Indie FAQs

I get so many questions about being an indie that I realized these questions merited their own FAQs section. No need to be lumped in with my writing/books FAQs section.

What's the process of getting your novel published? I'm a newbie in this world of writing. And have no clue what's next after the book is finished.
This question came to me from someone who said she would probably go indie, but I'll cover both routes. First, read this post. Make sure you meet the checklist. The rest of my answer is predicated on you already having met a certain standard of writing.

Okay! Here we go.

Even if you 100 percent plan to go indie, I recommend you submit to agents and/or publishers IF this is your first book. (If you're an established author, don't sweat this part.) Do it for feedback, if nothing else. Agents and publishers may see things you don't, marketing strategies you don't. And if you're extended a contract, by no means do you have to accept it. If you're rejected constantly and for the same reason (need work on your writing skills) that also tells you that you're probably not quite "there" yet writing wise. If you're rejected because your work "is not marketable," however, then you're especially well suited for the indie world. "Waiting" is my #1 seller by far, and it was termed well written but not marketable. Turns out, yeah, it is marketable. ;-)

Route one: You decide to negotiate and accept a contract (either/and for agent and publisher). Have a lawyer work with you on this process. Some contracts are very harmful to authors. Don't go there. Walk away if you must. (I recommend you read route two as well, especially the latter part, because it applies to all authors.)

Route two: You go indie.

First, I think you have to decide if you're going to be under the banner of a publishing imprint with its own ISBNs and all. (I don't do that. I let the sites I upload to pay for my ISBNs.)

Then decide whether you want to start off exclusive to the Kindle for ebooks (this is called KDP Select; you can still do print anywhere). This is for a 90-day period, with renewals. There are pros and cons all over the Internet, so I won't go into them here. But make the decision. If you can't decide, then don't do it. You can always opt in later.

Next is whether to do formatting, cover, editing, etc. work yourself or pay for it. Some indies use good betas and/or critique groups in place of editors to save money. Some do their own covers. Some do their own formatting. You have to decide all this. Look at your budget and evaluate your own capability. (Think about what you plan to charge for your book.) Formatting isn't that hard. Download the Smashwords style guide and follow it, even if you plan to go Kindle only. For your covers, you don't have to be a Photoshop whiz. Here's a simple bare-bones PowerPoint tutorial.

You most likely have at least one e-reader (mine is Nook). Okay, good. Now download the Kindle and  Nook (and whatever else) apps on your phone and computer. That's what I did.

If you decide to NOT go Kindle-exclusive, you have a lot of potential places to upload. You can do this in many orders. You can decide to do Smashwords first because its autovetter may catch formatting issues and because Smashwords converts instantly. You may decide to do BN first because it takes longest (in my experience and in many others' experiences too). If you're still on the fence about KDP Select (Kindle only) you may decide to do Kindle first for a few days and see how sales there go. Anyway, decide on order. (If you're approved for Smashwords premium distribution, it takes maybe six weeks for your title to appear in the Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc. bookstores.)

Once you have your book uploaded to wherever and it is on sale, either buy it or download the sample. Check it on as many devices and apps as you can. Make sure the formatting is OK. (Have either indented paragraphs--preferred--or a space separating paragraphs, but NOT both.)

Move on to print (CreateSpace is easiest for me). This will be a snap after all the ebook stuff. I recommend paying the $25 for expanded distribution. It's paid off for me. Order a proof. Make necessary changes. Approve.

OK, the book's published. Open a Goodreads author page. An Amazon author page, too. LibraryThings and Shelfari and Facebook, etc. etc. if you want. But Goodreads and Amazon for sure. I also recommend you make an Amazon UK author page. Amazon UK is my #2 audience, in front of even print and BN.

Hold giveaways on Goodreads. Go to Google Blogs and find reviewers for your book. Send what will most likely be courtesy (free) copies. Don't stress too much about this. The main thing here is to KEEP WRITING. More books give you more chances to be discovered. Build a nice, sleek backlist.

OK! That's it for now. Let me know if I forgot anything.

Why did you go indie, and how's the experience?
Here are three blog posts that cover this answer: Why I went indieAnother update, Most recent update.

