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Monday, August 17, 2015

Going Indie on a Shoestring

Until July 29, 2015, I was a traditionally published author only, but things have changed. On that July day, my first independently published novel went on sale, making me a hybrid author.

About six months ago, I received my rights back from the publisher for Thyme for Love (TFL} and its sequel, Love Will Find a Way. The only choice I had to keep the book in the marketplace was to poke my toe into the waters of independent publishing, bettern known as "going indie."

By going indie and publishing your book yourself, you become not only the author, but also the publisher, editor, cover designer, and publicist. Here is a rough breakdown of the steps I took, all the while striving to keep my expenses down:

1.  A professional edit is normally required, but since TFL was already edited by a professional editor when it was first published, I did not hire an editor. I tweaked the writing in some places and updated the technology, but the content remained the same.

2.  I don't have the ability to produce a professional looking cover (at least not yet).  The average cost of a good cover design runs around $400, but I was fortunate to win a cover design through an online auction and paid substantially less than the norm.

3. The systems for Kindle, print, and other ebook sellers do not accept a Word document. I considered formatting my manuscript myself with the help of written instruction, but in the end, decided to pay a professional formatter. I've never regretted it. When I uploaded the formatted manuscripts, they both passed on the first try. Well worth the nominal expense.

One of my memes.
4. A few days after submitting my manuscript to Amazon's Create Space for print copies, I was able to order author copies at a very reasonable price. Within a week, they arrived at my door, every bit the quality printing I have received from traditional publishing houses. 

5. There are a few different packages you can use to upload to Kindle. I chose Kindle Direct for the first 90 days Thyme for Love is on the market. This program gives Amazon an exclusive, and the agreement can be renewed every 90 days. Several benefits come with this program, including promo packages and advertising. 

You can check out the Amazon page by clicking here!

6. Marketing is the last, and probably the most important, step. Unless you can afford to hire a publicist, you are the publicist. Word of mouth is always the best way to get results, but to get the buzz going you need to get your book title out there. There are services that maintain huge mailing lists that you can use to send Twitter notices about your book. I bought 10 links from Ask David at www.askdavid.com. For $15 you receive a Supporter Pack which includes 10-12 Twitter announcements that you write up yourself.  

I've become quite adept at designing memes and posting them in various places like Twitter and reading groups on FaceBook.I use both Photoshop Elements and Swift Publisher, a publishing program for Mac. There's a fine line between posting enough to make your book known, but not so much people stop following you. But once you hit a good balance you should see steady growth in sales. 

One of the best benefits of indie publishing is there's no waiting for a royalty statement from my publisher. The Amazon site not only tells me how many books have sold, but also the total amount of royalties I have coming. For a while I became obsessive in checking my sales, and anxious! More about that in my next post.

Does this mean I'm not planning to have my stories published by traditional publishers in the future. Absolutely not. I'm working on pitches right now for my editor appointments at the ACFW conference next month. The  landscape of publishing has changed and is continuing to change at a rapid rate.  At first, the thought scared me quite a bit, but now that I've gone indie on TFL and will soon do the same for its sequel, I'm embracing the changes and finding the process quite enjoyable.

Have you published indie yet? Are you planning to? Please share your own experiences and tips in how to market your indie books in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!



A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other midwestern spots for new story ideas.

2 comments:

Ron Estrada said...

Congratulations, Pam. I've indie pubbed two books now, with 3 coming next month and 4 by December (though my beta readers are ready to kil me because of a cruel cliffhanger at the end of 3...might have to move that 4th release up for my own safety).

This doesn't apply to you, because you have more books out there. But if you are publishing your first book, don't worry about advertising and KDP select. Just get it published. It won't sell.

Step 2 is to get the next book published. It won't sell.

Step 3 is to get the third book published. Now you start to see activity.

With three books to play with, you have the freedom to play with pricing. The usual strategy is to make book 1 permafree with links in the front and back taking the reader to book 2.

Book 2 is the one that requires experimenting. I have it at $2.99 everywhere, but offer it free for those who sign up for my newsletter as a direct download from my site.

Book 3 is always at least $2.99, maybe more. If they've gotten this far, they'll pay.

A new writer should plan on a series. That's the best way to lead readers from the free book to the next. After your first series, you can experiment at will. My next series will be a combination of an adult paranormal and YA paranormal written in parallel. The YA will be a serial novel available first on Wattpad, then on KDP select. The adult companion will be a series of full length novels available everywhere. It's a big project but I'm having fun with the planning, so I expect I'll do well.

Final piece of advice. Newbies MUST pay for an editor or know good ones who will barter. Same with the book cover. Build a loyal stable of beta readers (I think 10 is a good number), and get active on the social networks where YOUR READERS hang out. Most of the romance writers seem to find Pinterest of value. My YA readers like Instagram and Wattpad. And Im now messing with Periscope (look up the Periscope app...then figure out how it can be useful).

By the way, I'm submitting my middle grade work for trad publishing. So, yes, I understand the benefits to both sides.

God bless, Pam!

Pamela S. Meyers said...

Thanks, Ron, for all your great advice. I do plan on publishing the sequel and then writing the third book in the series as soon as possible.

I appreciate your input here. It's so good to learn from different people what they've experienced with indie publishing and what they've learned.