Dear Indie Author, Don't Be THAT Author

Dear Indie Author

Don’t be that author. You know the one, the author that makes the rest of us look...well, not so good. That one author to which critics compare all other indie authors.

There is a low opinion of indie authors among certain sectors of the reading community. One blogger’s opinion was so harsh it made me cringe. The stigma of self-publishing seems to be lifting as more and more authors choose to self-publish, even authors who have traditionally published with a big 5 New York press. The publishing industry as a whole is morphing and changing its publishing and marketing philosophy, and it’s hard to keep up with all the developments. It’s an exciting time to be an author.

I’m an indie author and make no apologies for it. My loyalty is to my author brand, not to any one publisher’s catalog. I’ve been published by four different small publishers and have a contract with a top tier, non-big five publisher. Yet recently I decided to self-publish. Why? To be blunt, I’ve practically done all the marketing and promotion for my published releases myself. If I’m doing most of the work, I might as well keep most of the royalties.

I haven’t entered the self-publishing world lightly or without gathering all the information I could about the process. I have been in the industry awhile both as a writer and an editor, so hopefully I know what I’m doing. Distributors make it relatively simple to upload and click submit. Once you’ve been through the step-by-step process the first time, the next time is much easier.

The key to a headache-free release is having the manuscript ready to upload before you log on to the distributor’s publication site. All the work to make the book a quality, enjoyable read should already be done.

Here are some things to think about if you are considering self-publication:

1.     Hire a professional cover artist to create your cover. A professional-looking cover informs the reader that you are a serious writer and publishing isn’t just a hobby for you. The cover is often the first thing that catches a reader’s attention. Make your first impression count. Don’t settle for sort of okay. A cover that doesn’t match the content of the book is misleading and can generate a great amount of reader disgust. Do a search for books in your genre and have your cover artist create a cover that fits the genre.

2.     Once your cover catches the reader’s attention, the description is what entices him or her to read more. Search for books in your genre on a major distributor like Amazon and read the descriptions. Make a note of what appeals to you about the descriptions and what doesn’t.

In my opinion, the most appealing descriptions have a common format or pattern. Describe the protagonist’s goal, describe his or her motivation, and finally describe his or her conflict. Wrap it up with a brief sentence about what the protagonist must do to resolve the conflict. I know it’s hard to reduce 80,000 words to eight to ten sentences, but you can do it. Nothing kills a reader’s appetite more than a rambling or disjointed description with grammatical errors and typos. Also, be careful not to tell the reader too much about your book in the description. Spoilers aren’t welcome.

3.     If your cover and description motivate the reader to purchase your work, nothing will aggravate him or her more than a poorly formatted book. Out of the last five indie books I’ve read, four of them had major formatting issues. I waded through them because I enjoyed the plot, but if the story had been less than captivating, I would have closed the book and moved on to the next one on my to-be-read list. Like most readers, I am an ebook hoarder. I have dozens of books on my Kindle that are still unopened.

Don’t give the reader a reason to close your book and open another one. Avid readers crave finding a new author to follow. Give the reader a good reason to purchase your next release by offering a work that is appealing.

I’m going to attach links to three sites where you can download pre-formatted templates. I am at an advantage because I have extensive experience using Word for both Mac and Windows. Some people are less acquainted with the word processing program. If there is a function of Word you do not understand, use your internet browser to research the function. For instance, I have to Google how to delete a section break every single time because apparently my brain cannot handle adding that bit of information to my already cluttered mind.

Once you’ve figured it all out, formatted your work, and uploaded it to the distributor, please, please download the proof and make sure the book looks good and reads easy with no major formatting issues before you release it for final distribution.

4.     So you have an eye-catching cover, a compelling description, and a beautifully formatted book. That’s great! But if your book has numerous typos or spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors, your work is going to look anything but professional. Hire a professional editor. Editors come in all variations and price ranges and offer different levels of service. At a minimum, hire a line editor to go through your manuscript checking for obvious errors. Nothing stalls a good read like numerous typos on every page. Yes, I’ve recently read a book with this very problem. Multiple errors every single page. It’s not professional. It makes you look like an amateur. The reader will not purchase your next book unless she is your best friend or your mother.

So there’s the list. I know it’s only four bullets, but four is all you need. This is basic stuff. Having deeply beautiful characterization, amazing style and voice, and compelling plot arcs will not matter one lick if the content is presented poorly. A good story presented well sells better than a great story poorly packaged.

Createspace templates

Kindle template

Smashwords template

Happy writing and even happier publishing!

Please check out my latest release and enter the giveaway below.

Available from


Haunted by a dark mystery in her family’s past...

When Tori Downing takes possession of the abandoned Hamilton estate on the longest peninsula on Lake Jefferson, Arkansas, she avoids revealing her connection to the ill-fated Hamilton family. Is the glowing image that shimmers in the second floor window of Victoria House the ghost of Victoria Hamilton?

Tormented by a scandal she thought she’d left behind...

Until she leaves her career at the Arkansas State Crime Lab behind, she never even considers moving to Lake Jefferson, but the fallout from scandal gives Tori a very good reason to escape to Hill County and refurbish and restore the old family mansion. She settles into her new life...until the old accusations from her past start resurfacing.

Attracted to a man haunted by secrets of his own...

Drawn together to solve the murder of Jared Crenshaw, Tori and Lt. Grayson of the Hill County Sheriff’s Department dive into a tangled web of jealousy, deceit, and revenge as they attempt to solve both crimes, Jared’s death and the mysterious death years ago of Victoria Hamilton. Grayson’s past keeps interfering with his present, causing turmoil in both his professional life and his personal life.

Can their love survive revealing the truth—from both the past and present—surrounding the tragedies at Victoria House?

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