As we rapidly approach the end of the year, I find myself reflecting back on the last 12 months but with an indie author hat on. I started this process about a year ago (not the writing, but the publishing and marketing side) culminating in my Facebook online launch party and release of my debut novel on 12th November 2016. I have learnt a LOT from various sources and have made some invaluable contacts along the way so I thought it was only fair that I share some of my experiences and knowledge here.
So what happens once you type THE END? Well, as you’ve probably already read online, the work really begins well before that. Building an online presence via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc is crucial and should be on-going.
Getting beta readers
Beta readers are a cheaper way to get initial feedback from impartial and hopefully honest readers. I don’t recommend asking friends or family to read your work at this stage. Before you begin your first edit it is important to get beta readers as they can save you a bit of money down the line. I decided that my budget could not stretch to a line or copy editor so this was my alternative. But select them with care and ensure that you give them specific guidelines on the areas you want feedback on. I used numerous Goodreads user groups and found three decent betas. There’s also Fiverr, Upwork, Twitter that can help you solicit some decent readers.
Total cost= £118
Do it again next time= Yes definitely, but now that I have a few author friends I hope to be able to save some money in this area. Will definitely use Goodreads again.
Editing and Proofreading
As mentioned above I didn’t get an editor but if you choose to there are many ways to do this. Goodreads and Upwork are the places I looked at. There are plenty of editors online but ensure you are the right ‘fit’ for each other and don’t part with any cash until you have a contract. Also make sure you use PayPal because you’ll be covered should anything happen.
If, like me, you’re on a budget you can make the most of beta readers, proof readers and software. I can recommend Grammarly (free for basic, $29.95 p/m for premium https://support.grammarly.com/hc/en-us/articles/214605168-Grammarly-Plans-and-Pricing) and Smartedit (free 10 day trial or $57-$67 standalone licence http://www.smart-edit.com/buy.html). Both have their merits and will integrate with Word as an extra tab at the top.
I cannot stress the importance of proofreading enough, to the point where I would get two next time. I had a friend kindly volunteer to do this for free which was brilliant. However, even with a second pair of eyes, I found a lot of mistakes in the finished manuscript, so do not underestimate the importance of this step.
Total cost= £22 (ish) for one month of Grammarly and free 10 day trial of Smartedit.
Do it again next time= Yes for the free Grammarly but I will pay for an editor also.
Publicity & Launch party
OK so this was a bit unusual as I actually tried the crowd funding route to obtain a publishing contract which sadly for me was not fruitful. However, because I went through the process I discovered Fiverr and had several book promo videos made up. These went on my blog, FB, Twitter, YouTube and my crowd funding page also.
I also paid for a few Facebook ad campaigns before and after the launch and will probably do so again. These are great because you can set your budget as low as £1 a day and can see the effect it has in terms of likes etc. However, from the recent campaign I ran, yes lots of people liked the ad, but did I sell any copies? Nope! So don’t expect major results. That being said I will undoubtedly use FB again when I run my Kindle countdown deal in January 2017.
I also paid a publicist to coordinate and run an online FB launch party where I had guest authors, quizzes, discussions, giveaways, competitions and so on. This involved giving away two paperbacks, one e-book and a bookmark. It was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it as did the guests.
Total cost= Fiverr videos £13 (ish), FB promotion £15 (ish), Publicist £60, giveaways £30.
Do it again next time= Yes to videos and FB ads. I will also be paying for further marketing towards the end of the year to capitalise (hopefully) on the Kindle countdown deal. This will be $49. Not sure if I’d do another launch party via a publicist as, although fun, it did not generate sales.
I cannot stress how important it is that you get a decent cover for your book. There are plenty of pre-made ones out there but make sure before you commit to a purchase that:
- It doesn’t already exist out there (google search the image)
- Your cover will not be re-sold after you purchase it, and finally
- That the cover really represents your book
This last point I would say is possibly more vital and could save you quite a bit of money. I sadly rushed into buying a cover because I loved one in particular. Two things then happened, I changed the book title and I found a better cover that better represented the book and the audience I wanted to sell to. In the end it was an expensive mistake that set me back a further £40. On the positive, the cover did inspire me to add a facet to the personality of my novel’s main protagonist, which I may not have otherwise used. These sites are very good: http://selfpubbookcovers.com/ and https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/
Total cots= £120 (ish)
Do it again next time= Yes, but follow my advice as per above and save myself £40!
File conversions and proof copies
Notice the ‘s’? Yes well that’s because after I spent £65 via Fiverr on getting my cover and word document converted to print ready, ePUB and mobi files and got 5 proof copies whizzed over from the US in less than three days, I discovered typos, like LOTS of them. So then I had to beg the Fiverr seller to amend the versions again. When he stopped answering my messages I panicked and paid someone else to do it. Also, because of the mistakes, it meant that my ‘proof’ copies were now unusable as giveaway copies, coupled with the fact that they had PROOF written on the last page also! Arrgh! Still, it’s all a learning curve, right?
Total cots= £125
Do it again next time= I have invested in Adobe InDesign (around £12 p/m) and so will do the file conversions myself. However you decide to do it, do not overlook this step as a badly formatted e-book looks awful on Kindle. If you only want an e-book (rather than a print copy also) then this step will cost a lot less. If you also want a print copy one proof copy only will be required.
Total cost of first time indie publishing: £503
Although there are obvious savings to be made here, with the addition of the Adobe software and definite use of an editor (probably around £250, maybe more), I think the total next time will be around the same, if not more.
Will I make this money back through sales?
Only time will tell.