Fun fact: Independent Publishing is just as powerful as traditional publishing these days. I love it. So many more writers in this world have a chance to get their work into the world because of the platform of the Internet - it's awesome.
I get a LOT of questions - daily, almost - about independent publishing, and what it takes to actually MAKE it in this business. Many of those questions are actually the same - over and over again, the basic inquiries about how to get started, how to market, how to sell...the list goes on.
Below, I have written up answers to the most commonly asked FAQs that I receive every week. If you are a newly-published independent author, or plan to be, you may find this guide interesting and helpful!
How and where do I even START?
Getting started is the most difficult part, for sure. It's literally THE MOST common question, too. How do you start? When do you start? Why? The answer is that you need to have a few ducks in a row before you even consider hitting the publishing world. First, you need a finished manuscript. Second, you need a book cover. Third, you need a clear idea of who exactly your target market is. For example, are you looking to sell to children? Women? Young adults? This is important and you should know exactly who your audience is at the beginning of your publishing journey.
What kind of an online presence do I need?
Seriously, it's so cool to live in the 21st century, because we as authors can reach people all around the world! This means that you need a slick, fun and accessible online presence for readers. You need a website, possibly a blog (but ONLY if you intend on actually keeping it current - nothing looks worse than a blog that you started and never use...) and a Twitter account. I recommend Twitter because it's easy to use, FUN to use and quick to access. Facebook is another option for sure, but again...only if you intend on keeping it updated.
What about editing?
Here's the thing: a lot of people who self-publishing don't hire editors. I understand why: it's another business expense and most people feel that they can edit their own work. I'm here to tell you that this is the WRONG way to approach publishing. Everybody needs editors. I structure Writing Belle Publishing and everything I do exactly like a traditional company - editing and all - in order to crank out high quality stories. Quality attracts customers, customers pay for your work, and that, in turn, is money that you can use to hire more editors on your upcoming work. Editing is not only worth it - it's a MUST.
Marketing: do I need to hire a publicist?
It depends, really, on how you plan to sell your book. For example, if you're going to mainly market your book locally in book stores and boutiques, you can totally do that yourself. In fact, you can do your own PR work FOREVER if you want, as long as you're staying consistent and working hard. A lot of "hired" publicists don't make a dent in spreading the word about your novel - I do most of my PR my work myself. I hire out when I'm swamped with work and need someone to pick up some of the workload, but you can worry about that down the road. Off the bat, I'd recommend doing your own PR work, then branch out when you expand your business.
What about literary agents? Do I need an agent?
If you intend on independently publishing a book, then absolutely not! Lit agents are great if you're trying to get a Big 6 publishing deal, and even then, it's nigh impossible to net anyone's interest. My philosophy is this: why have someone else take a cut of your hard-earned work if you don't have to? There are some projects I consider lit agents for, and others that I don't. It's really up to you. Just be prepared to get a LOT of "nos" from agents before you get a yes.
How in the HECK do I format my book to sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
Lucky for you, there are tons of online services that offer conversions for manuscripts these days. A quick Google-search will provide you with tons of options - and price ranges - to choose from. This is no longer as difficult as it was when I was first starting out - it used to be incredibly complicated to find someone who could properly format a novel! Not so anymore.
What about "self-publishing" companies?
Here's where it gets sticky. Some companies out there claim to offer self-publishing services to independent authors - providing formatting, paperback printing/distribution and publicity packages. This is often - though not always - a scam. I have fallen prey to such scam-houses in my career, shelling out thousands of dollars for simple services that never materialize, royalties that are NEVER received, and publicity that doesn't happen. Be very careful who you sign contracts with - publishing is a dog-eat-dog world, and there are a LOT of sharks in the water, hoping to make an easy buck.
What's the real key to success here?
Consistency, quality and content. Be consistent with the content you create, and make sure it's GOOD. People will always come back if you have those three elements.
If you're an author who is just starting their publishing journey...good luck! It takes a lot of stamina to do this crazy job, and to stay afloat in this intense business. I salute you.