This post is part of London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe, an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’s network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox.
Enjoy this session, and let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic, by visiting our Hot Seat and joining in the conversation.
In this session, authors will learn how to identify their priorities and focus on getting their book to market by putting the nice-to-haves on the back burner. Aimed at new indie authors fearful of drowning in information overload, Jay Artale shares the three critical elements needed to self-publish.
Information Overload for New Authors
The indie author expertise shared by our presenters as part of Indie Author Fringe has been amazing.
I don’t know about you, but at one point my head was spinning with information overload, and I started to get overwhelmed trying to figure out what was essential for my path to market, and what was really just icing on the cake based on where I am in my self-publishing journey.
So I took a break.
Ironically, today’s calendar entry caught my eye. No, not the bit about the Titanic … the quote at the bottom “Drowning problems in an ocean of information is not the same as solving them”
If you’re a new author exploring self-publishing, you may feel that the more you learn the less you understand, because you’re just engulfed by the wealth of information available.
I’m also guessing that the more Indie Author Fringe sessions you’ve watched, listened to, or read; the more you’re starting to feel guilty about all the activities you feel you should be doing, and aren’t. So by now the fear of failure is beginning to creep into the mix.
It’s a lethal cocktail of emotions that could entice new authors to put their first draft back in the bottom drawer, and shelve their dreams of ever achieving their writing aspirations.
If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone. The problem is that the self-publishing industry isn’t static. It’s in constant flux and motion, and if you take your eyes off the ball, just for a moment, the tools of the game seem to change.
Another challenge for new authors is that there’s more than one path to market. What works well for one author in a specific niche could be ineffective to another. In actuality, there really isn’t just one “right” answer – it’s “what’s right for you.” And the only way you’ll discover your own special secret sauce is though a your own journey of discovery.
So what’s the solution? Well first, let’s look at the problem:
You’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
Focus On Your Priorities
When you boil it down to the ebook basics, being an indie author involves three simple elements.
So if you’re struggling with how to navigate your self-publishing journey this is what you should be focusing on creating:
- A Polished Draft
- An Eye-Catching Book Cover
- An Error Free Interior
Without a quality product, everything else you do is superfluous. There’s no point focusing all your energy on building a big social following, or amassing a big mailing list, if you don’t have a book. Yes these elements are an integral part of being a long-term successful author – but I think you’re far better off focusing your initial efforts on building a solid foundation for your brand based on a good quality book, rather than getting distracted with all of the other activities on the periphery.
Self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. So commit yourself to the long-haul and focus on these three priorities.
Remember, you don’t have to master everything on day one, it’s far better to start gradually and build momentum.
Focus on the necessities, and let the nice to haves mature gracefully in the background until you’re ready to incorporate another skill set into your indie author toolkit.
1. Creating Your Polished Draft
Editing and Proofreading can make or break a self-published book. Before you invest money to engage an editor or proofreader, make sure you familiarise yourself with the different types of editing. Do you know the difference between a developmental/structural edit, line edit, copy edit or proofread? If not, you can read this article Different Kinds of Editing – Definitions for Indie Authors by Tahlia Newland.
If you’re writing your first book, you may be tempted to say you can’t afford to have your book edited or proofread, and skip this part of the self-publishing process entirely. But bear in mind that editors don’t have to cost thousands of pounds, and when you find a good one (one that’s a good fit for you and your genre) – they’re worth the investment to maintain the integrity of the author brand your trying to develop.
Having your book professionally edited is one of the things that separates the hobby-writer from the budding authorpreneur. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for editing, so talk to your editors to see if they will scale the editing project to suit the level of effort required.
Want to know more about the editing process, watch this Indie Author Fringe panel discussion featuring Roz Morris, Laxmi Hariharan, Ricardo Fayet and Andrew Lowe “What can an Editor do for me?
One way to reduce the budget for editing services is to do as much work as you can before you hand over your draft to an editor. This will get rid of some of the busy work.
Even when you engage an editor, it’s still key that you complete multiple cycles of self-edit to get rid of the busy work before circulating it to Beta Readers and handing it over to an Editor.
There’s plenty of books and tools for self-editing, and here’s a couple of popular articles already on this blog featuring tools and techniques to help you edit more efficiently:
- The most efficient way to self-edit by Jessica Bell
- Writing and Editing Tools for Self-publishing Indie Authors by Karl Drinkwater
2. Eye Catching Book Cover
In case you’re in any doubt, readers do judge books by their covers. If you really have no design sense you need to invest some time, effort and money in giving your book its best start in life.
Design your own Cover
If you have good design skills you can use Adobe Photoshop to create your covers, or opt for a free online service like Canva. Bear in mind that you can launch your book with a self-designed cover, and then enlist the help of a cover designer later down the line. There’s no penalty for rebranding your covers, and it’s actually a good marketing opportunity.
Get Feedback on your Cover
From the interaction I’ve seen on Facebook, people are more than happy to offer advice and (sometimes harsh) input on cover designs – but it’s better to get this feedback before you go to market. The simplest approach is to provide Option A vs. B images, and then after feedback, you can repost amended versions.
Joel Friedlander hosts a monthly e-book Cover Design Award, and you can submit your own ebook cover for assessment. Take a look at some of the historical submissions on Joel’s website, and it will help you build your own skills for assessing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Don’t try to buck the norms in your genre. Readers have certain expectations, so make sure you spend some time trolling through book covers in your niche on Amazon.
We featured a number of cover design sessions in this Indie Author Fringe event, and each of them brought a different perspective to the table:
- Designing Book Covers that Sell: The 7 Must-haves with Derek Murphy
- Cover Design: 5 Top Tips to Create a Book Cover that sells with JD Smith
- Don’t Judge a Book: My Cover Design Lessons So Far with Damon Freeman
Work with a Designer
If you decide to go down the designer route, here’s an article by Jane Dixon Smith that provides a snapshot of the Book Design process Why I love working with Indie Authors.
3. Error-Free Interior ebook design
It’s challenging to create book interiors that display correctly on all possible platforms (ereaders, phones, computers etc.), and all historical versions of the software. The possibilities of where readers can read your book are endless, so no wonder this part of the self-publishing process is scary and overwhelming.
One key thing to remember when it comes to ebook formatting. Crap in. Crap out! Make sure that what you upload to create your mobi or epub versions is clean and error-free.
Scrivener is effective for creating simple ebooks (and while we’re on the topic, it’ll revolutionise your writing process – no matter whether you’re a Plotter or Pantser).
I was a beta tester of Joe’s Scrivener Coaching site in 2013, and he’s developed a module for compiling ebooks that’s easy to follow.
If you’re hoping to create a more complex ebook interior design you should consider creating a html file, and a good resource is Guido Henkel’s Zen of eBook Formatting: A Step-by-step Guide To Format eBooks for Kindle and EPUB.
Of course the very thought of coding or formatting your own ebook interior may just fill you with dread, so this is one of the services that you can outsource so that you can focus on writing.
That’s the beauty of self-publishing. You have the option of doing as much as you want, but there are many assisted-publishing services and freelancers ready to come to your rescue so that you can focus on your writing instead. Remember, it’s all about priorities and how you want to spend your time and money.#IAF16 It's time for new authors to focus on their priorities. @JayArtale http://bit.ly/IAF172982 #selfpub Click To Tweet
Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing
We’re launching a new “Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing” email series on our Author Advice Centre after the dust has settled on our BEA Indie Author Fringe, and if you want to be notified when it starts you can sign up here. This series is targeted at new authors and will provide you with easy-to-digest self-publishing approach to help you make informed decisions along your indie author journey.