How to Become an Independent Author

Have you written a book or want to write one? Are you thinking about venturing into the amazing world of becoming an Indie Author, but not sure what steps to take? Indie publishing is the route to take for those who like more creative control over their babies(novels). But this how to will not highlight the differences or reasons between Indie and Traditional Publishing.

Step 1: You need a Big Idea

I say Big Idea because to make it novel length you either need to have a lengthy tale or the ability to make it seem longer. Having written a book that I published myself, I get two different reactions. There’s the “Oh, that’s incredible. I could never do something like that.” Reaction and the “You know. I have this story I’ve been dreaming up for years.  It’s about [Blah, blah, blah!]. I bet I could write a book.” Reaction. More affectionately, I call these reactions the OTI(“Oh, that’s incredible.”) and YKI(“You know. I.”). For both, I answer, “Yep! You can do it too.” And I truly mean it. YKIs have identified a story that interests them. OTIs have a story to tell too because we all lead different lives and what may seem trivial to you may be the life someone else always dreamed about or can relate to. I guarantee there is someone out there who would read your story and love it.

Step 2: Duh! Write

First, and this may be obvious, but you need to write it down. If you don’t feel comfortable typing it on a computer, use a notebook. Use notecards, chalkboards, toilet paper, body parts. Doesn’t matter. Get it down. I call this step Purging. I’ve never been a binge and purge eater (Seems like an awful waste of good food), but I am a binge and purge writer. I research every minute detail of what I want to write about and then I throw it all up on paper. For me, I see my story like a movie in my head. And I learned that I need to write it down the moment I see it, or it’s sayonara. Many people use digital recorders or record it on their phone—to each his own.

At this point, don’t be afraid to just write whatever comes to you. Sometimes I may be writing about Meridienne, soaring over the water on her dragon Natsuo. She is watching the diamonds sparkling on the waves and snuggles into his feathery frill to prepare for landing. Next thing I read: The guy in the parking lot grabbed his pants as he ran to catch up to his buddy. Not being able to run with his pants practically around his knees, the guy tumbled forward and introduced himself to the concrete. Obviously, this doesn’t belong, but it needed to get out of my head. What I do is either put it in a random stuff file on my computer or place it in a consider section if it relates to the Meridienne Drake Series.

Many authors suggest using a simple word processing program like Microsoft Word for your book. If that’s what’s best for you and/or most comfortable, then by all means use it. I, however, recommend using a writer’s software. I use a program geared towards authors. YWriter is a free program for PC users that has great tools and is easy to use; it’s what I currently use. Another software is Scrivener, which can be used for both PC and Mac users. Scrivener is low cost and a little harder to use, but it has great tools also.

Why do I use this over Word?

  • It has a tool that I can enter each character as he/she is created. I can do a detailed bio for each character and include a picture of who I think looks like my character. I can do the same for locations and just about anything.
  • It automatically creates a timeline and storyboard for me.
  • I can save my story in scenes and move the scenes from chapter to chapter. (Much easier to change things and find things in my story this way. Also, writing in scenes can help keep action in your story and leave out the dragging.)
  • There are many other useful features, but these are what I use the most. I will most likely switch to Scrivener after the second Meridienne Drake book because I can format for ebook and .pdf in it.

Step 3: Celebrate Good Times

Writing a novel-length book is a great accomplishment. Even if it never gets past this point, you sat down, created a new world and characters, and brought it to life even if it is based on a true story. I suggest go out to dinner and pretend it’s your birthday and treat yourself to dessert. Hehe 🙂

Step 4: Reread

This part is where I think many people get lost or lose interest. It can be daunting to reread your book. Trust me it needs it. At this point, I really look for inconsistencies in the story and plot lines that are really not working. Of course, I fix any glaring errors that I see.

