Whether you’re traditionally published or going it alone, you know there’s more to writing than putting words on a page. Author Kay Stockham discusses her transition from traditional publishing to indie.
Writing. Editing. Formatting. Cover design. Uploading. Proofing. Tweaking. Re-uploading. Promotion. Reader relations. Writing…. Do YOU have what it takes to be an indie author?
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a happy author after eight years of dwindling numbers, low royalties and some really questionable covers from my traditional publisher, but the world of indie publishing was foreign to me. Still, I wanted more.
I did my research. I went to workshops. I read blogs. I made schedules and crunched numbers, and spent some time trying to refill the well that had run dry after years of having my nose to the grindstone. Once I deemed myself as ready as I’d ever be, I began writing in spurts, the fear of finishing the book becoming an issue for the first time since it meant I had to put all of my newfound skills and dreams and goals to the test and out there for the world to read. Was I ready?
No. But I jumped in the deep end anyway.
Three years later I’m still indie publishing. Am I making mad stacks of money? That would be a resounding NO. Unlike some indie authors who are seeing six and even seven figures, my sales are poking along at snail speed, gradually increasing as I put up new product. But I know who I am as an indie author, because I have access to my sales numbers and all the stats I care to keep track of. Yet another of the things indie’s must do.
I also realized something else… I hadn’t been satisfied with my writing for a while, even with my first indies, but I’m the stubborn type who doesn’t like to quit. I had built a readership and I didn’t want to do anything to mess it up. But I had another change I needed to make.
What does any of this have to do with being an indie author? Well, for one, I didn’t have an agent or editor, publisher, telling me what I could or couldn’t write. In this case, switching genres wasn’t an issue because indie authors work for themselves. I could do whatever I was led to do because I wasn’t bound by a contract demanding I write X number of books.
I had knowingly signed away rights to my early novels and since published only a handful of indie books. But those books? I could do whatever I wanted with them—including drastically retooling them for Christian/sweet contemporary romance fiction, a genre more appealing to me, and the new direction I wanted to take.
Due to a series of family emergencies, I had to take a break from writing in 2013 and 2014. It seemed as though everything that could keep me from my new direction happened, one issue after another. And trust me when I say very few of the distractions were good.
Throughout that crazy time I was grateful for not being under contract with a deadline breathing down my neck. Yes, my writing time suffered as I dealt with life, but I can’t imagine having to hit a deadline during those dark days. My head wasn’t in writing new content, either, so I focused on editing the last series I had published. I figure if nothing else, rewriting was writing, and it would help me keep my head in the game until I could return to writing full-time.
But, I kept learning, studying, and slowly making a plan. Thanks to taking a workshop by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I had a great foundation on which to build. I had learned the basics of formatting and designing book covers, and I was fairly decent at it. So I dug out my notes and began to redesign, rebrand, rewrite, and retool myself as an author.
It’s okay if you think I’m a control freak or a glutton for punishment. I’m not. Really. There are a lot of publishing services available for authors now, and if you have no interest in the process of indie publishing, those are definitely routes to look into.
Just be prepared to pay—a lot. Prices have come down due to competition, but editing can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand plus.
Formatting? The cost depends on the length of the work as well as how fancy you want the layout to be.
Cover design… well, that’s another expense that can range anywhere from $50 for a fairly blah pre-made cover to thousands.
For someone starting over on a shoestring budget—and who is a serious bargain shopper—I wasn’t willing to pay those prices which meant doing it myself.
Thanks to Dean’s class (which I HIGHLY recommend because they’re worth every penny), I use InDesign to create covers. This is something you can learn on your own via a tech book, but if you’re like me, I have to see something in order to fully grasp it.
There are a multitude of sites selling photos, just READ THE FINE PRINT and follow copyright instructions to the letter. Don’t understand copyright? Get a book and study it.
My favorite image site is Deposit Photos, but Deviant Art has some phenomenal fantasy type images as well. Finding an image to suit your needs can be a time suck, so don’t be surprised if a quick look turns into several hours.
Once you have a photo the next step becomes figuring out colors and design. I purchased a color wheel from JoAnn Fabrics so I can visualize what colors work well. I also studied covers on Amazon, both the bad and good. Look at cover photos, blurbs (another thing an indie must write themselves), colors, layouts, fonts, the size of the titles and names. Basically, look at everything!
Creating covers takes practice, patience, and time—something writers never have enough of. But when your budget is tight and you have kids (teenagers) at home, you learn to DIY, right?
Editing. This is the one thing I hire out. Do NOT edit your own work. Just don’t. Having read it so many times, your brain will read what you think should be on the page, rather than what usually is. Save up the money and PAY for professional editing. Yes, I have an editor I use all the time and highly recommend, but she isn’t taking on new clients at the moment. If you’re looking for an editor, ask around. Good editors are worth their weight in gold. Some have a wait list so after getting a sample of their editing style and establishing a price, you might want to sign up and get on their radar.
Formatting. Some say formatting is the hardest part. Once you know what you’re doing, I promise you it is quite easy. I use InDesign for this as well (learned from Dean’s class), and on the flight home to Ohio, I formatted two and a half novels— Which basically paid for the cost of the class itself if I would’ve had to hire it done.
I like to keep things simple, which means in no time at all, I have a formatted book ready to upload.
