Indie Publishing

**Originally posted on July 19th, 2013.

By Hallee Bridgeman

I realize that I am an odd duck in many ways. I am not driven by any kind of bottom line. As an author, I do not want to sell a million books. I want to sell just one book — or better yet, give it away. If the gospel message that I have packaged in those pages brings even one soul to Christ, then I have fulfilled my life’s purpose and that is what motivates me every time I type. It is a struggle, I think, for anyone who takes on the mantle of “Christian artist” to never measure success by the world’s yardstick but rather by the world’s RULER. I struggle with that but so far with God’s help, I have been victorious. So, while it may seem odd, writing and publishing is my vocation, and my mission, and not my secular occupation. For me, it is a calling.

We aren’t too far away from the days when self-publishing, or publishing through small “novelty press” also often referred to in a derogatory way as a “vanity press,” had an incredibly negative stigma in the publishing industry.  Despite the strides made otherwise, it still carries a lot of negative connotations with it, as if this were 1985 and someone self publishing would have to shell out thousands of dollars in order to hold a physical copy of their book in their own hands.

Up until about eighteen months ago, the only self published books I’d ever read were absolutely dreadful. They were poorly edited, poorly formatted, the covers were plain and unattractive, and the stories were badly told.  My thought upon reading them was, “Well, no wonder this person can’t get published.”

However, times are rapidly changing.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer (22 Feb 1788 – 21 Sep 1860)

I’ve heard the publishing industry described as “the Wild West” right now, and no one really knows what the full outcome is going to end up being. So many media outlets claim that the publishing industry is “in turmoil” and they point to hundreds of brick-and-mortar bookstores across North America closing their doors and mergers of hundreds of traditional publishing houses transforming into a few large multinational corporations.

It really isn’t in turmoil or vanishing. Rather the publishing industry is presently in the throes of revolution. Recently, we have witnessed the availability of internet news outlets with RSS feeds and E-mail revolutionize the large scale consumption of daily printed newspapers. We have witnessed MP3 players revolutionize the music industry in recent years making terms like “broken record” as anachronistic as “ticker tape parade.” It is not a new phenomenon. Recall that the printing press itself once revolutionized the way all modern human beings transcribe and consume information.

In just the last four years, there has been a massive shift in the way book buying and selling works.  Last year, for the first time in human history, the world’s largest bookseller (Amazon) sold more eBooks than traditionally printed paper books — and by a very wide margin.

Traditional publishers and professional organizations — and this includes mainstream Christian publishers and Christian artist and author professional organizations — have by and large been very reluctant to even recognize the emerging paradigm, much less embrace it. Sadly, many have ridiculed or violently opposed it instead. Historically, this has never proven fruitful for the cause of the gospel message. I refer to the ridicule and violent opposition Martin Luther endured in his mission to bring the Bible itself to the public in a language the public could actually consume.

In this emerging paradigm, in the midst of this revolution, I was led to independent (or “Indie”) publishing. I found it a perfect match for my writing career for a number of reasons:

(1) Mainstream Christian publishers, for the most part, tend to want “safe” stories, and their readers tend to want “safe” reads.  Fair enough.  Some standards among a very large Christian romance publisher are:  stories may not include alcohol consumption, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, Halloween celebrations or magic. Lying is also problematic, physical interactions (i.e., kissing, hugging) should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire or sensuality, avoid any mention of nudity, etc.

(2) I write Christian romances and Christian suspense.  However, unlike much of the mainstream Christian Fiction, I write realistic characters (all of them, not just a select few characters), with flaws, with sins in their past, with a sinful nature of tempted flesh in their daily walk, and with a desperate need for grace and redemption in their present. The settings are contemporary. The struggles they face and the problems they encounter are big and serious, hardly ever “safe.” I prayerfully strive to use scripture and prayer appropriately.

