A deep dive into indie publishing and how I published my first book, The Pitch Master’s Top Tactics: Year One’s Best Tips. If you are thinking about going the indie route, do it!
Indie Publishing Background
Self-publishing is not the stigma it once was. It is big business. Authors who publish their own books prefer to call it indie publishing. In the last 15 years, with the debut of the Kindle and other technological tools, indie publishing has exploded. In fact, it is now as big as one of the big five publishers.
E-books can be published with a click of a button.
For physical books, unlike the past, as an indie author, you don’t have to pay huge sums of money to have your book published. There are print on-demand services that authors use to get their books into bookstores and libraries. When they have an event, they can order a bunch of books to sign and sell.
The biggest pro for going indie versus traditional is that an author has control over her copyright. This means she is the owner of her own intellectual property (IP) and can make money off it however she chooses. Consequently, indie authors can sell their books a multitude of ways, earn multiple streams of income, and get them into more readers’ hands.
Where to Sell Your Book
As an e-book:
- Nook (Barnes & Noble)
- Kobo (Their biggest market is Canada. Their ereaders sell in Walmart.)
- Apple books
- Google books
- On your own website (Direct Sales)
As a physical book (hardback and paperback):
- Amazon offers a print on-demand service called KDP print, which means someone can go on Amazon and choose the hardback or paperback version of your book.
- A service called Ingram Spark is a catalog that bookstores and libraries order from.
- Other print on demand services (see below)
- Other online bookstores including Bookshop.org and Books A Million
- On your own website (Direct Sales)
As an audio book:`
- There are services like Find a Way Voices that will distribute your audio book.
- New artificial intelligence (AI) tools make it easy and cost-effective to produce an audio book or you can narrate it yourself.
- On your own website (Direct Sales)
Low Startup Cost
Indie publishing your book has a low startup cost. The biggest expenses are your editor and cover designer. Other expenses can include formatting software, website hosting, and a website designer.
A Step by Step of Publishing My First Book – The Pitch Master’s Top Tactics: Year One’s Best Tips
I viewed publishing a compilation of my first year’s newsletters as a low risk learning experience. This book is for my subscribers and myself. It was all about going through the process for the first time with the goal of publishing more books in the future and helping my clients publish theirs. I would learn how things work so the process could be more efficient, visible, and profitable next time. Thinking in this way made publishing exciting and fun, even when things were confusing.
My Writing Method
I write my newsletters in Word using dictation. I print them and hand edit them. Then I make corrections, edit on the screen, print, and hand edit again. I usually go through 5 versions before the newsletter is final. Then I run it through ProWritingAid* to check typos, grammar, and punctuation. I have the links I’m going to use in the newsletter at the bottom of the Word document.
After I have posted the newsletter in ConvertKit* (my email marketing system) and on my blog, I copy and paste the finished article into Scrivener*. Scrivener is a word processing program originally designed for fiction writers, but nonfiction writers and screenwriters use it too. It’s especially helpful for fiction writers who don’t write in order because you can move around your scenes and chapters.
I have a Scrivener document, which is called a project, for each year of newsletters. Within that document, I have folders with the different subjects like mindset and creativity. I file each newsletter by subject. Scrivener has a notes function attached to each document. This is where I put the links that I used.
I write in Word first because unfortunately Scrivener does not have a dictation function.
Rewriting for the Book
My first step in turning a year’s worth of newsletters into a book was to look at the Scrivener project and see where I had filed pieces and the order they were in. I moved some newsletters from one subject to another and rearranged them.
I did minor rewriting, mainly taking out calls to action. My intention was the newsletters read and flowed like a book. I also made sure the format was the same in every piece.
When you want to print a project in Scrivener, it’s called compiling and you have several format options. I chose Word. I went through the Word manuscript and checked the formatting again. Then I added the pictures for each chapter heading.
Self-publishing is a big world and topic. There is more than one thing way to do things. Because this whole experience was an exploration, I decided to go the easiest route. I didn’t think it made sense for me to learn how to work with each store because they all do things differently. It would take time to learn how to upload my book manually to all the stores.
So I went with Draft2Digital*. It’s a wonderful indie publishing service run for writers by writers. If you work with them, they will format and upload your ebook for free to all the sites, including many libraries. Authors earn money when people check out their book. As payment, they take 10% of your sales. To me, this is a very fair deal.
It’s not complicated to use. You can literally upload and publish your book with a few clicks. And now they offer print on demand books as well.
To Publish Your Book You Need:
- Manuscript in MS Word (This is specifically for Draft2Digital).
- Manuscript formatted as an ebook and a traditional book.
