Friday, October 7, 2016

Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 1: 7 Tips for Getting Started

You're coming to me for Amazon indie publishing help? You think you're so cool. It's not cool to get help! Publish for yourself, you little gargoyle!

Sorry. I've been really wanting to work that reference in somewhere.

Let's start over.

My name is Hannah Heath. On December 5th of 2015, I indie published my first story, Skies of Dripping Gold. People liked it. People asked me to write a post about my indie publishing journey. People said they wanted to hear what I had to say. I ignored said people because the thought of writing about how to indie publish intimidated me. But now I've run out of excuses for avoiding this topic, so here I am, ready to talk about Amazon indie publishing.

That being said, this post is not going to be at all similar to the other posts you've read about indie publishing. Why? Because my style of doing practically anything is about as unorthodox as you can get. I don't lay out large, detailed plans. I things.
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 1: 7 Tips for Getting Started
When I jumped into indie publishing, I didn't ask anybody for help. I didn't read any books on the topic. I didn't watch any tutorials or join a workshop. I didn't pay anybody to do anything for me. Basically, I didn't do any of the things that people tell you you should do in order to indie publish.

And it actually worked.

How did I do this? I'll tell you: I don't know. But I have some pretty good guesses. So, if you're looking to indie publish a story, want to do it yourself without throwing down a ton of cash, and don't feel like signing away years of your life doing research, then you've come to the right place.

Unlike most of my posts, this will be a 3 part series. Today, I'm posting about the general tips and tricks that I personally found helpful and think that you will, too. Monday, I'll do a post about all the gritty details: How to format both the story and the book cover. And next Friday I'll post on pricing and distribution.

Here are 7 tips I learned from my indie publishing experience that I think will benefit you:

Everything is going to be okay. Indie publishing is not as intimidating as it seems. It is time consuming, but it is not impossibly difficult. If you are clever enough to have been able to write a short story/novella/book/Great American Novel, then you are clever enough to figure out how to do some publishing through Amazon. So take a moment to scream (preferably into a need to alarm the neighbors), then breathe deeply, say a prayer or sing kumbaya or eat some chocolate or do whatever it is you need to do to stay centered, then sit down at your computer. You're going to do great.

Tip 2: Don't listen to the naysayers
Ever, especially if that naysayer is yourself. You can do this. Indie publishing is time consuming and it can be difficult, but it is nowhere near impossible. Some people will tell you that indie publishing is expensive. It doesn't have to be. Maybe you think you're too old to be all tech-ish and indie. That's not true. Maybe you think you're too young and inexperienced. Again, not true. Maybe you think that you aren't talented enough or don't have enough time or simply aren't smart enough. All of these are untrue. If you want it, you can make it happen. So go for it.  

Tip 3: You don't need Batman-level planning skills to pull indie publishing off
Many people are wary of indie publishing because there are so many different aspects to consider: legalities, formatting, marketing, pricing. People think that they have to read tons of blogs posts, join a workshop, talk to other experienced indie authors, map out a detailed plan, craft a utility belt, and build a bat cave before setting out on the publishing road. You simply do not have to do any of this. If it helps you to plan the heck out of your projects, then do so. But if it stresses you out? Don't. Indie publishing is a very fluid process. You cannot plan all of it ahead of time, so don't feel like you have to try. I jumped in head first without knowing what on earth I was doing and I'm still alive, so it can't possibly be as bad as you think.

Tip 4: You don't need Batman-level money
Indie publishing does not have to be expensive. Do you want to know how much money I spent on publishing Skies of Dripping Gold? $20. And that was to buy and ship an advanced proof copy of my story so that I could look it over before it went live. So no, it doesn't have to be expensive. You don't have to pay somebody to format your novel. You don't need to hire a lawyer. If you have the right skills, you can design your own cover. Honestly, the only part that may stick you is hiring a professional editor, and if your story is short enough (like mine), you don't even need one of those. So don't panic about the money. Indie publishing can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be.