NOTE: One major Christian publisher wrote me and told me that she personally LOVED my book, Sapphire Ice, but she couldn’t publish it because her customers would find it too risqué for their tastes because of one scene.  My research indicated that would almost certainly be the case with any Christian publisher.

(3) I am a prolific writer.  Between March 2012 and June 2013, I released five complete novels, two different box sets, an anthology, and a cookbook.  I would have no patience for a publisher and the time it takes to follow the road of traditional publication.  I would lose patience with waiting months and months between releases.

(4) I get to make all the decisions about titles (ugh, my last title took me MONTHS of candidates before the final decision), cover art, branding, marketing, and deadlines.  I don’t need to have any of these things approved or revised or dictated by any third party individuals or committees. In the end, the decision and the responsibility is mine.

(5) I realize that, just as missionaries and evangelists throughout history have done, I operate under a stigma in this field.  So many reviews I get, from readers and NOT professionals within the industry, praise the editing and formatting of my books.  That tells me that the vast majority of ebooks, whether independently published, small press, or large press, are simply not well formatted, and I know many indie published books aren’t well edited.

hlcs.org

I have the benefit of a husband who supports my writing in every single facet of it.  He founded Olivia Kimbrell Press and I know that the mission of that press will grow to include more voices who share my writing mission. My husband and I are one. We pray together before embarking on any project. He edits my work, and is as skilled as any professional editor.  He formats my work and has learned everything he can about formatting eBooks AND print books.  The end result is a book that is published and distributed by an indie press of such high professional quality that it meets or exceeds the caliber

of anything a traditional publisher can produce.

Indie publishing completely suited me.

But, I had a massive mountain to climb with it, too.  I had to learn the publishing industry.  I had to discover what publications to read, how to glean information from them, and what to take away from them.  It wasn’t easy because it was all brand new to me.

I had to develop a fan base — and that took almost a full year.  I published my first book in March 2012, and February 2013 all (at the time) four of my books made it into Amazon’s Top 100 for Christian Romances for the first time.  That took a tremendous amount of social media and networking work on my behalf, because I didn’t publish through a publisher who already had a large customer base.

Along the way I had to actually battle just to gain acceptance and credibility in my chosen mission field.  Until just a few weeks ago, even the American Christian Fiction Writers considered self publishing a short-cut to “actual” publishing.  They have (wonderfully so) recently changed that wording on their website.

The writing and publishing were the easy part.  Suddenly, my life was consumed with marketing and networking, and my writing time was slashed in half.  That is simply the life of an indie published author.  But today, now that I have a good base built, I am able to pull back from it slightly and focus on writing again, letting the writing time outweigh the marketing time.

It has been a tremendous path, and one that I would gladly take again.  And, honestly, after delving deeply into the publishing world, reading all that I can about publishing news and industry information, I would not choose to publish traditionally, especially now that I have a choice.

Click to tweet: Indie publishing completely suited me.  But, I had a massive mountain to climb with it, too.  I had to learn the #publishing industry…what publications to read, how to glean information from them…what to take away from them. #IndieAuthor 


You can learn more about Hallee and her books at  http://www.halleebridgeman.com/ 

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Indie Authoring – With Help

byquill Shirley Crowder

Indie Authors Gail Johnson and Carlton Hughes are our special guests today.

From whom did your love of books (reading and writing) and storytelling come?
GAIL: My love for reading came from my mom. Writing and storytelling is, I believe, a gift from God. In the past when I couldn’t speak about my emotions, I could always write about them.
CARLTON: My parents and grandparents encouraged me to read and to tell my stories. My big extended family loves to tell stories, so it was natural. I had an English and Journalism teacher who stayed with me from 8th grade through freshman college composition, and I credit him with my love of writing and my knowledge of the mechanics.

What advice do you have for people who “think” they want to become a writer?
GAIL: Writing is labor-intensive and time-consuming. To become a better writer, one must study the craft. To do that takes discipline and commitment. But the rewards are well worth the sacrifice when you know you’re fulfilling your purpose.
CARLTON: Learn the “mechanics” before you do anything. Know grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. Get some instruction on your particular area (fiction, nonfiction, devotionals, etc.). Conferences are great and have helped me immensely, but there are great resources online. Polish, polish, polish that piece before you send it out.

