FAQs About Becoming an Indie Author

Ever since I made the decision to become a self-published author back in 2017, several acquaintances, family members, and friends have messaged me asking how I got into self-publishing and what they would need to do to get started. Since everyone tends to have similar questions when they message me, I’ve decided to compile all of those questions into this handy-dandy, one-stop post! So, without further ado, let’s cover the basics.

Question 1: Where Do You Publish Your Books?

I feel that I can speak for the majority of indie authors here when I say that the most common place to self-publish books is via Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP for short. Kindle Direct Publishing is a company owned by Amazon that allows authors to upload their own files and distribute their books as eBooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers to Amazon’s storefront, as well as online listings at expanded distribution retailers (ex: Books-A-Million) if you opt in for those.

Click here to learn more about Kindle Direct Publishing from KDP’s website.

Many indie authors have exclusive eBook distribution to Amazon via Amazon’s subscription program called Kindle Unlimited. Authors can enroll in Kindle Unlimited (KU) for 90-day periods, and earn extra royalties for their books based on the number of pages readers read within the month. The catch to Kindle Unlimited is that, while a book is enrolled in the program, the eBook cannot be available at any other eBook retailer, such as Apple Books, Google Play, Nook, etc. While my eBooks are currently available “wide” (more on that in a second) and are not in the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, when I first started self-publishing, I opted into the KU program. I believe it’s a good way to start out if you’re new to publishing and aren’t quite ready to juggle having your books on multiple platforms.

When eBooks are not enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, and are available at various retailers, the eBooks have “wide” distribution. eBooks can either be published directly to vendors like Apple Books, Google Play, Nook, etc., or you can use a third-party distribution company to publish the books to those locations for you. Since 2020, I have been using the third-party distribution company called Draft2Digital as a one-stop shop for publishing eBooks to these vendors, as well as library and subscription services like Scribd, OneDrive, Hoopla, etc.

Click here to read a previous post of mine on Draft2Digital.

Aside from Kindle Direct Publishing, physical books are also commonly published and distributed via Barnes & Noble Press, Draft2Digital, and Ingram Spark, though I do not currently use any of these services for print books at this time in my author career.

Question 2: How Do You Find a Cover Designer?

My situation for cover design is a bit unorthodox, as I’m insanely blessed to have a younger sister who works in graphic design. She has designed all of my book covers so far (minus my debut novel’s original cover) based on idea mock-ups I provide for her. Unfortunately, I can’t convince her to enter the cover design business, so she’s exclusive to my books right now. XD

If my sister wasn’t my cover designer, I would scope out comparable indie authors in my genre, and find out who they hired to design their cover(s). There are a couple ways you can do this.

The easiest way is to use the “Look Inside” feature on their book on Amazon to see if they credited the cover designer in the book’s front matter, or on the copyright page. If they have the cover designer listed, you can often search online for the designer’s name and find their website, where you can then view their portfolio and price list, or contact them for a quote.

Another way is to message indie authors on social media and ask who they hire for their covers, or if they have any recommendations their friends have used.

Question 3: How Do You Find an Editor?

Finding an editor can be done in the same ways I mentioned for finding a cover designer. Indie authors often credit their editors on their book(s)’s copyright page, or on their social media posts when they’re preparing their books for release. My editor is the fabulous Rayleigh Setser of Literature Approved. I have worked with her on the majority of my books, and plan to continue to work with her in the future.

One thing I would like to mention when finding an editor, as well as a cover designer, is to make sure the person you’re hiring is familiar with the genre you write. For example, if you’re publishing a contemporary young adult romance, you may not want to hire someone who has exclusively edited for adult mystery/thrillers, or a cover designer who specializes in urban fantasy covers.

Question 4: How Do I Write a Book?

I know, I know. This one probably should’ve been listed first, but this one has such a long, drawn-out answer that I didn’t want to rant out of the gate. The quick answer is: just write it. 😛 The more helpful answer is a three-parter:

1) Familiarize yourself with the three-act story structure

If you’re not familiar with the thee-act story structure, I highly recommend studying it before attempting to write your first full-length fiction novel. The best resources I have found for learning more about the three-act story structure, as well as intricate details of writing a gripping book, are Abbie Emmons’s YouTube Channel, and Jessica Brody’s book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.

2) Try to outline your book based on the three-act story structure

Though it can be extremely tedious, once you’re familiar with the three-act story structure, try to use it as a template to outline your book ideas. Yes, it’s intimidating. No, it doesn’t get much easier over time. But, if your story has a firm foundation to stand on going in, it’s going to be a lot better than going in blind on your first try.

3) Write consistently

Please note that I didn’t say “write every day”. You don’t have to write every day to finish a book; however, you’ll write the book faster if you develop a writing routine and stay consistent. That way, the story will be fresh in you mind when you sit down to write, whereas if you only write once every couple weeks or so, you may not remember what you’ve already written and will have to re-familiarize yourself with the story before continuing on.

Question 5: When do I need to start marketing my book?

If you’re determined to make a career as an indie author, it’s best to start marketing your book now. You may be in the process of writing your first book, but this is still the best time to start. Why?

Because I learned this lesson the hard way. I decided I wanted to self-publish my debut novel back in fall of 2016. I didn’t create my author social media accounts until February 2017, the same month I released the book. And, because of that, outside of my personal Facebook friends, I launched to an online readership of zero. If I had started marketing as soon as I made the decision to become an indie author the previous fall, I would have built up at least a few more blog and social media followers than that.

The moral of the story is it’s always best to start blogging and posting on social media in advance of your book’s release, so that by the time your book is published, there will be a potential audience for it.

Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

If you’re an indie author who gets asked some of these same questions, feel free to share this post’s link, or comment below with additional tips about indie publishing. If you’re an aspiring indie author, welcome to the community, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes you!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. 

One thought on “FAQs About Becoming an Indie Author

  1. This is great! I will definitely remember this post for when people ask me questions (because you’re so right that everybody is curious and there are some predictable FAQs).


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