If you haven’t read part one, read it here!
Okay, so you have a full-blown novel. You’ve got your Beta Reader feedback, you’ve finished approx. 1 million drafts of content edits and line edits. Maybe you even sent your manuscript off to a professional editor just to be safe. And now you’re confident that this story is what it was always meant to be. It’s mature, it’s got some meat and substance to it. It’s been refined time and again and you just know it’s ready to go into the hands of hundreds of thousands of eager readers.
But you don’t want to publish with one of the major publishing houses like HarperCollins or Penguin. You’ve decided that path is not the one for you. You’re determined to make it as an independent author, where you own 100% of the rights to your content, but are 100% responsible for how far into the world it will go. Maybe your story is aimed toward such a niche audience that you don’t think it could fit the bill for any of the big names out there. Maybe you’ve already tried querying it to literary agents, but haven’t heard back and are tired of waiting 6-12 months for their response. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be an Indie Author. The thought of being 100% in control and 100% responsible is exciting to you. You’re up for the challenge. But most of all, you believe in your story.
If that’s you and, like me, you’re determined to be an Indie Author, then I want to share my process to self-publishing Love and the Sea and Everything in Between with you. I’ll admit, when I first started gearing the book toward publication, I had stars in my eyes about how I was going to get traditionally published and become a NYT Bestselling Author and make millions – enough to become a full-time writer. Honestly, though, once I started querying to agents I got a first-hand glimpse out how brutal the Traditional Publishing world can be. That’s not to say that being an Independent Author isn’t brutal… it is, but in very different ways. But when I was querying Love and the Sea to agents, I realized that my book doesn’t really fit with a lot of the major publishers out there. It’s too gritty for most Christian publishing houses. It’s too religious for most mainstream publishing houses. I felt backed into a corner and felt almost like I would have to compromise the message of my story in order to make it in the Traditional Publishing world. (I want to give special thanks to literary agent, Saba Sulaiman, who gave me some of the best feedback I ever received from a literary agent and inspired me to re-think my novel and make it so much better.)
I did my research. As much as I wanted some big-name publisher to give me a $50,000 check for the rights to my story, I knew that wasn’t the path for me. Even now, as an Indie Author who has only been published for a mere 3 months, I question whether or not this was the right decision for me. Generating sales is hard. (I’ll talk about this in Part 3 of this series.) But mostly, being an Indie Author excited me for lots of reasons; the thought of being a Traditionally published author was exciting too, but it was also exhausting. I had to learn how to write a compelling query letter and some agents requested that I not query anyone else at the same time I was optioning my story to them. I often had to wait months before ever hearing back – if I ever heard back. This isn’t a slam against literary agents at all. I understand their inboxes are likely flooded with queries and half of mine from years ago probably haven’t even been read yet. I want to share, though, my reasons for making the decision to go Indie as a background to this post on my publishing process.
So I went Indie. It’s not been easy. It requires a lot of hard work. At least, if you’re plan is to generate consistent sales. But the pre-publication process was really fun for me. I’m fortunate because I have enough know-how to design pretty good covers. I have my limitations skill-wise, but I pride myself in the covers that I’ve designed for Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, Every Bright and Broken Thing, Sons of Slaughter, and even other authors like Amanda-Victoria Sumrall’s Here Comes the Sun. I also, through much trial and error, learned how to design a quality interior for my book.
Anyway, here’s my process.
1. Choosing a Distributor
In a publishing environment where more and more authors are choosing to go Indie, it’s smart of companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to get in on that action. With Amazon’s KDP platform and B&N’s IngramSpark as well as other companies like Lulu, Indie Authors have more options now than ever before.
For Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, I chose to go through Amazon’s KDP for the paperback and Kindle editions. I chose KDP because I’d had years of previous experience ordering personal proofs through them. I knew them well. However, it should be noted that KDP does not currently offer Hardcover editions. IngramSpark, on the other hand, does. These are the kinds of things I had to research during my publication process. I’m considering making the transition to IngramSpark in the future because it’ll give me a greater guarantee of being both on Amazon and in B&N stores as well as giving me the option of a hardcover edition of my book. Who doesn’t love a hardcover? 🙂
For now, I’m still with KDP and it’s been an overall positive experience.
2. Designing a Cover
Okay, Indie Authors. This is important. Please, for the love of all that is good and pure, don’t just whip up a cover in MS Paint and make that the face of your story. I don’t care how good the content behind the cover is. Maybe it’s the best story on the entire planet. But the fact is that most people do judge books by their covers. I am a HUGE cover snob. Covers are the #1 thing that make me pick up a book and want to find out what it’s about.
So, please, if you can’t design a professional-looking cover… hire someone. The team at Seedlings does incredible covers for just a few hundred dollars! They also do interior design. And this is shameless self-promo, but I also do book cover commissions. I can do the full monte for just $100. (Currently keeping my prices Indie friendly. 🙂 )
Alternatively, if you do know a thing or two about design, GIMP is an incredible free software that is pretty much a poor-man’s Photoshop. J For free, professional grade images to use for your covers, Unsplash is a great resource. For an abundance of fonts, Dafont is a great resource. I use all of these websites and programs for my covers. 🙂
3. Designing the Interior
Designing the interior for Love and the Sea was a bit of a learning curve for me. Thank the Lord for YouTube tutorials, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to get the page numbers or the headings just right. (PS: I also do interior design; $50 for 200 pages or less, $75 for 200-350 pages, and $100 for 350-500 pages.)
4. Ordering Proofs
Once I had my interior and exterior files ready to go (submit everything as PDF), it was time for the exciting part! Getting to hold my finished and polished book in my hands for the first time! Writer friends, make sure for every critical change you make (like text placement on a cover) you order a Proof of your book – this will help you ensure that nothing important gets cut off during printing!
Quick note: proofs take a million years to arrive so I suggest you learn how to invent a stasis pod or going into hibernation so you don’t have to wait as long.
5. Set a Release Date
The title of this point is pretty self-explanatory, but make sure you advertise the release date. I will cover more on the marketing aspect of publishing in Part 3, but honestly by Point 3 (Designing Your Interior) you should already be developing your platform and marketing your book. I’ll return to this subject in Part 3 of the series.
Once you approve your proof, it’s time to hit that big, gold button! If you’ve advertised your release date and want to appear professional, I recommend hitting the publish button (if you’re going through KDP) three days in advance of the release date. KDP can take up to 72 hours to process the approval for publication. It would be a shame if the book showed up later than advertised. 🙂
So that’s it! I know looking at these 6 steps might make it seem either less or more daunting depending on which side of the spectrum you fall, but for me it was really exciting and such a great learning experience! In fact, the stuff I learned about interior/exterior formatting is what has enabled me to be able to offer my services to other authors! 🙂
Final notes: if you’ve decided at this time to be an Indie Author, but are worried it will close the door to being Traditionally Published… fear not! Sometimes, Traditional Publishers or Literary Agents like to look at self-published books to see how well they’re doing and may make an offer. This doesn’t happen often, but depending on how well you market your book and grow your platform, the door always has the potential to open! Also, becoming an Indie Author has been hard, but it’s also one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made! I’ve found an incredible community of talented and driven Indie Authors and we support each other so much it’s crazy! There’s so much love in that community.
I hope this helped you in some way! If so, tell me how in the comments below!