I began my indie author career as a creative outlet after I quit my job to raise my family. In 2005 the only legitimate option an author had to get their book in a reader’s hands was to spend two years chasing a publisher and hoping against hope that someone would pick up your book. Rather daunting prospect after writing the book, right? I ignored that fact and kept plugging away at my novel, Stealing Time, until 2012 when I discovered the wonderful world of self-publishing as an indie (independent) author. Thank goodness times have changed.
4 Invaluable Tips for Indie Authors
I have learned many lessons as an indie author. Here are some of my top tips:
1. Build Your Social Media Presence Well in Advance of Your Book Release
When I started on Twitter my lofty ambitions were to connect with celebrities in some odd pipe dream that out of the thousands of tweets they received in day, mine would magically glow and they’d respond to me. My life would be transformed. Now I couldn’t give a rat’s patootey about celebrity tweets.
Obviously, I hadn’t considered social media as a tool for selling my novel, in fact, I hadn’t even heard of an indie author at that point. Now two years later I have built a decent social media platform with over 12,000 followers across four platforms (2 Twitter accounts with a combined 10,708 followers, 3 Facebook accounts with a combined 854 likes, 905 followers on Pinterest, and Instagram with 267 followers) and will continue to grow it.
Why is this so important? Let me tell you what happens when you don’t. I have an author friend who spent a year writing his book. When he finished he published on Amazon and began promoting to his 100 followers on twitter. The first week he sold 20 copies and that was that. He had a few people re-tweet, but he’d tapped out his potential readership in a week. If he’d taken that year to grow his following by adding 20 people a day he’d have 7300 followers as a potential customer base. When growing your presence find other authors and promote their work by sharing their links and striking up conversations. They will be invaluable when you want to get your work into as many hands as possible because, if you have chosen well, you will have a large number of readers and other authors who will promote your work in their circles.
How do you know which platforms to use? You need to pick a few and do them well. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and spread too thin. For me the most interactive have been Facebook and Twitter. But don’t just push your agenda! Social media is exactly that–social. You have to invest some time talking to people about their interests and lives. There are writers out there who just tweet their books and never connect with people. This is not the venue for your typical marketing push. Your social media empire is built on your personality and charm, so use it and create a following that will find your posts worthy of more than a sales pitch to be ignored. Interact and have some fun.
I would love to know what social media platforms you use and what have you found the most helpful to market your work.
2. Continually Perfect Your Writing
I look back at what I wrote 8 years ago and have to laugh at the clumsiness of it all. To make it as a writer you have to work at improving in all areas of your writing. I am always reading helpful blogs, like Jeri’s, and other articles on writing, social media, and marketing, and strive to learn as much as I can to improve my skills as a writer and promoter of my work.
Every writer has a bag of tricks they use to create the magic of their craft. I’d love to know what you have used in your writing. Along my journey I found two books extremely helpful. One of the first things I did when I decided to write my novel was find a book to help me organize the storyline. I used The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall throughout the story development and writing stages. It also has a workbook you can buy separately that helps you finish each section with a bang, adding to the tension and pace of the novel.
The other book that has been a huge help to me in the editing stage is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. Written by professional editors it teaches you how to fix the most common mistakes made by new authors including, exposition, point of view, interior monologue and dialog.
3. Pay For An Editor
If you want to be taken seriously as a writer you must have your work edited by a professional. Unless you’re amazing, magical AND a good editor you can’t possibly see all the issues with grammar, punctuation, spelling, keep track of your characters, their dialog, and their storylines. There are just too many things to sort through. A fresh set of eyes on your manuscript will make a world of difference, and I don’t mean your fabulous auntie who was an English major.
The very first indie author book I picked up was a time travel story I found at a bookstore “meet the author” event. I was so excited to meet a local self-published novel in my genre until I read the darned thing. The story caught my attention but Jeeze-Louise she should have edited it, if not only for her sake but to preserve the broader reputation of the indie author. It made me pause and think about what I was getting into. Did I want to be associated with the likes of this indie author and her badly written drivel?
