my post here for help.

13) Upload your book and cover image then wait for approval. Once you get it, use the virtual reviewer to see how your book is laid out (Createspace has a virtual page-turning software). This is important as your book needs to look like a real book- not just a manuscript. Content should be on the right pages and blank pages should split out your title and dedication pages from your chapters. I recommend (and I did this) ordering proof copies. If you are publishing a print book, you can have copies sent to you so you can feel it under your fingers and flick through yourself. It is a cause for celebration when you hold your first book in your hands!

14) Publish that sucker! Once you are happy with it- press the big red button and release it. Sometimes this can take several days to appear in “stores” but before then you should be able to order “author copies”. You may want to sell these at a book launch or some such cool event.

15) Finally, market yourself like a demon! Send out links to buy copies of your book on social media, come up with promotions and opportunities to promote yourself as an author. Contact local papers and radio stations and offer to speak at events. This is the hardest part  so be prepared. Don’t expect to sell 1000s in the first few months. You can also look at “special” offers available through your publisher such as KDP Select (for eBooks). You need to research this stuff before you sign up. There are plenty of opinions online- here is one of mine.

So there you have it. If you want to see the product of my journey, you can order a copy Ruthless from Amazon in print or eBook. I’d really appreciate your support.

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