Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts

I wrote my first book in six months.

I didn’t really think this was a big deal until I started promoting my first book BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation. One question I’m asked the most is, “How long did it take you to write and publish your book?” When I tell them that it took 6 months to write the book, 1 month to edit the book and 2 weeks to design the book cover, I’m usually met with a blank stare or a response like, “Oh my goodness. I’ve been writing my book for over 2 years!” I’ve also been asked about how I did it in less than a year. You can read about the approach I took in my last week’s blog, Dream Killers (And How to Overcome Them).

I wanted to focus today’s post on what I learned along the way of independently publishing my first book (to be completely transparent, I’ve only published one book so far; but I refer to it as my first book because I’m currently writing my second one). After doing some research, I knew I didn’t want to publish my first book the traditional way of getting a literary agent who will shop around for a book deal through a publishing company. I didn’t want to submit my manuscript to dozens and dozens of literary agents. I didn’t want to lose any creative control over the content of my manuscript. I didn’t want to wait a year (or more) before my book is published (provided that I could find a literary agent who would represent me). I didn’t dream of becoming a New York Times Bestseller Author, nor did I dream of becoming a millionaire through this book. I simply wanted to write. I wanted to obey God by writing this book that He put on my heart three years ago.

I’ve been writing my whole life. I learned how to read and write Korean when I was four years old. When my family and I moved to the U.S. when I was nine years old, I became fluent in English within a few years. I wrote all throughout my teenage years, and I became an A&E Editor for the college newspaper. I went on to become a Sr. Technical Writer for several Fortune 500 Companies. With my writing background and project management training, I was pretty confident that I could write and publish my book without any issues. I did publish my book independently before my self-imposed deadline, but here are some do’s and don’ts I learned along the way:

DO:
  1. Create an outline.
    I wrote out my chapter numbers and titles and created a preliminary Table of Content.
  2. Write down a timeline, milestones, tasks and resources.
    See last week’s blog.
  3. Write consistently.
    It doesn’t matter if you feel like you have a writer’s block. Write anything and everything. You can edit out irrelevant things later.
  4. Give yourself some “padding” time
    Allot extra time for the tasks in case unforeseen circumstances come up.
  5. Go easy on yourself
    Show yourself some grace if you don’t finish your tasks in the time frame that you had allotted… Because it will happen.
  6. Remove yourself from distractions.
    I did most of my writing at the local library and Panera Bread with ear plugs.
  7. Have a pre-order sale.
    Holding a pre-order sale started the buzz among my friends (and their friends) on social media not to mention some revenue even before the book was even published.
DON’T:
  1. Edit your own manuscript!
    Initially, my husband was supposed to edit my book (he also has a writing and editing background); however, he started his MBA program this year, so I knew that between his full-time job, MBA program and helping lead the Teen Ministry at our church (which I also have the privilege of doing alongside of him), it was unrealistic for me to ask him to edit my book.
    Because I had experience in editing books for other authors (I edited two books last year), I decided to take on this task. It took an entire month of editing over a dozen times (this includes line editing, content editing and copy editing). I printed the entire book three times before I was able to publish it (and even then, I missed one thing, which I have corrected after publication).
    It is one of the most time-consuming part of publishing a book, and I highly recommend that you get another set of eyes to fine-comb through your manuscript. For my second book, I plan to pay an editor to complete this arduous task.
  2. Bypass getting a group of beta readers.
    I got lucky in that my friend and mentor, Lisa Washington, wrote the foreword for my book. She read my book from cover to cover and gave me some great feedback. Lisa is a fellow yoga teacher and author. She is also a celebrity chef (you may have seen her on Food Network), CEO of B’Tyli Natural Skin Therapies, Life Coach, and a Cover Model among many other things. She gave me a lot of feedback on the content of my book, and having her become my beta reader allowed my book to be so much better than I had imagined it would be!
    Beta readers will be able to provide valuable feedback that will elevate the quality of your book content.
  3. Order too many books!
    I had several book events lined up a few months before my book was published, so I went ahead and ordered 600 books! I ended up selling about half within the first month (which is still very good), but the rest are in my garage where I grab a box whenever I go to my next book event (which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it probably want necessary to order so many books since there are many people who have purchased copies straight from the website).
  4. Take not enough books to your book events.
    I always take more books with me than the number of attendees. I’ve had several people buy 3-5 copies to give as gifts.
  5. Expect to sell millions of books within the first month (or the first year)!
    Unless you have a million friends and family, you probably won’t sell as many books as you may think.
  6. Sit around and assume people will buy the book through one post on social media.
    I had a lady who purchased my book after seeing about 15 posts about it. She said she kept forgetting to purchase my book, and she needed that 15th reminder to purchase it.
  7. Try to do this alone.
    Go to writer’s conferences, join Facebook groups, listen to podcasts, and become a part of the #writingcommunity on Twitter. We are all here to encourage, motivate, and lift each other up.

Happy Writing!

With Gratitude,

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3 thoughts on “Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Hi Jheni – I’m a fellow newbie indie author as well and currently working on my second book. I thoroughly enjoy reading about other new authors’ writing journeys (especially when they put God’s direction in the forefront) as I’ve shared mine and continue to do so. I think it helps to encourage others to know they’re not alone in the writing journey. And, many writing experiences that one individual has are shared by many. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ll look forward to keeping up with your journey and successes.

    1. Thank you so much! I’ve been very encouraged by how supportive the writing community is (on-line and off-line), and I love that we all have our own journeys in our writing/authoring process. Congratulations on your first book as well as starting on your second one!
      Thanks again. Your comment means a lot to me!

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