What works best for me to edit is to print out the entire manuscript. Office Depot offers decent prices, is fast, and near me. I like being able to write all over the pages in bright colors, put little flags on the pages, and can have it next to me to flip through. Some do this on Ipads, Nooks, and Kindles. But I find it more time consuming, and I consider myself tech savvy. Pssh! Maybe one day, I’ll get that good.

Step 5: Target your Target

Next, target your target audience that is. Find some readers to give it an unbiased look-see and offer their feedback. Make sure your readers are fans of the genre you are writing for. I get the best advice from AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler. They have so many people that are eager to help and give you the advice you need, want, and never knew you wanted. Be careful because it is a black hole there, and you can easily lose track of time.

**WARNING: I’m not a very trusting person, but I always believe better to be safe than sorry. Sending out your manuscript to people you don’t know can backfire. I believe in the good in people, but one person can completely ruin all your hardwork. So, save yourself. When I order a manuscript from Office Depot, I order one to pick up immediately, and one I have mailed to my home. This is never opened. It is only to be used in case I ever need to go to court for copyright infringement. It is postmarked and dated by the government. It is a lot cheaper than paying $115 for the PreRegistration of your novel through the Copyright Office.

After you get the opinions of your genre experts, you can make any changes you deem necessary.

Step 6: Editor

Nope, not ready to send to an editor just yet. At this phase, I send my work through a program called Editor by Serenity Software. While this program does not substitute a real editor, it will make your editor’s job so much easier. If an editor doesn’t have to spend as much time with simple grammar rules, you make their job easier and your wallet book, depending on the editor.

Editor works in your Microsoft Word program. It works with any processor, but there is a nifty add-in for Word. This is time-consuming, but not only does it help your manuscript, but it teaches you things your English teachers only wished they knew. 🙂 For more details how it works, check this out.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

When you’ve made those changes and realized how very little you knew about the English language you speak everyday, now it’s time to send it off to a real-life Editor. This can be an expensive endeavor. Do your research. I recommend Manuscript Proofing. Naturally, they worked wonders for me. If TJ is reading right now, I’m sure she found a thousand errors. Hehe 🙂 Manuscript Proofing truly cares about the books they work on and will help you promote on their blog and Twitter.

Cover for Secrets of the Truth (Book 1 of Meridienne Drake Series)

While that’s off to the Editor, next find a cover designer. Unfortunately, the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” doesn’t apply to the book industry. There are thousands of books out there. You need to stand out from the rest. That means you have only seconds to capture your potential reader’s attention. Statistics prove this is done through the cover. Judge for yourself, but I love my cover. If you’ve read my book, you totally see it in my cover. My designer was DigitalDonna. She is so easy to work with, fast, and can design promotional materials for you. Tell her I sent you if you like her work.

Phew! Just when you thought you were nearing the end. A few more things to do. You need to write a blurb for your book and a mini bio to highlight, you, the author. Also, start flipping through books and see how their layouts are and what you want yours to look like. For paperbacks or hardcovers, Createspace has some great tips. Smashwords offers a fantastic, free guide to help with creating ebooks. **Suggestion: (This will save you blood, sweat, and tears.) When you need to separate pages, i.e. separating Chapter 1 from Chapter 2, use Page Layout →Breaks→Section Breaks→Next Page. This is for Word 2010.  Ctrl + Enter will not work for Barnes & Noble and Kindle.

Step 8: Location, Location, Location

After you have put your book together, first you should apply for a Copyright. Technically, you don’t need it, but there is no dispute if you have it, and for $35, gives you piece of mind. Now, you need to decide where you want to sell it. The big sites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. These are not all, but are certainly the biggest sites. To sell on Amazon, you would use KDP. Be careful when you sign up, they have a new program called KDP Select. Do research on that to see if it interests you. If you do it, Amazon is your only sales outlet as long as you are a part of that program. To sell on Barnes & Noble, you sell through PubIt! To sell a paperback, you can use Createspace, LuLu, or Lightning Source. Again, these aren’t the only ones, but are the most reputable. Lightning Source is how you can get on Barnes & Noble as a paperback, but can get expensive if you don’t know what you are doing, and you have to have a business set up to do it.

