Bare Minimum Indie Publishing

I don't like to tell people I am an indie author. I like to keep my "author" self and my "real world" self separate. Perhaps I am embarrassed to admit I have put some fiction out in the world and am arrogant enough to expect people to pay to read it.

When I out myself as an indie author in public, I usually get two responses. First, the person finds it fascinating that I have stories for sale in the Kindle Store. The fascination quickly leads to the second response: The person has an idea for a book of his or her own. Sometimes they want to share their idea, sometimes they think if they share it, I will steal it (a misconception I should address in another post sometime).

I always encourage people to write their books. They rarely do, citing all the usual reasons:
  • I need a publisher first (nope, you can self publish)
  • I don't know how to format it (I usually offer my help)
  • I don't have the time (I have a full time job and two small kids, but I wrote a full novel and several short stories in the last year)
I think the primary reason someone puts off writing the book inside is fear. Fear it won't look as good on paper, fear no one will like it, fear of putting some fiction out in the world and being arrogant enough to expect people to pay for it (see what I did there? I tied it back to my own insecurities).

They should be afraid, though. It is possible to go very, very wrong if you write and publish. However, I am here to help. This quote may not be spot on, but Jacen (from the Star Wars Expanded Universe) once said "Never underestimate the calming power of a list."

So, I am here to give you a list of the bare minimum things you have to do to publish an indie story or book correctly. Do these things and it will go a long way in helping you in the indie market. Along the way, you will likely decide to do more, that is encouraged.

1. Write, write, write. If you are not writing, you are not making progress. If you've hit a stand still, write something different. You have to keep your creative muscles moving or else they atrophy. 

2. Get a cover. Covers are motivational. Pay someone to make a cover for you, or use a cover creator (Amazon has these), but get a cover. Looking at it will make you want to write the book that goes behind it. Please don't make the cover yourself if you have no experience with such things, it will only lead to tears.

3. Get people to read it for you. Many of us call it beta reading. I wrote a whole post on what a beta reader is supposed to do, you are welcome to look that up for more information. If you are writing a long book, don't wait until it is done to ask for feedback. You don't want to get finished with the book only to find out your main character is trite.

4. Get an editor. Really, you need an editor. There are plenty of experienced indie authors who also edit on the side for extra income. No, your friend down the street who reads a lot is not an editor. You need to find someone who has been paid to be an editor before. If you only spend money on one expense, it should be this one. If you have money left over, spend it on the cover. Some of you are thinking you can edit yourself. You can't. I just sent my best work to my editor for a second round and got back about two hundred comments. You are just too close to your own writing. For your own reference: I edit my books twice, my editor edits twice. Even then, we both usually end up doing a third pass. If you need an editor, I'm sure someone will give you a link in the comments (Carol Davis, I'm looking at you).

5. Formatting. This is tricky too. If you have cash left over after the editor and the cover, consider paying a professional to format you book. If you are new to the game you can do what I did and learn to format for Kindle (use Scriviner) or you can go with Smashwords for publication. Either way, there are lots helpful guides out there. However, this step will take you a couple weeks the first time. I can do it in under and hour now, but the first few times were not fun. 

That's it. If you do all these things, you are in a great place to publish something worth reading. There is more you can do, but this is what I consider the bare minimum for indie publication.