Thursday, January 26, 2012

Roadmap to Indie Publishing by DeAnna Knippling

(Editor's Note: This is DeAnna's handout from last week's Write Brain session.)

Want to put up an ebook but don't know how?  (Or just want more facts before you make up your mind?) Here are the bare minimum steps you need to consider when self-publishing an ebook:

1.   Material. Short stories that are not under an exclusive contact with their publisher are probably ideal (they've already been edited). However, any story to which you own the rights will work.  If you don't know if you have rights to your story, please read The Copyright Handbook by Stephen Fishman at Nolo Press.
2.   Freelance Writing Business. Even if you are not going to be a full-time freelancer, you need to set up your business to help prevent IRS issues. See Nolo's checklist, "Start Your Own Business: 50 Things You'll Need to Do" at their website. You won't need to do most of the stuff on the list.
3.   Marketing. 1) Author website. 2) Social media like Twitter or Facebook (I love Goodreads & Library Thing, too). 3) Keep an eye out for reviewers; expect to send them FREE ebook copies.  4) Specialty markets relevant to your specific book - e.g., fishing websites if you're selling a fishing murder mystery. 5) Local writer groups = word of mouth.
4.   Editing. If you know how to edit and are confident in doing so, you can edit your own stuff.  If not, get editing, by hook or by crook as it is readers' single biggest turnoff. Ask around; if you know other writers, you know someone who can edit.
5.   Formatting. Read The Smashwords Style Guide at  Follow it.  There are more advanced methods, but this will work.
6.   Cover Design. Create a cover using images for which you have the rights, either 1) your own private images or 2) images that you have obtained from a stock photo company or have a signed contract from the artist. Look at the cover sizes for lists of books at Smashwords: your cover must look readable & interesting at postage-stamp size.
7.   E-Publishing. I recommend publishing at Smashwords (, which feeds to all kinds of other sites, like Sony and Apple.  I also publish at Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon - and PubIt! (Barnes & Noble - If you follow the Smashwords style guide but remove all references to Smashwords from your ebooks, you can use essentially the same files to publish to PubIt! and KDP.
8.   Validating. After you have published, check your files and decide whether you can live with any weirdness. Developing formats = unpredictable results.
9.   Announcing. Announce publication via any marketing you have set up.
10. Having Patience. I hate being patient.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  Least favorite part of the whole thing.

Links: (Smashwords style guide) | | (free image software and cheap legal images) (patience)

·    DRM or not?  I do not. I suggest if you do, make sure you publish in most formats, because DRM makes it illegal for readers to convert files to a format they can use.
·    Pseudonyms or not? I do, mostly because I don't want kids to unintentionally read my adult work.  I don't advise it: 1) I had to set up as a small publisher in order to handle both names' books; 2) You have to do marketing for each pseudonym AND for the small publisher; 3) Building a reputation/making money is slower, because you're splitting up your writing time between authors.  But it makes me feel better.
·    Will I sell a million copies? No.  From what I hear, things start to take off when you have about 25-35 things (short stories, etc.) posted.  PER AUTHOR NAME.  I've heard estimates of ~5 copies/short story or collection/month, ~25 copies/novel/month.  AFTER you have those 25-35 things up. I'm not there yet. I think because I'm still trying to find my niche for my adult stuff.
·    What if I mess something up? You will.  Take the story down, fix it, and repost.
·    Can I sell a story if it's online elsewhere for free? Yes, if you have the rights.  Ebook cover/format/possibly additional editing and/or material = value added.
·    POD or not? Get comfy with epublishing first.  POD is fun but probably won't make you any money unless you're really good at marketing.  Personally, I LOVE IT!  I'm currently using CreateSpace (  I suggest doing a few gift books first to get a feel for it and to read up on how to lay out professional-looking interiors.
·    Will big publishers hate me for being an indie writer? This should not be a problem UNTIL you are offered a contract.  If so, read the fine print very, very carefully to ensure that you can live with their requirements: they may stipulate that you have to stop epublishing anything under the same name or that will compete with whatever you're publishing with them.  I would check out The Passive Voice blog (, written by a lawyer whose wife is in indie publishing.  He has some really good caveats and is available to review writer contracts.  Writer Laura Resnick ( also has good information.
·    Should I epublish or submit? I try to keep one foot in each world and have submissions going to short story and novel publishers all the time.  As I feel satisfied that I've been rejected from the markets I want most to get into, I epublish.  I also epublish stuff that's been published and I have the rights back on.
·    Am I a good enough writer? Only you can answer that question. My personal rule of thumb is that if I'm getting published with short stories (for money), then I'm writing well enough to epublish, too.  But sometimes the only way to find this out is let the readers decide, especially you don't fit current sales trends.
·    The biggest gripes about indie ebooks come from poor editing or writing a really good story: people dislike typos but HATE it when they hit the end of a book, especially if it's good.

Find DeAnna Knippling at (personal blog), (small publisher website), or (middle-grade pseudonym blog).  Contact me for ebook and POD formatting rates.  If you liked this handout, consider buying an ebook via www.wonderlandpress.comHow to Fail & Keep on Writing is a good writer-kick-in-the-pants book, if I do say so myself.

1 comment:

  1. The best small business ideas maximize what you're good at and what you're passionate about. If writing is your ultimate hobby, you may find that creating a business that allows you to market yourself as a freelance writer is the perfect combination of passion and business.
    Freelance Writing


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