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Step 9: Party like it’s 1999

Okay, so I’m from New Orleans. We celebrate everything and always find an excuse to party. But come on, there is really so much to celebrate here. You’ve worked so hard and accomplished so much in this process. Reward yourself. Your book is now on display to the entire world. AAAAAAHHHH!

Step 10: Stop the Presses

Hehe. I’ve always wanted to say that. Last, but certainly not least, is Marketing. While doing the above steps, you should establish an online presence for yourself. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc. are good places to start. Make sure whichever you choose you can dedicate yourself to. All of it takes research and work. There are many ways to achieve the same results. Find what works best for you and make it part of your routine.

Marketing is an on-going effort. Another must do is create an author website. This can be in the form of a blog or an actual website. I have my Author website, which is a blog, and I have a website for my book series. Also, I made a book trailer for the book. This is a great way to commercialize your book.

Pre-planning your book launch can set your book on the right path. You can send out ARCs(Advanced Reader Copies) to well-known book bloggers and have giveaways when the book comes out. Statistically, 60% of free books given out will result in reviews. Plus, look into free online book tours to help with that. There are so many that I didn’t feel it right to promote just one when there are many good ones. Find one that fits your genre and your target audience.

There are many ways to promote your book and to be honest I’m still treading these waters. Different things work for different people. I have focused a lot locally by doing book signings, handing out bookmarks in the mall, and going to craft fairs. They have all provided me with success. Louisianians look out for their own. 🙂

Another thing that has given me tons of help and information is from John Kremer’s online courses. This course has tons of information that would have taken me hours to get and taught me how to find local information for marketing.

 

Here’s a recap, since the beginning was eons ago:

  • Step 1: Find that big idea from your imagination and experiences.
  • Step 2: Let it all out. Write it down, no matter how dumb or terrible it is.
  • Step 3: Celebrate a Future Best Seller.
  • Step 4: Reread your draft, fixing glaring errors and inconsistencies.
  • Step 5: Let unbiased readers/writers in your genre to offer feedback.
  • Step 6: Reread your novel again. Consider using a program like Editor by Serenity Software.
  • Step 7: Send your manuscript to be polished by an Editor, get a cover, design the interior of the book.
  • Step 8: Decide where you want to sell your novel and put it on sale.
  • Step 9: Party, Party, Party. Spread the word that the world can read your book.
  • Step 10: Market your book. As John Kremer says, 90% of the marketing you do is worthless. Find that 10% that works.

I set out to make this “How to…” as thorough and complete as possible. I know I didn’t cover everything(like pricing), but I hope I saved you time and helped to lead you in the right direction. Doing Indie Publishing the right way is certainly not the cheapest or easiest, but you only get one chance to make a good impression. I do want to mention that there are many services to make this process above less time-consuming, but do what you can where your skills allow you and save the money for marketing your book. After all, you can have the best book in the world, but if it’s not in the right hands, no one can enjoy it.

I wish you all the best of luck. If this guide helps you, please let me know. Lots of <3

About Jessica Dragon Cheramie 1 Article
Jessica Dragon Cheramie is an indie author and entrepreneur. For twenty-three years, she was known as Jessica Dragon. Having a last name such as this inspired her debut novel, Meridienne Drake: Secrets of the Truth. She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina flooded her home, she moved to Houma, Louisiana where she resides to this day, cleaning up after her husband and fur baby (an eight-pound Shih Tzu). Often said to have that of a child’s imagination, she believes magic is in our lives every day, but you have to open your eyes. You can find out more about her at http://www.jessicadragoncheramie.com.

1 Comment

  1. This is a great article, I particularly appreciate the writing software suggestions and warnings about sending out to people you don’t know. Thanks for the advice

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