In case you were wondering what’s it like to write books, I thought I would take some time from my incredibly busy schedule to give you a glimpse of what it takes to be an indie author.
I published my first book in 2011. Things have changed drastically since then and continue to change much quicker than before 2020.
When I published my first book in print on Amazon in 2017, there were only about 8 million books. As I’m writing this, more than 30 million books are available on Amazon.
I want to walk you through my process since every indie author is different. But first, you might be wondering a few things.
What is an Indie Author?
An indie author is someone who has published independently or through a small press. The most popular companies are Amazon, Ingram Sparks, and Draft2Digital. I publish my books through Amazon. As an indie author, I am responsible for everything that goes into the design and formatting of the books while these services handle the distribution and printing.
The First Step
I never write a book using the same order, but the process is the same. I don’t always have a title when thinking of an idea. Everything is connected, so I can’t begin creating book covers until I know the title.
When I was in the process of writing my first book, I wrote the ending first. With my second book, I wrote Chapter 1 first. I like to try different things to see what works better. That’s the best part of being my own boss; I get to make the rules. I am in charge of the process of creating the book. If I want to change how I do something, I don’t have to argue with anyone.
My process can be a bit chaotic, but I wouldn’t be able to write a book in less than three months otherwise. I try to make improvements to cut down on the timeline,
A big part of what I call the pre-production phase (because I’m also a filmmaker) is thinking. My first step is almost always thinking up the characters, the backstory, and the situation I am placing them in. I usually take notes on my phone or write in a journal before writing a single word.
As an indie author, I have to keep myself on track with deadlines. Sometimes writing is easy, and I can write 10,000 words in a weekend. Sometimes writing is hard, and I barely write 150 words all day. It helps to have something public to keep myself accountable and keep my readers updated, so I post my writing progress on my upcoming releases page.
I plan most of my story ideas, but sometimes the characters go off on their own. I could think of 20 ideas, but when I sit down to write, I write something completely different.
I use Microsoft Word and Google Docs for the drafting phase. I like Google Docs because you can write anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. You never know when you will get time to write, so I like that it saves it across all devices.
I design my own book covers. Some might say that you should hire a professional. If you can afford it, I suggest you do it. If you are on a limited budget, I would argue that the cover and your editing are the important investment you can make. Unfortunately, they are usually the most expensive parts of writing a book.
I use Adobe Photoshop and Canva to create my book covers. I’ve been learning about graphic design for 15 years. Knowing how to design is only part of the process. You must be aware of trends in your genre and what is selling. You also don’t want anything too similar to other covers. It’s important to do your research. I’ve released my book under three different covers before I found one that sold well.
Indie authors are judged more harshly on their covers, even though most do not have an entire marketing team devoted to one part of the process. You should remember that if you see a book cover that you like from an indie author, you should tell them on social media or mention it in your review. Most of the time, we create these covers ourselves, and we love to hear feedback like that.
I do the editing and formatting for all of my books. I am very hands-on with all of my projects. A lot of indie authors use professional services. I agree with this advice if you can afford it. However, you can do many things to cut down on the amount of editing needed. I highly recommend using the read-aloud feature on Microsoft Word. Manual formatting on Microsoft Word is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s not impossible to learn. For every problem I’ve run into, I was able to find the answer by searching online.
Although I do the editing for my books, I still use beta readers. I don’t expect them to find typos or grammar issues, but if they do, even better! You never want to dismiss a suggestion from a beta reader immediately. However, keep in mind that if you are asking a family member or friend, they may not know what to look for. I will never forget the first time a beta reader told me, “I couldn’t put the book down.” I am thankful for all the times a beta reader told me something didn’t make sense. They provide valuable information, and they are necessary to the process.
This is my least favorite part of the process. Social media is an excellent way of utilizing free marketing tools. However, making content for so many different websites can be a huge drain. Indie authors can use many websites and tools to save time.
I wish I could give you more advice on this topic, but it’s something I haven’t quite figured out myself. I know it’s an important part of the process, if not THE most important part. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. There are online spaces and websites explicitly dedicated to indie authors. The community is very supportive, and most people don’t treat it like a competition.
You can have a fantastic book, but your book is getting buried if no one is looking at it or talking about it. It’s important to celebrate the little wins. I celebrate every single time I sell a book.
I love being an indie author, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do with my life. It may seem like a lot of work, and that’s because it is. It’s not just about writing the book. It’s also about learning not to doubt yourself and being vulnerable enough to put your work out there for the world to see. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s much more challenging than traditional publishing. Anyone who says it’s easier has no idea what it’s like.