Indie authors have come a long way since then, but don’t be that putz that makes it hard for the rest of us by putting out low quality work with simple typos and storyline problems. Any editor worth their salt can clean up your work and help you sell a lot more books. I have two author friends who have pulled their first novels off the Amazon shelves to re-edit their books. You simply can’t undo the damage to your reputation as an author by putting out sloppy work. Just like making a great book cover, why not put forth your very best professional work and keep that high standard as you move through your writing career? It is so much easier to start right than it is to try to fix it after a poor product is already out there. Yes, it is not cheap, but as an author don’t you owe it to yourself to put out your very best work and build a positive relationship with your readers and fans?
4. Create a Professional Looking Cover
You’ve finished that amazing novel, poured your heart and soul into it, and now you’re ready to release it! Don’t make the mistake of a lot of indie authors and create what looks like a homemade cover. You are competing with the rest of the publishing industry and the first thing a reader will know about your book will be what you’ve given them on the cover. If it is lame an unprofessional how do you expect someone to buy your book when they have James Patterson a few clicks away? Your book cover should capture the reader’s attention, evoke emotion, hint at the story without being cluttered, be visually pleasing, and be simple. I address these five book cover tips in my last guest blog that you can read here.
You can get a professional cover made for a few hundred dollars. There is no better return on your investment to get your book noticed and into the hands of your readers. Think of it as an investment for your social media sites as well because it is the perfect background photo to help promote your work.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you. Jeri, thank you so much for allowing me to guest blog on your site again. I’m still in awe of your massive following of intelligent and talented writers. Great job on your social media strategy, too, because blogging is another important tool to reach readers and conspiring writers.
What additional pointers can you share regarding tips for indie authors and bloggers alike? I’m eager to learn from you!
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Image Credit: Ink Pot by asafesh.
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Superb Tips! Thank you.
I utilize several social media sites: My blog, Twitter, Facebook…
Funny you should mention celebrities. I’ve been tweeting Lady Gaga for 5 years trying to get her involved in my social issues! At least she should acknowledge me, man!
Thanks, once again.
Ha! Good luck with Lady Gaga! Yes I’ve used blogging, fb and twitter the most as well. Appreciate you commenting 😀
Thanks for another informative article. Thanks to people like you, I have adopted this approach and slowly but surely it is working x
Very glad it’s working for you. I’ve not published my book yet so I’m hoping the work I’ve done over the last two years pays off when I publish in the next few months.
Wonderful advice! Particularly when building a platform is so important..even for the fiction writer! I’ve never really taken to Twitter, but I find Facebook and my weekly blog to be the things I spend the most time doing. My copy of Renni Browne’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” is dog-eared and worn! Thanks for mentioning hiring an editor…I think independent authors too often skip this very important part of the process. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Renni on my latest book. She is brilliant!
Jacqueline, thanks for your comments. How cool that you got to work with Renni Brown on your last book. I found their book extremely helpful and will get my copy worn out before I’m done writing.
I think a lot of authors think since they’re a writer they don’t have to hire an editor. I hope more people get the message to go this route and make your work the best it can be.
Thanks KJ and Jeri – this is great stuff – I think most bloggers have it in the back of their minds to one day write a book – this information will be invaluable.
Lenie, I hope you write a book some day! I know several bloggers who put their posts into books, so there’s an idea for you! Best of luck and thanks for commenting!
This is great KJ and, like your post here, I’ve learned a ton from Jeri. I continue to do so through her posts and her guest posts. I’ve working on “correcting” my Twitter following, etc to only those that are in specific area of interest. Writing/authors, food, travel, dogs. I know, kind of a melting pot, huh? And I was just this weekend talking about Jeri to a friend of mine in hiring a good editor. I’m soooo glad she had you had you here today to help the rest of us. Have a really great day! 🙂
Thanks so much Mike! Good job cleaning up your twitter, but don’t get rid of people who don’t fit into your categories too quickly. You never know who will be your next reader. A good tool to delete the dead weight on twitter though is just unfollow dot com. Great app on my iPhone to keep my numbers in line and remove those who are just taking up space.