I'm with a publisher but am thinking about going indie. I would have to file for a business license and be paying quarterly sales tax to my state. Do you have an accountant helping you with those things?
I don't have an accountant helping me, but keep in mind that you're an author already (doesn't matter if you're indie or with a publisher). That means you should have a business license already and be paying quarterly sales taxes already (unless your royalties aren't high enough--they sure weren't for me when I was with a publisher OR you have more tax taken out in your full-time job to cancel out the quarterlies). Also remember quarterlies aren't just state. They're federal too.  It definitely doesn't hurt to pay an accountant for a couple of hours to prepare the groundwork for you.

Did you establish an LLC? 
No, but some other indies have. Some have established S corporations. I'm not sure why, but maybe for peace of mind to protect assets in the case of a lawsuit. For now, being a sole proprietor suits me just fine.

Who does your covers?
Joy Argento did "Strange Bedfellows," and I did "The Odd Couple" cover. The others have been a collaboration with me and a woman named Leigh. I'm hoping to have her on the blog soon to discuss her experiences. (Update: Leigh discusses her experiences here.)

I saw your interview with your cover designer (she does a fantastic job, by the way). Who does your e-formatting?
I do my own e-formatting. I'd most likely do my own covers too 100 percent, if not for Leigh. I'd probably do them on PowerPoint, which Dean Wesley Smith recommends and which requires not much tech savvy (a bit more about that here: Overall, I'd prefer to do the cover myself and take 100 percent responsibility for it rather than spend $100+ on a cover designer. But for $100 and no tech headache, you can find many good deals. I'd probably pay someone $100 if I did indie part time.

How difficult was it to get your books posted at B&N, Smashwords and the non-Amazon places? What do you find is the split between Amazon vs. non-Amazon sales?
My first indie book ("Strange Bedfellows") was a pain to get formatted correctly. The rest were smoooooth. I had a mentor helping me at the time, thank goodness. She was a huge help in getting "Strange Bedfellows" formatted correctly and uploaded. I'd be glad to help with that if needed when/if the time comes. What I recommend you do is download the Smashwords style guide BEFORE uploading anything, and follow it. Its formatting works for Amazon and BN too.

Amazon vs. non-Amazon sales: huge difference. 
It looks like all of Amazon's sites (especially if you include print sales) make up probably 90 percent of my overall revenue, although I've never done a concrete breakdown.

Here's where my sales come from in order of rank:
1. Kindle US (HUGE #1, probably 75 percent to 80 percent of my total sales, very consistent)
2. Kindle UK
3. Amazon print (very close to #2 many months; I've actually had print books in the top 100 lesfic a few times)
4. Smashwords (noticeable upswing with new releases)
5. BN
6. (tie) the other Amazon foreign sites combined (DE, IT, ES, FR, etc.)
6. (tie) direct print sales -- always higher in months where I have new releases 

How fast do you write?
I get this one so much I devoted an entire blog post to it a few months ago. Go here.  

I want to go indie. Any advice?
Yep. Read this blog post I did (I recommend you read it even if you don't plan to go indie). The info is good either way. 

How can I help you and other indie writers?
Thank you so much for wanting to help! Here's a post I did on that (pretty much works for any author, really, but I tried to give this post indie flavor).

This is very personal - so please feel free to tell me to mind my own business here: You seem to have a large on-line presence - posting, blogging, etc. Are you working a job as well? I'm wondering when you find the time to write!
Not personal at all! :) I've blogged on this, actually. I think this covers the answer:

The relevant paragraph: I do indie full time now, but I did not always. "Strange Bedfellows," my first indie book, was released in late August [2011]. I did indie/writing part time. In middle or late October is when I made the shift to going indie full time because the money coming in was justifying such a shift. In December, I made the decision (it was a hard one, yes) to pass up a teaching job so I could continue doing indie full time. Even if I'd taken the job, would I have had to quit indie? Nope. I'd just do it part time, like I always did writing part time before October.

**** (end of excerpt)

If you're thinking indie MUST be done full time, that it can't be done part time, please do read that blog post. I'm not sure why many people think indie has to be done full time, but it absolutely doesn't need to be.

I should say something about promotion/online presence. I do have a big online presence, but I think the cause is the fact I do indie full time. If I did indie part time, my presence would be smaller, but I believe my sales would be the same. I do the extra blogging, online stuff, etc. because I want to help other indies and help get the stigma of being indie lessened, not because I think they'd help sales. JA Konrath and others have it (mostly) right when they say the best promotion is to keep QUALITY books coming out. (I'll add to that: getting review sites to review your book is nice promotion, too. Make a little time for that if possible, but a little is literally a little, several hours per book contacting sites is all that's needed.)

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