- Book Cover
- Book Blurb
- Author Bio
Formatting Your Book
When you are preparing to self-publish, you have to turn your document into a publishable file. For ebooks it’s called an ePub and for print books it’s a print file. There are a bunch of formatting tools available to authors. For example, Scrivener can turn your project into an ePub. There are free formatting options, including Draft2Digital and Reedsy. Most authors use more sophisticated and expensive formatting software. Vellum is a favorite, but it only works on Macs. For PCs, the program that is comparable to Vellum is called Atticus. For this project I went the easiest way with Draft2Digital, but for my next one I will try something different.
When you upload your manuscript to Draft2Digital, they give you formatting options. First, you pick a genre. There are two or three layout options within each genre.
When you hit the format button, the program formats your book immediately and you see it on the screen. Amazing! Read through it carefully because the formatting isn’t always perfect. I noticed a couple of places where my book had done some funky stuff.
I guessed the problem was somewhere in my Word document. I went through the complete manuscript in Word looking for anything that could be throwing off the Draft2Digital program. I went back into Word and hit the paragraph symbol which shows formatting. I could see places where the font was wrong and there were strange indentations.
I uploaded the manuscript again. This time, it formatted beautifully. Yay!
The Art of the Book Cover
The old adage don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t fly in publishing. Your cover is the biggest asset you have for marketing. A bad cover on a good book can tank sales and a great cover on a mediocre book can explode sales. There is quite a bit of science that goes into cover design that I will not get into here.
Briefly, cover design, including images and fonts, is genre specific. You can’t use a thriller font on a cozy mystery. It won’t attract the right readers and your book won’t make money.
Professional cover designers understand all the moving pieces that make a brilliant cover. A cover designer is one place you should budget to spend money.
All that being said, because I was going the easiest route, I decided to design my own cover. As luck would have it, Nick Stephenson debuted a design your book cover with AI course, which I bought. He teaches you how to design genre specific images in Midjourney, including most importantly the aspect ratio to use.
As part of the course materials, he includes fonts and prompts for all the genres. For me, the font information was worth the price of the class because I didn’t have to spend my time looking at a bunch of business books and figuring out the fonts that were most common. I didn’t use Midjourney because I found a perfect image in Canva. Canva has a book cover template, which I used along with the fonts I learned about from Nick. Draft2Digital asked for slightly different dimensions, so I just went back into Canva and resized it.
The Book Blurb
I am very comfortable pitching fictional stories using my Cocktail Pitch method. But I wasn’t sure the best way to talk about this book, which is a collection of essays. I had already used ChatGPT to help me name a few of my workshops with wonderful results so I used to it help my write my blurb. Many authors are using ChatGBT for their blurbs. I encourage you to try it.
I told ChatGPT (I’m using the paid version 4) about me and the book and I asked it to write a book blurb. I asked for two versions, which I then mixed, matched, and rewrote to get the final version.
Whether you’re an aspiring creative professional or a seasoned veteran, The Pitch Master’s Top Tactics offers invaluable guidance. From unlocking your full creative potential to pitching your ideas like a pro, this book provides you with the tools and strategies you need to stand out from the crowd.
The author draws from her own experiences and industry insights to offer practical advice on how to navigate the challenges of creative careers. Packed with actionable tips, inspiring anecdotes, and real-world examples, The Pitch Master’s Top Tactics is the ultimate guide to unleashing your creativity and achieving your career goals.
Author Bio & Headshot
I already had a bio and a headshot. Photographs aren’t required. But I suggest using one when you’re given the opportunity. It helps people connect with you and your work if they know what you look like. With Draft2Digital you upload your bio once, and they put it in all of your books. If you make a change, it automatically updates.
The Last Bit: Money & Choosing the Stores
- Finally, you decide how much you want to charge. When you put in prices, the software helpfully shows you your royalty.
- Set up the bank account you want to be paid into.
- Fill out your tax information.
- Check the stores where you want Draft2Digital to distribute your book. I checked everything. Besides the bookstores, they deliver to library programs.
It took about 24 hours for my book to show up in all the stores. Every time it was uploaded to a new store, I got an e-mail from Draft2Digital which was exciting. And super exciting to click on the site and see that my book was there!
Yet another great thing about Draft2Digital is they help you publish paperback books.
With the click of a button, I chose to publish a paperback. They magically reformat the ePub into a printable version.
Just like before, you choose your genre and formatting. And you get a sneak preview of how it’s going to look. They also take the cover, the book blurb, and your author bio that you uploaded previously and turn it into a book cover. Pretty cool!
You can choose to publish your book immediately, but I wanted to have a proof copy to check before I sent it to be published. I ordered an author’s proof which is $30, and it came in a week.
It looked wonderful, so I ordered a few more for my family and friends.
When you publish through Draft2Digital, they make your book available to libraries and bookstores. There are other ways to publish print on demand books that I am going to explore in the future, when I am selling books directly on my website.
