Book Publishing Checklist for Indie Authors

Who is an Indie Author?

The term Indie puzzled me for a long time. The word indie itself first became popular in the context of music – indie folk referred to a music genre that arose in the 1990s and was characterized by not being affiliated with any major record or film company. So whenever I heard the word indie, I automatically associated it with hippy punk rock kind of guys who were charting out their own alternate reality paths.

However when I stepped in the world of writing, I realized that Indie refers to any creative “independent” individual. An author who has decided to self publish independently is an indie author.

Does being Indie (independent) mean doing EVERYTHING by yourself?

In reality an indie author may decide to publish the by himself – but not necessarily divorce himself from all the surrounding ecosystem. It takes a village to make a book – website design, proofreading, editing, cover design and a lot of other behind the scenes work can be delegated to other freelancers or even companies. Successful indie authors don’t live off the grid – though you can, of course, and do everything yourself. However you can have the primary independence from a publishing house which would have otherwise kept most of your profits and dictated what you should write – however you don’t need to deprive yourself from all the other talent in the world.

Book Publishing Checklist

After coming up with a story and writing it down, what else do you need? Here is a checklist of things any self published author should keep in mind.

  • Book Publicity: Plan your marketing and author promotion campaign
  • Copy editing, proofreading, formatting – Review for spelling, grammar, style and message.
  • Identify your title. A creative title is not necessarily a good topic. It must be based on SEO and copywriting best practices.
  • Write your book description, author bio, dedication and acknowledgements. Make sure they are optimized for search engines and is based on copywriting best practices.
  • Create cover design and spine design.
  • Create illustrations and design elements for inside of book
  • Indexing if needed.
  • Determine the price of the book
  • Review all the above how they look together.
  • Review all copyright, tax and legal considerations with your lawyer and accountant – e.g. will you publish your book as a corporation to avoid your personal tax bracket from eating in your book profits, will you own the right to publish it anywhere (e.g. some tools like Apple iBook Author requires exclusive publication rights).
  • If you are planning to publish digital editions (eBooks) – consider DRM protection. Remember if you publish your book without DRM protection (e.g. as a PDF) anyone can download it and send it to their friends or post it elsewhere. Soon you will have free copies of your book circulating on Torrent.
  • Create digital copies – EPUB, MOBI, PDF – depending on where you want to publish it.
  • Purchase ISBN numbers.
  • Sign up for CreateSpace, upload book, review digital page proofs
  • Make book available for sale at Amazon KDP and at CreateSpace
  • For digital books at publishers other than Amazon KDP – e.g. Digital stores (Kobo, tolino, Barnes&Nobles (Nook), Apple iBookstore, GooglePlay Books, inktera) or subscription services (Scribd, Playstr, 24symbols, koboplus), consider distributing through Draft2Digital. In some cases your royalties via Draft2Digital is higher than what you would get directly (e.g. for books below $2.99, Kobo will give you 35% royalty, while Draft2Digital gives you 59.5% royalty .
  • Make book available for sale through other print publishing companies: BookBub, IngramSpark or other independent printing companies. Lately we haven’t heard many good reviews of Lulu which is one of the older book publishing companies for self published authors.
  • Book Publicity: Activate and review your book marketing, book launch and author promotion campaign

Where do I find detailed information on this checklist?

I didn’t think I could do justice to all these different elements in the checklist in one or even several posts. Each of the items in the checklist is meant to be researched and planned according to your personal preferences. This is the pain and also the joy of freedom which comes from being an independent self published author. You get to decide how you want to do things.

As an example, one very successful self published author I worked with wrote her book, researched titles, created cover design and then partnered with an illustrator for interior design and illustrations. She decided to publish only digital copies on Amazon KDP and Itunes. She asked a couple of her friends to review her book and her husband who is a web developer created a website as her author platform. For marketing and promotion she relied on her YouTube channel and personal blog. Though she had a slow start, her book sales shot up when her YouTube and blog started getting popular.

If you don’t have friends who would be willing to review your book, or a tech geek as your husband, don’t worry. You can easily find very low cost resources for these things simply by searching on the internet. You can even try advertising on Kijiji and you could find fresh college graduates who may be willing to do the work as a way of getting some free publicity.

Search on Google or Fiverr for cheap services to do the various tasks in the above checklist. If you are looking for a list of various service providers (e.g. editorial services etc.), you can check out this list: Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services Reviewed & Rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors

A Word for the Wise

For your first self published book, don’t waste time on frills.

As an example, ISBN numbers are completely optional (& merely add a cosmetic touch for first time authors), you should not waste too much time on this. Some people like the semblance of legitimacy having an ISBN number confers on the book – if you believe so then first check if your distribution platforms toffer free ISBN which you can use. Your focus should be on getting your first book out and selling it, not spend weeks trying to get things like ISBN numbers etc.

Don’t overspend on marketing.

Instead of spending money on Facebook ads and other marketing programs, first try to grow your book sales organically. Create blog posts and videos and do the actions listed on “Book Marketing Strategies : Quick Start Guide for Self Published Authors“. Only when you have these foundational actions completed, should you think of further actions like buying ads.

Book Marketing is the Most Important Part of Publishing

The primary goal you should never leave sight of is growing your book sales through well planned book marketing strategies. After you have created you have done the foundational book marketing strategies, you should go using this post to create a book marketing plan: “Beyond the Basics for Indie Authors: How to Take Your Book Sales to the Next Level“. Focus on growing your book sales (without splurging on advertisements).

Which Genres sell Most?

book sales by genreEvery genre would sell if you write from your heart and have real stories and valuable information to share. However some genres do sell more than others. We interviewed self published authors and based on their inputs came up with these top selling genres sorted in descending order:

  • Non Fiction
  • Romance
  • Thriller
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Children’s Books
  • Erotica

Please remember that this is not a scientific statistical analysis. It is true that some genres sell less, but it is quite likely that the writers in those genres may be fewer too and you would have less competition. When you are starting to write focus on what your core expertise and true love is and then write. Get it out. Learn from experience. Your first book doesn’t need to be perfect. It is more important to get it out and then learn from the experience of publishing, selling and marketing it.

What’s the most important element in book publishing?

Unless you are publishing your book purely for self gratification, the most important element in book publishing is book marketing. It should be the first element in your checklist and it should be the last, continuing element in your checklist.

Conclusion: How do I handle all the tasks in publishing?

You don’t have to do everything by yourself as a self published author. Search on google for each of the items in the book publishing checklist and you will find a lot of resources who would be willing to help you. It is true that as a self published author you have to manage and organize all these resources yourself – but the payback in monetary terms entirely justifies that extra effort.

Happy Creating!

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