I loved this. Common sense should dictate that building a base and putting out the best work possible is writing/marketing 101. I will admit though that I had never thought of the importance of hiring a professional editor but am glad to read it. I will be keeping this article as a reference as I delve deeper down this path. Thanks.
Best of luck Tim and thanks for your comments. I’ve hired the best (Jeri) and can’t wait to get her my draft next month.
As a published writer who did everything you’ve suggested, I agree with you whole-heartedly. Lead-up (advance)publicity for one’s book promotes receptivity, an eagerness even, for when the book finally does come out!
Glad to know it works Ramona! I’ve got a lot of buzz around my book, I just need to deliver it now to the readers. In a month or so I’ll be there!
Thanks for the great tips, KJ. We continue to learn a lot from both of you ladies. I too use several social media sites including my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Have yet to start tweeting celebs though. 🙂 And had already learned through Jeri how invaluable a good editor can be!
Ha, so you’ve not succombed to the lure of the celebrity touch! Good you’ve not wasted your time! Sounds like you’ve learned the same things I have about being an author in 2014! Great to connect here Susan!
Great post KJ & Jeri. I think the section on soc. Med. Is particularly good. When you don’t have a product to sell it’s hard to justify the time we spend on twitter et al. But I like that you grouped them together for total followers. People who haven’t done their homework really do think self pub means click a button & off we go. All excellent points to follow. Thanks.
Thanks for your comments AK, as I mentioned I know several authors who didn’t take the year to build the audience and were left very lonely on Amazon. Self publishing’s work doesn’t begin when the novel is done, it begins when you decide to start writing the dang thing.
Great advice! Thanks, KJ and Jeri.
Thanks Denise for reading and commenting!
I totally agree with you KJ, building media presence and interacting with persons from your niche is so imperative to get noticed. Successful authors don’t even acknowledge your tweets but that should not dishearten us. We still continue to learn from their silence! Thanks for mentioning the names of the books which were helpful in writing and editing. It is the experience of each other that propels us further, with the hope of writing better!
Thank you Balroop for commenting! Successful authors pay a company to manage their tweets while they write. Ha, most of them anyway. Glad my tips could be of help. And I agree, I need all my author pals to keep me on top of this every changing game of self publishing. That’s why Jeri’s blog is so helpful.
Those are terrific tips Kj. Thanks Jeri.
I know how truly blessed (or lucky) I was that a publisher found me, now twice. The publisher of course has an editing staff, but for sure, if I go indie again, I will either pay or trade for an editor. My first couple of eBooks while have terrific content attested to by readers, have some minor grammar or typo errors through out. That makes me sick.
But you are right on with the necessity to get that editing out of us, the writer’s hands.
Thanks for your comment Patricia! Congrats on your publishing contracts! Glad you see the value in an editor, I’m excited to get mine into Jeri’s hands next month. Will be a relief to have a pro look it over.
Very good advice!
Thank you Paulette! I’m very glad you took the time to read it!
A very ready -witted guest post!.
I think that tip one and two are really important, even for bloggers.
And hiring an editor is worthwhile… Because the quality of the writing improves while being taken to the next level.
A professional looking cover is finally the last but not least point.. Shape and content are an indissoluble unity, at the end, aren’t hey?
Best wishes and thanks for this interesting and well penned post,
Thanks Jeri and KJ!, Aquileana 🙂
Thank you so much Aquileana, Well said and I think these tips to apply to bloggers, minus the cover information. Thanks for your tips!
Wonderful post. I love Twitter for making great connections. I use FB because my friends seem to prefer it. And everyone says you need to have an author’s page on FB so I do. But for really making connections and expanding my network, I love blogging. So much to learn on all these platforms, but I absolutely agree that being online and interacting with folks is the only way to firmly establish your brand. And yes, paying for a professional editor and having a cover and design done by a pro as well is essentially to making your book stand out for all the right reasons!
Well said Doreen! I blog as well but haven’t had much time for it lately. I need to get back to it. Tell me your blog name so I can visit. Mine is [email protected], Blondie in the Water.