Draft2Digital also submits the paperback to online bookstores. Unfortunately, Amazon is still pending. But the paperback is on Barnes and Noble!
Here are a few articles about the many print on demand services:
- Self Publishing School Print on Demand List
- Shopify Print on Demand List
- Reedsy Print on Demand List
- I lot of authors are using Book Vault, which just opened in the US.
An International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is a 13-digit code used as a unique identifier for books. An ISBN is assigned to each edition of a book, helping publishers, bookstores, and libraries keep track of their stock and sales. Draft2Digital gives you free ISBNs when you publish through them. You will need an ISBN when you apply for a copyright.
Selling through ConvertKit
My e-mail marketing service ConvertKit offers ways for people to sell products directly to their e-mail list. You can sell your e-books as PDFs, which can be read on e-readers. Even though my book is now available on all the major retailers, I still wanted to sell it directly. That way I keep the entire sale. If you want to support your favorite authors, buy directly from their websites.
The most common way authors deliver their books directly to their readers is through a company called Bookfunnel. Bookfunnel delivers ePub books to customers’ inboxes. When I have more books, I will use Bookfunnel. But for now, using ConvertKit is inexpensive and easy. I have a sales page where people can buy the book.
I had to add a couple of things to the PDF for ConvertKit – my cover and a table of contents. (Draft2Digital autogenerates a table of contents.)
Copywriting Your Book
An author needs a copyright to protect their original work from being copied or used without their permission. It also allows them to make money from their work by selling or licensing it. Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death (in the United States.)
To get a copyright, you apply online with the Copyright Office. The website looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1995. It is unwieldy with lots of steps. Apparently, it is optimized for the Firefox web browser, so if you have any trouble, use that. I have always used Chrome, and it’s been fine.
To Get a Copyright You Will Need
- A Manuscript to Upload
- A ISBN
- A credit card for the $65 payment
The first time you copyright something, you will have to make an account.
How to Apply for a Copyright
- Go to https://copyright.gov/registration/
- Click the blue box which says log into the copyright office electronic registration system.
- Next Screen: On the left-hand side there is a login box. Click create your account and then log in.
- On the left, under Register a Work click on the blue standard work.
- On the next screen, on the left, is a list of the screens you will fill in. Hit continue on the right to move from screen to screen. If you need to go back, click the category on the list on the left you want to return to.
- Type of work – literary work
- Titles – the title of your book
- Publication – The date you published your book. It can be today’s date.
- Authors – Your name or your pen name
- Claimants – Your name. The claimant owns the copyright.
- Limitations of Claim – skip
- Rights & Permissions – You agree you own the rights and permissions to the work.
- Correspondent – You. Who people will contact if they want to get permission to use your work.
- Mail Certificate – the address where the copyright office will mail the copyright certificate.
- Special Handling – This is an extra payment to expedite processing. You don’t need this. Your work is covered the minute you register it.
- Certification – You sign your application electronically.
- Review Submission – Check that your information is correct.
- Pay – This seems counterintuitive; you have to pay before you upload your book.
- Upload your manuscript
It can take up to 8 weeks for you to receive your certificate from the copyright office. They are still running at COVID lockdown slow pace. Don’t worry; your work is protected legally the minute you register it.
Marketing Your Book
Since this first book is a compilation of newsletters aimed at my subscribers, I do not plan on doing much marketing. Here is what I did:
- I talked about the book in my newsletter. I gave it away for free to my subscribers for a month.
- My sales page:
- I have a link in my newsletter.I have the link in my e-mail signature.
- I have a link in my link in bio for Instagram.
- Social Media
- I announced my newsletter birthday and the book as part of this celebration.
- I posted an unboxing video of my author’s proof.
- I posted a video of me putting the book in my neighborhood little library.
- I posted this article.
- Draft2Digital offers another free tool. Books2Read gives you a universal book link, which gives readers a link to every store where your book is for sale. It’s an amazing sales tool! This is mine for The Pitch Master’s Top Tactics.
There are lots of great tools out there to help authors market their books. Here are a few of them:
- Build your email list so you can talk to readers directly. I use ConvertKit.
- BookBub and Written Word Media send emails to readers every day recommending books. Authors can pay to have their books featured.
- BookBrush helps turn your book covers into cool social media images.
- Facebook and Amazon ads
- Guesting on Podcasts
Mark Dawson has two courses, Ads for Authors and the Author Launchpad, a podcast, and an annual conference the Self-Publishing Show Live in London.
Wish I’d Known Then podcast with two indie authors interviewing indie authors about craft and marketing.
Reedsy has vetted cover designers and editors and a blog about all things writing and publishing.
Nick Stephenson has courses on how to grow your author career, market, and sell more books.
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