Friday, April 8, 2011

From One Indie Author to Another: The Ten Commandments for Indie Publishing

by Selena Blake

copyright 2011, all rights reserved

So you're ready to go indie. Or are you? Do you have your plan of attack? Have you done your research? Have you asked lots of questions? Sought guidance for your upcoming adventure?

From one indie author to another, here's my list of Ten Commandments for Indie Publishing. I’m by no means an expert so take them with a grain of salt.

1. Be Professional
To me, it means looking at your writing like a business. Making sound business decisions. That may mean hiring a professional cover artist and editor. Spending money (when you really need to!) to make money, as LJ Sellers did. Act professionally and treat your work and your writing time as a professional would.

2. Publish Clean Copy
It’s not enough to write the book. You need to polish it. Luckily, most of my current releases had been previously published which means that I polished them a lot before I sent them to my editor where they went through three more rounds of editing. I got to keep those edited copies. As Joe Konrath says, have your betas and fellow authors proof your work. I’m lucky enough to have two editors as friends.

3. Use Professional Cover Art
The saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. But we all do it anyway. Why would you want to submit a small, fuzzy, hard to read cover to sell your book? You wouldn’t roll in the mud before going into a job interview would you? Decide what you can spend. Ask your fellow indie authors who they use. View plenty of cover art. Contact cover artists with an idea of what you need.

4. Promote
I’ve done plenty of it. I’ve joined message boards, yahoo groups, Goodreads, Shelfari. I have a website and a blog and a newsletter. I offer free reads. I’ve joined sites within my niche where I’ve met readers, shared book recommendations and purchased advertising. I also write guest blog posts like this one. And I've done blog tours. I have profiles on all the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, Myspace, Bebo, Linkdin) and of course, Amazon. The key is interacting, I think. Subtle promo, not drive by promo. Consistent presence.

5. Advertise
I’m a big fan of having someone else do my promotion for me while I’m sleeping. So I’ve had advertisements on half a dozen sites over the years and I’m looking to increase this in the future. Look for sales. Double check the numbers. Don't be afraid to try something once. Again, ask for recommendations from friends and Indie authors.

6. Distribution
I’ve always felt that distribution is important. When I look at the most successful companies, the ones who pay attention to getting their products into the hands of their customers as easily, efficiently, and cost affectively as possible are generally at the top of the list. With so many options available to us now, making your books available on as many platforms as you can makes sense to me.

7. Be willing to change
Along with the brand new cover art that graces all my current books, I changed the descriptions on many of them as well. I’ve even changed the blurbs more than once. The great thing about digital publishing, in my opinion, is the ability to craft a description that gets more attention. It’s being able to go back and adjust your key words, change your title or cover if you feel you can do better. Adjust your price points. Or even, updating your book.

8. Grow your readership
That sounds trite, doesn’t it? But what I mean, and what I’m trying to do, is meet new readers. Introduce myself to them. Become friends with them. Discover what THEY want to read. Publishers often think they know what readers want and authors often feel like readers should want something out of the ordinary. Independent publishing gives you the flexibility to try something new. To give readers what they say they want.

9. Have a plan
Just like businesses have a business plan and many professionals have a career plan, I recommend having a career plan and a marketing plan. Both of these will help keep you focused and they’ll provide guidance along the way. But don’t carve these into stone. Be flexible. I had a career path and marketing plan developed way back when I sold to my first publisher. Now I’m readjusting that to include self publishing. And perhaps even a POD anthology of my Stormy Weather series.

10. Write Another Great Book
The key here I believe is to always be learning, always improving your craft. As Joe Konrath has mentioned, there are plenty of popular authors who weren’t the best writers in the beginning. But time and knowledge will allow you to write a better book. And when you write a better book, that should help you sell better.

There's a reason "write another great book" is the last on the list. It's the final thought in the process. Keep writing. Keep perfecting your craft. Keep developing your voice. Keep writing.

Good luck!

Selena Blake writes erotic paranormal and contemporary romance. First published in 2008, her series Stormy Weather has been on the best seller lists and nominated for awards.  She's a fan of action movies, Diet Coke, Milky Way bars and thunderstorms, not necessarily in that order. Learn more about her online at or catch her at facebook:


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Selena, it's an honor to have you with us today! Based on your phenomenal success, these must be good principles to live by! Best of luck on your current and future books. Thanks so much for guest blogging with us today, and come back soon.

Kim Smith said...

Thanks for being with us Selena!

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Great advice. I'm getting ready to publish my first indie so it's a very helpful article. Thank you.

SandyDaley said...

Great information, thanks for sharing.

Selena Blake said...

Thanks so much for having me! I'll definitely be back. I'm glad you found the tips helpful. If you have questions, let me know. I'll check back here from time to time or you can email me at selenablake @ (no spaces.) Alternately, look me up on Twitter or Facebook. I'm always happy to chat with readers and fellow writers.