I spent a lot of time on twitter early on in my social media experience, but lately it seems like I get more interaction on Facebook, probably like you my friends seem to prefer it. Thanks for your comments! Great to connect with you here!
I don’t know where I would be without my author friends on
i mainly use Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Facebook is not giving much attention to me. Google+ is giving me some traffic. LinkedIn group is good.
Even if you choose to use a publisher, they will not work with you unless you have an established social media presence. All of these are great tips! I just wanted to emphasize that however you choose to get published, you cannot avoid that all important social presence. 🙂
Cheryl, publishers still do take on unknown authors though the advances tend to be smaller. We all know how important (and what an occasional pain) establishing a media presence can be. So many decisions! So many paths to take!
Excellent point Cheryl, I’ve been approached by several publishers who were interested in my book and were impressed with my social following. I think that is an excellent point that if you have an established following it makes it a much easier sell to a publisher. Thanks for your insight!
Good tips for indie writers. And I will check out the two books you found helpful.
Thanks Donna! You won’t be disappointed! Let me know what you think of them on here or twitter @kamajowa. I’d love to follow up with how you are using them.
Great article!I totally agree! I need a large online voice and resence (working on it)…and reading this article is a confirmation to that.
You’re welcome Max. Glad you hear you confirm this for me as well. It’s an endless process and I think as we’re learning the social media platforms they’re transforming under us.
Great tips that work for even the most anti-social of us. 🙂
What I find interesting is that even though this article was directed at writers, aren’t we all writers when you write a blog. The use of social media is just that, being social. The relationships do work.
Arleen, excellent point. Bloggers are writers too! And how else do you promote a blog than to connect on social media? Yes time invested into building relationships pays off if you’re genuine. If you’re shoving your agenda in peoples faces, then you’re not being social, you’re being pushy. So you are 100% right, it’s about the relationships.
Great tips here. Editing is so, so important for indie authors. I have come across a couple that have made me grind my teeth at the stilted writing. The story was good, but all I could take in was the bad editing job. investing in a quality editor is the most important thing for an indie author.
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Christine, I agree and have been there too. Luckily there are a lot of good Indie authors out there. Some great ones in fact and I bet money most of them have paid for editing services.
Tip #1 is especially useful to ease some of the guilt when you exceed your expected deadline on a manuscript. It’s worked for me, at least. 🙂
Ha! Yes Laura, I’m guilty of that as well. But look I have a lot to show for it … (an extra 2 months of work on my book for example) and a few K in twitter followers. 😉
Being an indy author does have its advantage. Contrary, I was forced to accept a book cover I did not like from my publisher. I also had to wait for a press release from them, which I had then to forward to connections I had made. Great info you provided, thanks for sharing it.
William, I’m glad I chose Indie. Of course I’ve not put my book out yet, but from what I’ve heard from a lot of first time authors who used a publisher they’re not better off with the publisher. Most are very disgruntled, and they’re giving more than half their profits to the publisher. Not every case, but I’ll give it a go alone and if they can offer me better than my shot on my own, then I’ll bite next time. I hope you can find the balance that works for you!
Good advice. I wish I had started early.
Great tips here and good to know more about how much the price of a good cover is. I agree that already having a social media presence is a huge advantage.
I loved the way you explained how to connect with people on social media. People are not machines and one must take time to connect and understand others at a deeper level to understand them. This is a great post and I shared it. Thanks
Thanks so much Welli! Really appreciate your share and taking the time to respond on here. The old way of marketing with ads on the radio no longer work on social media. Like you said you have to make personal connections. I’m glad you understand this. I’m bombarded every day by authors that think the ‘Hi here is my link’ works.
Great suggestions. A whole year before publishing? Oh dear. Too late. I hope I can catch up and that my chance hasn’t passed me by.
It’s never too late to begin! Just keep at it and in no time you’ll have a decent following, just interact with them and RT.
