3 S.R. Johannes: Tips and Tricks from Indie Authors

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tips and Tricks from Indie Authors

I shot out an email to a few blogger buddies of mine that are/have self pubbed or are being published with a small, independent publisher.

Thanks to everyone who took time to send some tips. Some of these ladies will also be coming back on Fridays to provide more insight.
Check out all these books! 

Lisa Nowak
  • As far as copyediting goes, even if you hire someone, things are likely to sneak through. It's a good idea to have several people read it to check for typos. 
  • I also downloaded WordTalk to my computer and had it read my Word documents back to me. You find a lot of missing and transposed words this way. Stuff our eyes seem to skip over. helps with editing. Here's a link to a blog post I did about it with some tips on how to get it to work.
  • If you decide to do paperback. Lightning source does a great job. The biggest thing about LSI is it makes you look more legit. They're a professional printing company that works with many big publishers to print their backlist. They're associated with Ingram and Baker and Taylor, so they have a greater distribution channel, including in the UK and Australia with no extra effort on the part of the author. 
  • You don't have to get ISBNs unless you plan to use Lightning source. Go to Bowker and you can buy them as a single or in clumps (10,100 etc). 
  • In your case, since you only plan to do this one book and your finances are limited, you might consider purchasing 20 ISBNs from Bowker. You'll need at least four. One for Smashwords, one for Amazon, one for Barnes and Noble, and one for POD if you intend to release the book that way. You can get 20 for $250. If you get just one it costs $125. I sprung for 100, but that's a chunk of change at $575. 
  • It's true that Amazon has it's own numbering system, but it's still more professional to give a book an ISBN. Whoever owns the ISBN is considered the publisher, so if you want to be the publisher (rather than Amazon) you need an ISBN.
  • You need an ISBN for different formats - paperback, hardback, ebook.
  • Formatting isn't that tough. If you follow the Smashwords Style Guide (a free download) you won't have any trouble. Be sure to use the nuclear option to get rid of all the wonky formatting Word tosses in a document.
  • Trade "teasers" to place at the end of another book in your genre to cross promote.
  • A friend of mine is experimenting with getting ebooks into brick and mortar stores by having plastic cards printed up to place in the stores. The cards have a scratch away area on the back with a unique code beneath. The buyer goes to the publisher website, enters the code, and is allowed to download a book. The cards sell for $2.99 and I think it costs around $160 for 100 cards. I only spoke to her briefly about this, so I'm not sure on the details. The company is Spirehouse books  
Here are some other things these ladies had to say - 

General Advice
  • Surround yourself with a support network of writers. I have a core group at DarkSide Publishing. We support each other through our successes and failures. It’s great to have a close-knit group who gets exactly what you’re going through.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit! Get brutally honest critiques. If you don’t agree with a change, see if more than one person suggests the same thing. If they do, take off your blinders and change it.
  • Keep learning about the craft of writing. Don’t get so caught up in your new author status and assume you know it all. You don’t. Take classes. Attend critique groups. Go to conferences. Make new writer friends. Trust me, you’ll have fun doing it!
Making a Good book

  • I can write a novel in three weeks or less. It takes months to edit. Revisions should be many rounds of critiques, tears, and ten additional pounds from eating cookies. You may think you’re going insane. This is normal.
  • Covers and edits should not be scrimped on. This is our labor of love and I don't want someone judging me harshly b/c I didn't put my absolute all into it. If they don't like it once it's out, then at least I know I did my best. No regrets. 
  • You may already know this, but Scrivener software will compile your book in mobi and epub. You can then open the file in Kindle or Nook, and see exactly what it looks like before you upload it. You don't have to deal with html for Kindle, or trust that Amazon will format your doc or pdf file correctly. 
    Who to use?
    • Smashwords is the best (and possibly only) way an indie author can get on Apple’s iBookstore. Make sure you follow their formatting guide, even though you might want to kill yourself the first time. It’s totally worth it!
    • If you use Smashwords, you can opt out of Amazon and B&N to do on your own.
    • I'm doing my paperback at CreateSpace but the covers may not be as good as I hoped. I hear Lightning Source has a better cover offering.
    • Don't forget to register your book as a copywright at copywrite.gov
    • Run over to www.kindleboards.com. There’s a lot of great information and it’s a great place to read more about how different marketing experiences worked for other indies.
    • When it comes to marketing, try out great websites like Kindle Nation Daily and Pixel of Ink. Most authors earn back the money they spend, plus profit. They’re great for exposure to readers you may not reach through blog tours or contests on your website. Do not be afraid to invest in yourself.
    • Keep the blog tour short. Instead of spreading eleven blog hosts over eleven days I stacked them over four days. I did this to prevent fatigue from both the blog readers, and myself. I didn't want to bore them by talking about my blog tour for weeks and I've heard how exhausting blog tours can be for authors.  
    • I read that Amazon rankings are effected by how many sales take place in one day. I'm not sure how it works, but it's one of the reasons most of my blog tour hosts were booked on one day.

    Also Sarah LaPolla - an agent at Curtis - just did a great indie series. Check it out!

    What question do you have for me? Let me know if this is what you want to know or if there is another topic I haven't touched on yet.


    Shannon O'Donnell said...

    I have to tell you, Shelley, this is the most informative and fascinating series of posts. :-)

    sarah darlington said...

    I have a random question. I always use amazon and kindle so I want to self publish directly there...can you then also selfpublish to smashmouth--same book, just separate?

    Does that make sense?

    Jemi Fraser said...

    My head is reeling a little. That's a lot of information! Hooray for bookmarks so I can come back and absorb a little more. :)

    Kate said...

    Another great post!
    Thanks for sharing :)

    DL Hammons said...

    Have I mentioned that I'm bookmarking this entire series of blog posts?!? :)

    Anonymous said...

    Sarah, yes, you can publish the same book to Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

    Just to clarify, while Barnes and Noble have their own numbering system,and Smashwords will provide an ISBN, it's best to buy your own ISBNs and assign a different one to each ebook format. According to Bowker, whoever owns the ISBN is technically the publisher, so if you don't want Smashwords to be listed as your publisher, you need to do this.

    Shelli, thanks for posting my tips. :)