Indie publishing has changed the landscape of writing for authors today. With the click of a button, one can now get their work in the hands of readers in mere hours—the time it takes for a book to go live on Amazon.
But just because one can, doesn’t mean one should—not without a proper course of action to ensure a professional book is being shared. Here’s a quick checklist of things to make sure you’ve completed before hitting that “publish” button, both to protect your work, your author reputation, and your readers’ wallets:
1) Write a proper copyright page/decide to offer it under a Creative Commons License
Many things that new writers worry about (and really don’t need to) is whether their work will be stolen. Firstly, the chances of that happening are incredibly slim. And secondly, what many newbies don’t know is that the second something is written by you, it is copyrighted to you, regardless of its registration at an office. As an indie author be sure to write a proper copyright page at the beginning of your manuscript, and you’re protected.
The other option is whether you want to share something under a Creative Commons License, which essentially states that others can share your work as long as they follow certain stipulations (giving you credit, for one). This is especially effective if you want to encourage fan fiction or others’ creativity with your ideas. Check out Creative Commons for more info.
2. Have it properly edited.
A family member reading through your book does not count—you want a professional’s critical eye dissecting your manuscript before publication. I’ll use Midnight Publishing’s services as an example, because, well—that’s what we do! A professional edit would include:
-Looking for purple prose (wordiness, words that aren’t flowing, etc.).
-Pointing out repeated words, character tendencies (they might “smile” or “nod” a lot, etc.).
-Fixing grammatical, spacing and indentation errors.
-Following correct stylistic rules (AP Style or Chicago Manual are the most common).
-Giving feedback on character arcs, plot holes, etc. with suggestions on how to improve.
You can only read a manuscript so many times before your brain starts glossing over errors—a professional second set of eyes will prevent mistakes from passing through to the “published” phase.
3. Format it correctly.
Nowadays, most websites that allow you to upload a manuscript will accept Microsoft Word documents (though Smashwords prefers a very particular format to the file—have fun reading the 90-page Smashwords “style guide” before submitting; I nearly tore my eyeballs out trying to offer my short story through the site).
Once you upload the file, Amazon and others will give you a chance to “preview” the document before completion. If you’re a technology novice like me, that means that a lot of weird spacing and incorrect page breaks will ensue that need adjusting.
You’ll also want MOBI (for Kindle) and ePub (for everything else) files of your e-book for various purposes. There are free software programs like Sigil that offer the ability to do this, but definitely have a learning curve. My suggestion is to hire a professional formatter to receive three files of your book: a PDF for paperbacks/e-book (Amazon, CreateSpace, Ingram, etc.), a MOBI file and an ePub file. I highly recommend Crenel Publishing, the affordable and extremely talented company I used for “The Charismatics.”
Professional formatting ensures that your book looks amazing while saving you a lot of headaches. Invest in it.
4. Decide on distribution.
There are several channels of distribution to offer your book with. You must decide whether you want to provide it through all channels (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Wattpad, Goodreads, etc.), some of them, or go with Amazon’s Kindle Select program. Research how to reach your audience, how much of your book (if not all of it) you want to share for free, and be knowledgeable about royalty payments. Also make sure that you fully understand the Kindle Select program—it is exclusivity-based, so if you are offering your e-book for free on your website (or anywhere else) and Amazon finds out, there can be serious consequences.
5. Provide readers with information on how to find you
Before you publish, make sure that readers know where to find you! Encourage them to visit your website, subscribe to your newsletter, tell them about yourself, and include links of your other work. As an indie author, a huge part of finding a readership is networking—and to do this, ensure that readers have an easy time finding out how they can support your writing. If you really want to forge a connection, include a nice, professional photo of yourself; people identify with faces much more than they do simply a bio on a page.