Hi Jeri; I thought it was good of you to start off the subject by talking about the value of social media. Not only is it important to the indi author, but if you search the small and medium publishing houses websites; you will find that most of them won’t even consider an author unless you can demonstrate the ability to promote the book through social media, public speaking, seminars, online training, coaching, etc. And yes your photo is invaluable. Not only will a great photo encourage people to follow you on social media but in some cases people won’t reply to your emails or even allow you to leave a comment without a good image or gravitar. I need to finish adding my new photo to all my sites. and my friend lorraine reguly has been good enough to do some of my editing for me. although as her paid editing work has expanded she has less time these days. I do know that people can definitely tell the difference between blog posts I’ve written by myself and those she has edited. so will definitely hire her or someone she recommends when my nonfiction book is finished. thanks for sharing, max
Thanks Maxwell, great point about the publishing houses wanting you to be established on social media. I think you’re right that authors, whether indie or traditionally published, need to develop their social media marketing to support their books. It’s never been more important than now.
I love the comment on the gravitar for all uses. Good luck with the editing and the blogs. I look forward to hearing more about your non fiction book. Let me know when it’s out I can tweet it and help expand your reach.
These are great tips. I would never have thought to hire an editor, but I can totally see why you’d want one, if not for yourself then to preserve the reputations of indie authors everywhere!
Yes, for the greater good, but for your reputation as well. If your book is polished it will sell better and more people will be interested in your next book. It’s becoming more and more necessary to compete in this market and a clean book will get better reviews and more attention.
Wow, how do you find the time to manage so many twitter and facebook accounts? That is crazy.
Ha, yes, well it’s a bit of effort, but there are some great tools that help you schedule posts at the best times and coordinate across the different accounts. I use buffer and hootsuite, but not as much as I should.
Thanks for reading the post and commenting.
Very good advice. It is crazy how social media is a big part of our lives now. It plays a big role in marketing yourself and just a few short years ago you would have had to sell whatever it was out of your car.
There is some good advice in this post. I agree that you have to build up your social media presence. I am in the process of doing that. I believe that it should be quality over quantity though.
Spot on, Jeri. Those tips will go a long way for anyone wanting to succeed as a writer.
Thank you very much for sharing your tips. As a food blogger and recipe developer – I have been toying with the idea of publishing a recipe book and self publishing has been suggested by friends. I like your suggestion of using professional editors and cover designers. After all its the cover that helps to sell the book.
I’m seriously thankful that this came in my inbox. I’m still trying to build up my own social profiles and seeing your twitter numbers in the 10,000s really made me realize that more work is required. This and the section on “Editing” are soooo important in all of this, I think. Too much helpful info to break down in one read, and I mean that in a good way. Will require multiple glances to make sure I’m following through:)
This was another great post full of information I’d love to have. Thank you! I, too, have past titles with editing and cover issues. Just how soon should promoting the book start?
These are terrific tips for those indie book authors. Especially for those just starting out.
Hope you have a terrific Labor Day weekend! Enjoy and have some fun.
By gosh, I’m blown away by your social media prowess. I’d be happy with a fraction of your following. Often I suspect folks start with a social media channel and just expect it to grow by itself. As you say, it’s important to interact with others – really, as you would at a party or other function. And having an editor is so crucial! It’s kind of like people who think they don’t need a lawyer – only a fool defends himself, right? Same goes for a writer. You can’t do it all yourself, no matter how clever you may be.
Building a present is great for any author. Great ideas!
KJ, this is so insightful! I am getting ready for the release of my debut book (self-published children’s story ) and definitely following your advice from number one. I am focusing mainly on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and learning about Goodreads. I’ve given myself several months to get up to speed with just this aspect alone. Great article ( I’m going to pin it now )!
Thank you for a very informative (and also inspiring!) post, KJ.
Yes, the great thing of the world of indie authors is that many of the traditional middlemen (e.g., publishers) are removed. Removing the middlemen makes the “playing field” more interesting but also creates homework for the author.
Would you say that without having accounts with the combo Twitter-Facebook, most indie authors would most likely fail?
Good morning does anyone think it is better to have two FB pages one for their book and one for personal?
Chris, it depends on many factors. A personal page really is more personal, but you won’t have access to analytics that show how well your status updates do. On the other hand, Facebook continually tweaks their algorithm and fan page views can be hit an miss for smaller pages. In either case, engagement is key.