**Through Storymakers and Instagram, I met friend and fellow twin mom, Martha Keyes, an author of regency romance who I admire. I asked her to share some of her expertise on self-publishing, as she has published SIX of her books through Amazon. She graciously agreed and offers her insider insight here! Thanks, Martha!
I started writing my first book in 2015 during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I remember explaining to a family member some of the issues that I had run into during the writing, and she said, “Well, it doesn’t really matter—it’s not like you’re going to publish it!”
I laughed uncomfortably, because I definitely was hoping to publish it. Even though I finished 50,000 words during November (and a couple days of December, cuz #thanksgiving), it wasn’t until 3.5 years later that I pushed “Publish” on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.
What happened in between, you may ask? The short story is a whole lot of cutting, rewriting, and editing.
But I want to talk a bit about why I took the indie publishing route and what that has entailed.
The truth is, I didn’t set out intending to self-publish—I didn’t even know it was an option when I began writing. By the time I was feeling done with my manuscript, though (turns out I felt done way before it was actually done), I had heard of indie publishing. But just for the heck of it, I queried agents—so many agents. Unfortunately, I did not do my homework before sending out queries.
I did it way before my manuscript was ready, because I had no idea what I was doing or what a good query looked like. I got rejection after rejection—scores of them. When I had just a few agents left to query, I finally reached out to a writing community on Reddit, which led me to tweak my query and send it to a few more people. I got a couple requests for material after that tweaking, but no bites after sending the full manuscript. It still needed a lot of work, as I came to find out.
By then, the problem was that, even if I did a really great edit of my manuscript, most agents don’t accept resubmissions.
Meanwhile, I had been learning a bit more about what it would be like to publish traditionally, and it began to appeal to me less and less—the SLOW process, the lack of control over title and cover, and the fact that publishers don’t do much marketing at all for most authors.
At this point, I found The Writing Gals Facebook group—an excellent resource for aspiring authors, headed up by four indie authors who write sweet romance. That is what really pushed me to go the indie route. There are a lot of majorly successful indie authors, and I loved the idea of being able to set my own pace and have control over my own content.
Here are some of the things I’ve had to figure out during the process of getting books ready for publication:
Full control is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a big responsibility. I have found an editor I really love and have continued to tweak my process. At this point, I send my manuscripts in for a developmental edit after my first draft to ensure that I’m not missing any key points and that I don’t have any big plot holes. I also have a critique group that helps me iron out issues, find typos, and strengthen my syntax. There are a number of types of editing, though (e.g. developmental, line, copy, proofreading), and each author will need to decide what her/his strengths are and pay for editing based off of that.
Most indie authors will purchase stock images from stock photography sites (e.g. depositphotos.com, shutterstock.com, periodimages.com) and then hire a cover designer for their books. Before I started writing, I did photography full-time, something which gave me an eye for aesthetics and also familiarized me with Lightroom and Photoshop. I have shot my own images and designed my own covers, something that has saved me a lot of money (but definitely hasn’t saved me time!). It has also been a big learning process, since indie cover design is more particular than some might think. Covers need to reflect their genre, or your book risks tanking miserably.
Through the Writing Gals group on Facebook, I learned of Vellum, software developed for MacOS which streamlines and simplifies the formatting process (and makes it beautiful!). I knew I would want to purchase this software at some point, so I decided to spring for it from the get-go. I don’t have a Mac, so I have used a service called Mac In Cloud which allows me to use Mac programs on a PC. Vellum has been a lifesaver! It makes for an easily and beautifully formatted book.
Amazon has a service specifically for publishing on its platform, called Kindle Direct Publishing. I can upload a MOBI file (created by Vellum) of my manuscript and a JPEG of my cover to KDP to create my eBook.
I can also publish a paperback at no extra cost, though this requires a PDF (created by Vellum) of my manuscript as well as a PDF of my paperback cover (something that KDP provides a template for). KDP will print those paperbacks on demand—I don’t have to worry about supply and demand, which is wonderful!
KDP also provides an option for authors to enroll a book in Kindle Select, which is the program attached to Kindle Unlimited. My books are all enrolled in Kindle Select, so I get paid every time someone reads a page of my books (just their first time reading the book). If a book is enrolled in Kindle Select, you are not allowed to sell it anywhere but on Amazon. Some authors prefer not to enroll their books in Kindle Select (the term we use for this is “publishing wide”) so that they can sell their books on other platforms like Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but that’s another topic entirely.
Because I receive income from KDP (they pay two months in arrears, so what I make in August gets deposited into my bank account at the end of October), I needed to get myself legal. I spoke with my accountant in order to decide how to set up my writing business (there are a number of options, and the best one depends on a few factors). KDP doesn’t withhold taxes, so that’s something you have to plan for.
So there’s a very high-level overview of indie publishing! It can seem a very daunting process at first, but there are wonderful groups of supportive fellow authors to help you through the process if you decide it’s the route you want to go.