Indie publishing, or self-publishing, has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. This is probably due to the accessibility of digital tools and the rise of online platforms. These make it easier for authors to bring their creative works to the world. While traditional publishing houses still hold a significant share of the market, indie publishing offers authors a good, alternative route to getting their stories, knowledge, and ideas out to readers. As self-publishing gains momentum, so do the questions that authors have about this path. Having been a ghostwriter for over 20 years now, I receive many questions about publishing. For that reason, I wanted to share my thoughts about self-publishing with you and provide a little guidance if this is the best option for you.
Why Choose Indie Publishing?
Your first question might be “Why should I choose indie publishing over traditional publishing?” Well, self-publishing offers several advantages.
Creative Control: With indie publishing, authors have complete control over their work, from cover design to content editing. They can make decisions about every aspect of their book, ensuring it aligns with their vision. When you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, they will choose the cover design and pick a title they feel is best for the project.
Faster Publication: Traditional publishing can be a lengthy and competitive process. Most authors spend 6 – 12 months finding a publisher and once they sign the contract, the book will be released 12 – 18 months later. Indie publishing allows authors to bring their work to the market almost immediately. This is especially important if you have a time-sensitive message or a story that you want to share with the world. I had a client who chose the traditional publishing route. By the time he secured a contract, events occurred that made publishing the story impossible.
Higher Royalty Rates: Indie authors typically earn a high percentage on each book sold compared to traditionally published authors, who receive 10% – 20% of the book’s sales price.
How Do I Prepare My Manuscript for Indie Publishing?
When you self-publish, you must prepare your manuscript yourself. Traditional publishers do all the work for you. The following steps aren’t complicated, and you will probably want to hire specialists to help you. Here are some basic steps you’ll need to do:
Edit and Proofread: Hire a professional editor and proofreader to review your manuscript. There are many different kinds of editors, so it’s good to know the differences so you can determine which you need. Having an outside set of eyes looking over your book is always a good idea.
Format Your Book: I always hire an interior designer for my books. There are certain requirements for your chosen publishing platform. Keep in mind that formatting a book will be different for print and digital editions.
Cover Design: Invest in a professionally designed cover for your book. A compelling cover is essential for attracting potential readers and setting the tone for your work. You can find good deals on Fiverr.
Metadata: Write a compelling book description, choosing relevant keywords. Then select the right categories to help your book stand out on online platforms.
Which Publishing Platforms Should I Consider?
There are several popular indie publishing platforms to consider, each with its advantages and audience. Some of the most widely used platforms include:
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Amazon’s KDP is one of the most popular platforms for indie authors. It offers both eBook and print-on-demand publishing options, making it accessible to a wide audience.
IngramSpark: IngramSpark is a platform that caters to both independent authors and small publishers. It provides distribution to bookstores and libraries, making it a great option for reaching a broader audience.
Smashwords: Smashwords specializes in eBook publishing and offers wide distribution to various retailers, including Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
Choosing the right platform depends on your specific goals and target audience. Many authors use a combination of platforms to maximize their reach and revenue potential.
How Should I Price My Book as an Indie Publisher?
Market Research: Research similar books in your genre and analyze their pricing. This can give you a competitive edge by understanding what readers in your niche are willing to pay.
Production Costs: Calculate the cost of producing your book, including editing, cover design, formatting, and any promotional expenses. Make sure you can cover these costs with your book’s pricing. Note: One of my friends chose to include dozens of photographs. This made printing much more expensive. In the end, he had to price his book at $35, which was way too high. It was a tough lesson for him to learn.
Royalty Rates: Different platforms offer various royalty rates, so factor these into your pricing strategy. Keep in mind that pricing too high might deter potential buyers, while pricing too low might undervalue your work. Finding this balance is all part of indie publishing.
