Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I've Learned: An Indie Author's Tips

I recently read a great blog post by Steven Montano, the talented indie author of Blood Skies and Black Scars. The post (found here: http://bloodskies.com/?p=1491) details the top ten things Steven would tell himself about indie publishing if he could go back in time. With my Daughters of Saraqael trilogy having been out three months this week, I was inspired to blog about my own publishing experience.

My decision to self-publish was heavily weighed. Ignorant of the popularity of independent publication, I dismissed it as an option because I thought people didn’t read self-published books. (I know, I know!). Instead, I tried the traditional publication routine: writing query letters, reaching out to literary agents, waiting for weeks or months only to receive form rejections.

Needless to say, it was frustrating.

Six months later, I had three YA fantasy/romance books that I knew would have an audience, but no one willing to invest in them. So…I decided to invest in them myself. I was inspired by the stories of successful indie authors like Michael R. Hicks, Amanda Hocking and John Locke, and absorbed the passionate and inflammatory (in a good way) advice promoted by J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler about indie publishing. Then I spoke with my husband about it and ultimately took the plunge.

You might ask, “Raine, why should I listen to you when your books have only been out for three months?” That’s a fair question. To establish my credibility (such as it is), I’ll share the results of these early days of my self-publication.

All three books of the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy (Becoming, Central and Foretold) are currently in the top 5,000 on Amazon’s bestseller list for paid Kindle books. Right now, Becoming is #1,668 overall, and just last week it was the #21 bestseller among Romance/Fantasy & Futuristic books. The books have maintained five-star reviewer averages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Goodreads, and they’ve been featured on numerous book blogs around the world. Sales have been good enough within these three months that I could live off my earnings.

That said, how did I do it? Well, in keeping with Steven’s great idea, here’s a top ten list for your consideration:

10. Develop a concept that will carry across multiple books. Readers connect with characters and want to read more about them. Even if your book is a stand-alone, be sure you stick to one voice and style across books to maintain reader loyalty.

9. If you're writing a series, have more than one book done when you first publish. I’ve had a number of indie authors say they wish they had waited like I did to publish their books all at once. The biggest piece of advice by any of the successful authors mentioned above is to have books out there for your readers to purchase!

8. Get into social networking. I have a Raine Thomas Facebook account, a Raine Thomas fan page and a Daughters of Saraqael fan page. I post to all of them throughout the week and “like” and comment on the posts of my FB friends. I’ll admit that I was scared to death of Twitter. I joined it for the first time in June, stumbling blindly into a very intimidating social environment. Fortunately, all you have to do is find other authors and avid readers and start up conversations. I’m currently at over 2,400 followers and growing…thus, increasing my potential readership and finding great books to read, as well!

7. Take the time to properly format your books. Regardless of what service you use to publish (I used Smashwords as well as published directly through Amazon and Barnes & Noble), they offer style guides to make sure your books look right on e-readers. Attention to details like this will help your books compete with those offered by traditional publishers.

6. Join Goodreads and create an Amazon author page. Goodreads.com is an excellent site connecting authors and readers. Create an author page there as well as on Amazon, and engage in group discussions about things that don’t pertain to your books. (Yes, I said don't pertain to your books).

5. Submit your book(s) to book reviewers. Book bloggers abound, and they love to read and write about what they read. Amanda Hocking achieved a lot of her success because of them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have bloggers approach me to review my books. I’ll be forever grateful to all of them!

4. Make a book trailer. There are many programs that can help you create your own book trailers. Windows Movie Maker and iMovie are two such programs. Browse trailers you like and try to imitate the feel and quality of them. Good music is essential!

3. Hire a great cover designer. People judge a book by its cover. I had to do little more than use the cover of Becoming as my Twitter avatar to garner interest in my books. It’s worth the investment!

2. Create a website and a blog. You won’t have a marketing team to promote your work. The best way for you to do it on your own is through a website with a regularly updated blog. You can purchase website templates with Wordpress blogs for less than $50. Hopefully it goes without saying that the more professional your website looks, the better it reflects on you and your books!

1. Invest in a good editor. I don’t mean your best friend’s sister’s roommate from college who got A’s in English. I mean a professional and reputable copy editor. I can’t stress this enough! The biggest knock on any indie book is a lack of editing.

So there it is…my personal top ten list of what to do to embark on a successful self-publishing venture. I hope it proves helpful!

What tips do you have for other indie authors?


  1. Hey Raine, I've spoken about self-publishing on my blog too and I pretty much second everything you've said. It's the way to go. Great post :-)

  2. Great post! I'm a bit slow on the Book Trailer thing, but now that I have one under my belt I'll admit it's pretty cool. ;D

    I second, third and fourth pretty much everything you've said here -- excellent advice! =D

  3. Great tips, especially about having multiple books ready to go first. I really hadn't thought about that.

  4. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Yes, Miranda...I think having multiple books available definitely makes an indie author more marketable. The same is true for new authors who are traditionally published, which is one reason it's so hard for new authors with only one book written to get picked up by publishing companies. I know that I couldn't live off just the proceeds from one book, but having three out there makes it feasible. Hopefully it works for others, too!

  5. Great post!!! <3
    I am trying to think of something to add! Hmmmm...
    Maybe to listen to intelligent people like you and Steven! :p

  6. awesome post, Raine! :) I like the multiple books at once ready to go idea. And I love your covers. They are gorgeous!

  7. Thanks for the comments, Emma and Brenda! I'm happy to know the blog has proven helpful to others. :)

  8. Raine, your advice is worth more than gold. I hope many aspiring (indie) authors will follow it. And I love your covers.