During the process of being published, what did you learn that changed (will change) the way you work on and write future books?
GAIL: I learned to enjoy the journey and to view my mistakes as stepping stones. I’m learning, and I hope I never get too old not to take a chance. How boring life would be!
CARLTON: I didn’t understand how to work with an editor, and I learned how to self-edit, how to keep the main point of the piece while cutting unnecessary words.

What are some advantages of being an Indie Author?
GAIL: Time … gives me the needed breaks for rest and recuperation on the bad days.
CARLTON: A bit more freedom in what you write and your writing/publishing schedule.
Implied by both is that Indie Authors have more control over what they write, when they write, and all other aspects of the writing/publishing process.

Does being a Christ-follower limit or increase your writing opportunities?
GAIL: Being a Christ-follower limits my writing opportunities because there are some subjects or scenes I refuse to write. On the other hand, my writing opportunities are also increased for the same reason. Who better to share the Gospel than one who has experienced it first-hand?
CARLTON: I have always said if God gives me opportunity I will take it and do the writing, so I think it increases my opportunities. Without Christ I would not have the publications I have had.

Name some author friends and how they have encouraged you to become a better writer.
GAIL:

  • Sandra Byrd—I spent two years under her expert tutelage in the Christian Writer’s Guild. She was a substantive editor for my memoir.
  • Dawn Kinzer—Because of her encouragement as a copy editor for my memoir, I don’t see the editing process as something to be dreaded.
  • Betty Thomason Owens—My critique leader. I love her teaching style that has a way of getting the very best from you as a writer.

CARLTON:

  • Sandra Aldrich—The first person who believed in me and encouraged me to submit my writing.
  • Jan Watson—Encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to share about life in Eastern Kentucky. She proved to me that you can be a “bi-vocational” writer.
  • Cyle Young—My agent was the first person in the industry who “got me” and my style of writing. He pushes me to be my best and to learn the industry.

If you were to write under a pseudonym, what would your pseudonym be?
GAIL: Ooh, I had to think about this one. I’m not sure about the last name, but the first name would be Hope. Everything I write has a thread of hope woven into it.

CARLTON: C. Wayne. Wayne is my middle name, and some of my family members still call me that.

Click to Tweet: Indie Authors have more control over what they write, when they write, and all other aspects of the writing/publishing process. #IndieAuthors #AmWriting


Gail Johnson head shot 10Gail Johnson
Born and raised in Georgia, Gail is the daughter of the South. For me, it gets no better than southern living. It’s a laid-back easy-going kinda life. I’m married to the man of my dreams, and we have two beautiful kids. Most days you can find me writing or sitting in my backyard thinking about writing.

Website: https://gailjohnsonauthor.com
Twitter: @GailJohnson87
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gailjohnsonauthor

Get Gail’s book, Treasures of Hope at: https://amzn.to/2OKHF87


CarltonCarlton Hughes
I am a professor of communication at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and Children’s Pastor at Lynch Church of God. I’m also a freelance writer who has been published in numerous publications, including several devotional books. (He’s a comedian too, !)

Twitter: @carltonwhughes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carlton.hughes.73?ref=br_rs
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlton-hughes-03442564/

What’s the Best Way for an Indie Author to Promote Their Book?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Maybe we should start with why authors want to sell their books.

Don’t give me that blank stare. I know it seems like a given but many writers go to all the trouble to put a book together then only do a little marketing. Either they are fearful of what people will think or they lack the skills to market, or maybe they wonder if they even should laud the praises of their own work.

Authors should not skimp on marketing.

If a person goes to the trouble of completing a book and then publishing it, whether traditional or Indie, it seems they should get it in front of readers. And at least that gives people a chance to decide whether they want to read it or not.  