Tip 5: After publication, you can still make changes
Yep. If you publish your story and then notice a few typos, you can just edit the original document and re-upload it. You can also go back in and change or make corrections to the cover. I'm not telling you this so that you will be careless about your publishing methods. Ideally, you don't want to have to go back in and make changes. However, I think it will help stave off the panic if you know any errors you make aren't completely permanent. Seriously:

Tip 6: It's a good idea for your first indie publishing project to be a small one 
I cannot stress this enough. Indie publishing can be dizzying, so start small. Skies of Dripping Gold is a short story. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been if I had tried to jump into indie publishing with a 300-page novel rather than a 40 page story. So, if at all possible, test the waters with a short story or novella. Not only is this good marketing for your future novel, but it will help you find how comfortable you are with all of the different aspects of indie publishing: the legalities, the formatting, the pricing, the cover designing. Can you jump right in and do a novel for your first project? Heck yes! Go for it. I applaud you. Will it be less of a shock if you start small? Definitely. 

Tip 7: Look at other indie published works
Do you have indie authors you trust? Go look at their books. See how they formatted, what they did for copyright, where they placed their acknowledgment page, how they did their cover. Look at a ton of indie books to get an idea of what is going on. And don't be afraid to ask your favorite indie people for help. Chances are they'll be more than happy to lend some tips. 

Basically, the point of this post is this: You don't need to be Batman to indie publish. You don't have to be a particularly good planner, a millionaire, or a genius. You just need to be willing to work long and hard. Indie publishing is 40% knowledge that you borrowed from Google, 50% improvising, and 10% cussing and wondering why you started the darn project. 

Are you thinking of indie publishing? I'd love to hear any thoughts or questions you may have! And if you have already indie published, please leave a comment below with some of the top lessons you learned from the process. 

Enjoyed this post? Stay tuned for part 2 on Monday and part 3 on Friday the 14th. Subscribe by email to have them delivered straight to your inbox! Need tips on book launching? Check out this post full of tips from fellow indie authors!

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  1. Thank you so much for doing this! It is a big help and encouragement to hear your story.
    Looking forward to part 2 and 3!

    1. So happy to be of help, Emily! Thanks for the little push to get me started on this series!

  2. Great post!! I must have read every blog/ book/ article on indie publishing possible before I self-published my novel in 2015. (I'm just a touch Type A lol) I love your more relaxed and go-with-the flow approach!

    Also, I love that you wrote "Don't Panic" in large, friendly letters across Tip Five (it's always a good day for a Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference ;) )

    1. Haha! Thanks. I always think, "You know, maybe I should be more organized like all those other writers," and then I laugh and return to my chaotically relaxed style. =D

      I love people who recognize my Hitchhiker's references. *fist bump*

  3. One size does not fit all in the indie publishing world, for sure, and finding your niche takes time and patience. I hope your unorthodox style continues to work for you, Hannah.

    1. I agree that indie publishing is very unique to the writer and genre. Thank you for the comment!

  4. The whole idea of publishing has always terrified me. I'd actually never considered indie publishing before, but I think I may just look into it now. It sounds like a great way to explore publishing. (-: Love the tips, I'm a bit of a 'let's just try this and see if it works' person, so this is really helpful advice.

    1. It is a really great way to explore publishing, yes! I'm happy to hear that this helped you be less fearful of the great Unknown of indie publishing. =D

  5. I can't wait to see more of this series! All the tips so far are awesome :)

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

  6. Wonderful advice, Hannah! Once upon a time I had convinced myself I would never indie publish anything, but then I saw so many successful self-published authors and thought, why not? In fact, I like the way you marketed lines from your short story on Pinterest. They piqued my curiosity, and they're what made me want to read it in the first place. Later, I thought, "I like Pinterest! I can do that!" Thanks for being my inspiration.

    1. Lol! Yes. Pinterest is one of the best marketing tools I have ever come across. =D And it's easy, which is a massive bonus. If you ever decide to indie publish, I'm sure the results will be spectacular. Keep being awesome!

  7. Hey Hannah,
    I feel late to the party, since this is an old post and you'll probably never read it, but if I have something nice to say I may as well say it. Publishing kinda overwhelms me and I've learned that if I know what I'm getting into I probably won't commit. I know about difficult (editing 100k words is work. 6 months of work. Among my other responsibilities.)
    Thanks for your encouraging words and by the seat of your pants attitude :)


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