Uploading. I am not a techie. My husband and son laugh at my attempts to perform certain tasks. That said, I can do this. And if I can do it, I guarantee you, you can too. Just set up an account at Amazon, Createspace, etc. and follow the guided instructions. And if you still have trouble—go to Draft2Digital.com. I’ll be honest, I gave up on trying to get iBooks/Apple to accept my books. I tried. I really did. In the end I decided to use D2D because my time was better spent elsewhere. Again, just make an account and follow the steps. When you get to the end of the process you can pick the bookstores you want D2D to upload for you. I upload most on my own, but D2D handles my iBooks because I haven’t had the patience to tackle their system again.
Promotion/Reader relations. Some say promote, promote, promote. Some say write and upload new content as quickly as you can.
Me? I say find a happy medium. Don’t like to promote? Focus on uploading quality content as often as possible. Like to promote? Go right ahead. Just don’t let it interfere with your writing time.
I don’t promote a lot. It’s not something I enjoy, and my sales pitch is sorely lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I post to my personal FB page every day, and to my Kay Lyons Stockham Author page a couple times a week. Sometimes not even that much. With FB’s new policies of requiring writers and businesses to pay to boost who sees the post, I don’t see it as a money-maker but a time suck I can’t afford.
So, what I do enjoy? I stalk Pinterest because I loooove to pin and while I’m there, I toss my books and contests into the mix of pins. I create character inspiration boards, series boards, and whatever catches my fancy.
Other things I enjoy are traveling and meeting readers. There are numerous reader events around the country. Look online, search FB, Google etc. Now that things have hopefully calmed here, I’m looking forward to traveling more. Readers are the best source of promotion you can have because if they like a book they’ll tell their family, friends, neighbors, post online, write reviews and join street teams (which I don’t have but wish I did).
As an indie author, it’s hard to keep up with the demands placed on us. My advice is to delegate what you can and schedule times throughout the day where you focus on a task and get it done.
The important thing for an indie author to remember is that you are your own boss and publisher. It’s a job, so treat it like one. Invest in yourself and your business. Take classes and workshops to learn why indies prefer to be called indies instead of self-published. Sign up for online groups and learn from the posts. Maybe your first indie book will be a bestseller, or maybe, after you’ve uploaded ten books and had lackluster sales, the eleventh will take off and bring the first ten of your backlist along for the ride. Indie authors have to be prepared for whatever gets thrown their way.
I’m not going to lie and say being an indie author is easy. There are no publisher parties to look forward to and dress up for, and definitely no advances. It’s a job that demands hard work, dedication, and just the right amount craziness to get things done—but it’s one I love and think is well worth the effort. Go indies!
Are you indie publishing? Have you thought about becoming an indie author?
NOT BY SIGHT – (May 2015)
Can you love someone and still be free?
Emma Wyatt agrees to tutor a recently blinded, embittered soldier because of the $50,000 paycheck his brother offers. The job is an answer to many prayers. Blind herself, Emma dreams of independence and freedom away from her overprotective family. Tutoring Ian in all things “blind” isn’t easy, especially when the biggest challenge is helping him remember to walk by faith.
Protect someone you cannot see?
Good soldiers show no weakness. Ian MacGregor holds his battle with claustrophobia close to his chest, unsuccessfully trying to cope on his own, too angry with God to seek comfort. Ian knows duty, honor, serving his country. So why is he being punished with this very personalized hell?
As Ian struggles to strongarm his phobia, his growing feelings for Emma are overshadowed by the danger lurking around them. Emma would be better off with someone else.
Someone able to protect her from the person determined to keep them apart…
NOT BY SIGHT, the first book in Kay’s Stone River series, released on May 18, and will be followed in June with THROUGH THE VALLEY, and in July with LEAD ME NOT. In September look for THY WILL BE DONE, MERCIES RENEWED (October) and CHRISTMAS IN STONE RIVER (November). Also, please sign up for her newsletter and participate in Kay’s contest where she will be giving away an autographed copy of NOT BY SIGHT, as well as a journaling Bible, Micropens, and other faith journaling supplies to get you started on a wonderful way to journal and learn scripture.
Bio: Kay Lyons Stockham always wanted to be a writer, ever since the age of seven or eight when she copied the pictures out of a Charlie Brown book and rewrote the story because she didn’t like the plot. Through the years her stories have changed but one characteristic stayed true—they were all romances. Each and every one of her manuscripts included a love story.
Published in 2005 with Harlequin Enterprises, Kay’s first secular romance hit #7 on the bestseller list. Kay has also been a HOLT Medallion, Book Buyers Best and RITA Award nominee with approximately twenty books published in the general fiction market.
In 2014, Kay lost her beloved father—true hero material—at the age of 85. In the months before and after his death life continued to throw some pretty radical curve balls, leaving Kay struggling to find her creativity and relying heavily on her faith to see her through the valleys. Reading the Bible brought comfort and in the fall of 2014, Kay rededicated her life to Christ. Her goals changed and her desire to be a source of light and encouragement to her family, her church, and her readers, stirred the creativity within her to use her God-given talent to spread His word.
To distinguish her secular books from her inspirational novels, Kay took on her maiden name in honor of her father and the inspiration he was as a loving husband of 60 years, a dedicated father, and most importantly, a man of faith.
Look for more inspirational books from Kay Lyons Stockham in the future. For more information regarding her work, please visit Kay’s website, “like” her Kay Lyons Stockham Reader Page on Facebook, or follow on Pinterest and Twitter .
What’s next? Heatherly Bell presents: Going Undercover with Deep POV on Wednesday, May 27th.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule May 25-29
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for June 27-July 1: Two Panels of Category Authors Plus Dianne Castell
- Category Romance: Ask the Authors, Day 1
- Writing the Inspirational Historical: How Much is Too Much – Ruth Kaufman
- THE CALL by Adrienne Giordano