Promotional Strategy: Consider your promotional strategy when setting your book’s price. If you plan to run price promotions or giveaways, be sure your pricing allows for such promotions without sacrificing profitability. In other words, If you start with a price of $2, reducing it to $1 probably will not yield many new sales.
Long-Term Goals: Your pricing strategy should align with your long-term goals. Are you looking to build a readership, generate income, or a combination of both? Adjust your pricing accordingly. Note: If you are planning to pen a series of books, authors typically sell the first in the series for a dollar or two. Sometimes they give it away for free to hook readers.
How Can I Market My Indie-Published Book?
Indie authors are responsible for their book’s marketing, which can be both challenging and rewarding. Honestly, today publishers expect you to be on top of marketing for your book as well. Here are some essential marketing strategies you might try:
Build an author website or blog and establish a presence on social media platforms. Engage with your target audience and create a community of readers interested in your work. This will only work if you keep up with the content. Many authors use Instagram. Note: A good friend is an editor for a major publishing house. She said that they look for authors with at least half a million followers.
Book Launch Plan
Plan a compelling book launch strategy that includes a release date, pre-order promotion, and launch event. Build excitement and anticipation around your book’s release.
Create an email list to stay in touch with your readers and inform them about new releases, promotions, and other relevant content. Make the content interesting and engaging so it doesn’t seem like a sales piece. No one will open a newsletter that is simply an advertisement.
Seek reviews from book bloggers, readers, and industry professionals. Positive reviews can boost your book’s credibility and visibility. Ideally, all the reviews won’t be 5-star and glowing, though. It is far better to have a few three- or four-star reviews mixed in. Otherwise, it may look like you are buying reviews. Unfortunately, some authors stoop to this and it can backfire on them.
Connect with other authors, bloggers, and book communities in your genre. Collaborate on promotions and cross-promotions to reach a wider audience. In fact, you can sometimes network with other businesses to promote. When I was promoting Chess Is Child’s Play, I partnered with Meineke and performed a simultaneous exhibition (where I played chess with ten people at the same time) in their showroom. As a result, we both received a two-minute spot on the local news which was also available online at the Tampa Bay website. It cost us nothing to do and yielded the equivalent of thousands of dollars of public relations!
You might need to invest in paid advertising on platforms like Amazon Ads, Facebook, or BookBub. Paid promotions can help you reach a larger audience but be sure to track your ROI. Hiring someone to help you could be beneficial.
Book Fairs and Author Events
Participate in book fairs and author events, both in-person and online. These events can provide exposure and networking opportunities.
What Are the Challenges of Indie Publishing?
While indie publishing offers numerous advantages, it also presents several challenges. It’s important to be aware of these challenges to make informed decisions. Some common challenges include:
Self-Marketing: Indie authors are solely responsible for marketing their books. This requires that you become an expert in this area or you shell out a few bucks to hire someone who knows this area well. Either way, it can be time-consuming.
Financial Investment: Be prepared to invest in professional editing, cover design, and marketing. While a traditional publisher will pay for these, remember they also will give you a much smaller royalty payment in the end.
Quality Control: Without the resources of a traditional publishing house, maintaining high-quality standards for your work can be challenging. I highly recommend that you survey your target readership ahead of time on things like the cover design and title, as well as the back cover blurb.
Stigma: Some readers may still carry a stigma against self-published books. This is much less of a problem in this era, but some are still prejudiced. The good news is that this perception is changing as more indie authors produce high-quality work.
Work-Life Balance: Balancing the demands of indie publishing with other aspects of life can be a significant challenge for authors. When you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, you still need to put marketing hours in, but the time commitment is much less.
Indie publishing offers authors an exciting and accessible way to share their stories and knowledge with the world. By preparing your manuscript meticulously, choosing the right publishing platforms, and implementing effective marketing strategies, you can successfully navigate the self-publishing landscape. While challenges exist, creative control, financial potential, and direct connection with readers make indie publishing a viable and rewarding path for many authors. Let me know your thoughts!