Now that the why is settled, let’s look at what ways are best. Here are some positive steps to take in the promotion of your work:

  • Start by building a blog or website or having one built for you. You need a landing page for your readers to find you. Yes, it’s good to create an author page on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other places but make sure if a reader Googles your name, they can find you.
  • Email list. You need to have an email list of your readers and potential readers so you can reach them with news. Not spam them with constant bombardment. My favorite way to accomplish this is with my email newsletter. And people love presents so be sure to include a gift for the sign-up: a recipe, chapter of a book, short story, etc.  (You can subscribe to mine here for an example plus get a gift of ten of my favorite recipes. 😊Just look for the pop-up.)
  • Social media. There are all kinds of social media you can market your book through. I’d pick two or three and build a presence. Remember to build relationships with people and your books will sell. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as my main three. Experiement and find what works for you.
  • Speaking/book signings. You’ll want to have a few events to allow the people in your area or areas you’re visiting to meet with the author. You can arrange to speak at a church, social club, library, or school. Make sure to set up a book table and sign books. Also have something set up to show people how to order the e-book if they’d rather read on the Kindle or Nook. Book stores are great places to have a book signing since your potential readers are already there.

Here’s our own Betty Thomason Owens at a book signing.

I also have four tips to speed up marketing:

    1. Be reliable and ready. Set up a pattern in the beginning and keep your name out there. You want people to know that you’re serious.
    2. Book links. Make sure you have book links on your blog/website, all social media, your signature in emails, and any guest posting you may do. If someone is curious, you want them to have a link to click on.
    3. Everyone loves a sale. I once bought a mystery e-book for 99 cents and liked it so much that I paid regular price for the next five just to see what happened. It really works.
    4. And finally, the most important tip of all: The Golden Rule. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT) Be good to people. Sow seeds of kindness and I believe at some point you will reap a return. Build a network with other authors and promote them the way you would like to be promoted. It will bring a positive investment before it’s all over and you’re sure to make some lifelong friends.

Start today to put some of these principles in practice. Find what works best for you, then be consistent. The readers are out there and waiting for the next author to follow.

Show them where you are.


Writing Prompt: Jillian reached into the mail box and snatched the book-shaped package, clutching it tightly as she ran toward the house. She’d finally get to see…

Click to tweet: What’s the best way for an Indie author to promote their book? You might be surprised. #marketing #IndieAuthors

Indie Publishing: My Journey

By Gail Johnson

If you google indie publishing, you’ll find umpteen dozen sites offering advice on how to publish your book. There, you’ll also find an opinion on why, where, and when to do it. Believe me!

Warning: You can spend years obtaining endless trails of information, or you can write a book and publish that puppy. One thing is certain, you’ll have to make your own decision on what is the best technique for you.

TreasuresofHopeFrontFinalIn 2017, I published my memoir, Treasures of Hope: Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past. In this article I will share a little of the process and some surprises I encountered through that experience. Note: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert, so I’ve added links for you to discover your own path. Let’s get started.

Write

The first step is obvious. Write your story.

Editing

The second step should be obvious. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. The more eyes you have on your story the better to catch those mistakes. Hire an editor. Apply those edits. I hired a developmental editor and a copy editor. It was one of the best decisions I made during my journey.

Formatting

Some writers hire formatters while others do their own formatting. I did a little of both. For the print book, I used a template by Book Design Templates. For my e-book, I hired a formatter. The reason for that was I ran into problems on the e-book that neither the template techs nor Amazon techs could figure out. As weeks turned into months, I chose to hire someone to do the e-book. (I would like to add, a friend used Book Design Templates for her historical novel and had no problems.) I still recommend the templates.

Covers

You can order e-book covers any time during the writing process. But a print book cover must have several elements in place before ordering. Formatting your book will give you the needed page number to determine the width of your spine. No guessing. The page number must be exact.

By now, you should have the title and an idea what you’d like the front of your book to look like. To choose your photo you can visit the following sites. You can either choose a free photo or you can buy one. The main thing is to make sure you get the rights to the photograph. The following sites were suggested to me.

Bigstockphoto.com
Depositphotos.com
Unsplash.com
Shutterstock.com
Fotolia.com
Istockphoto.com
Dreamstime.com
Peopleimages.com

Another thing you will need for your cover is a blurb. A blurb is a description of your story printed on the back of your book. Psst. I had someone to help me write mine. You will also need an author picture and bio.

The last thing to think about for your print cover is the ISBN number. Some authors buy their own while others use a free CreateSpace ISBN. Read more here.

Now you are ready to order your cover or make your own if you so choose. I’m not that creative. I hired a cover designer.

Categories and Keywords

While you wait on the cover, think about your categories and keywords you’ll use once you’ve uploaded your manuscript. Categories describe the genre while keywords are the words you think people will use when searching for your book.

For instance, my book is a memoir, but it can be, and has been, used as a devotional and a study guide. So, three out of the seven keywords were memoir, devotional, and study guide.

Publishing

This part of the journey was a surprise to me. When my covers arrived in my inbox, the e-book was a jpeg, and the print copy was a pdf. Who knew? Next, I visited my friendly neighborhood publisher, such as KDP, CreateSpace, BN, IngramSpark. Again everyone has their opinions.

As with every new project, we may feel apprehension in the doing. I did! So, let me encourage you. It isn’t as hard as you think. Once you create your account, you’ll be taken to a dashboard that will lead you through the entire process. Just follow the direction and you’ll do fine. And if you run into any problems, contact the publisher. I had no problems getting my questions answered.

After uploading a pdf of your cover and manuscript to CreateSpace, they will review, print, and snail mail you a copy of your book. You will need to proof it. If you find a problem, correct it, and reorder. They will send you another proof. When you are satisfied with the result, you are ready to share your story with the world.

So there you have some of the interesting things I learned while publishing my book. If you’re an indie, what things would you add? If you published your book, what were the surprises in your journey to publication?

Click to Tweet: “So there you have some of the interesting things I learned on my publishing journey.” @GailJohnson87 for @InspiredPrompt #indie #author

Writing Prompt: Today, make a plan and add a date to publish your book.

Indie Publishing: Here to Stay

By Jennifer Hallmark

Wow. We’ve had so many good posts this month concerning Indie publishing that I dislike seeing it come to an end.  In case you missed any, here’s a quick review…

Betty Thomason Owens started our month on July 3rd by discussing her own road to Indie publication with her fantasy novels: A Month of Indie Publishing.

On July 7th and July 11th, Susan Neal shared not only how she Indie published her book but how she took it to a number one Amazon ranking: Make Your Dream Come True and Self Publish Your Book, and How to Obtain an Amazon Best-Selling Ranking.

July 10th rolled around and Gail Johnson pointed us to some good ideas while Trekking the Indie Route.

On July 14th, Tammy trail asked an important question, “Is There Room for Indie Publishing?

Harriet Michael “Declared Her Independence” on July 17th with her Indie publishing journey.

On July 21st, I interviewed Hallee Bridgeman, an “Indie Author Extraordinaire”, who shared how she sold over half a million books.

Sherrie Giddens wrote a guest post titled “Take the Steps to Self-Publish Your Books” on July 24th of how she Indie published her books.

And Betty Boyd ended our month with an interview with blogger, author, and life coach Nancy Colasurdo and her Indie published memoir.

As you read each of these articles, I believe you’ll understand why Indie publishing is here to stay. The reasons behind the decision may vary but each person seemed happy with the results.

Next month, we’re taking a totally different road and discussing favorite books of the Bible. Don’t miss it!

Click to tweet: Indie publishing is here to stay. #IndiePub #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Bob stood facing Lil, hands on his hips. “Why would anyone want to read your memoir? And who’ll publish it?”

Lil snorted. “Haven’t you ever heard the word Indie?”