6 books you must read if you are an Indie author (or if you want to become one)

The journey of an independent author is unique. Exhilarating as well as terrifying. The solitary phase of writing, the agonising rounds of editing, the pounding in your chest as you hit the ‘Publish’ button, the daze of initial launch time, the nostalgia, the celebration of crossing a milestone and the despair of not going anywhere, Indies can connect with it all. The greatest help that one can get in these phases is the assurance that they aren’t alone, that the problems they face have already been faced (and solved!) by those who are eager to share their success stories.

Here, I suggest 6 books by 3 authors that could act as a compass while you traverse through this exciting maze. Some of those are such books which I wished I had known about earlier. These aren’t those dreaded self help books filled with superfluous sermons. But they are true accounts of what worked and what did not and why. Scroll down to find out more:

10 Step Self-Publishing BOOT CAMP: The Survival Guide For Launching Your First Novel by S. K. Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn, an author of 40+ novels suggests a step by step method of launching not only your first novel, but your career as a writer. Going through the book, I could feel the author’s resilience build up as she launched a novel after a novel. Her observations about the industry and insights of book buyers are an added advantage to those who are new to the publishing world. I personally disagreed with some of her views on editing those on Social media. But this book brilliantly summarises her learning through out the last five years highlighting the relentless hard work and perseverance she has wielded. One can’t help feeling her pride as an author mother who not only earned enough income to put her three kids through college, but also inspired her sons to take up a writing career, early in life!

I loved the idea of having a five year mission statement as a writer. Also the quote that I would treasure for a long time, “There is no perfect. There is only finished.” Intrigued? Check out the book, clicking on the image below:

5 Steps to Self-Publishing FOR LOVE OR MONEY: Build a Career as a Self-Published Author

Written by the same author, the compendium dispassionately focuses on balancing the passion and career aspects of writing. In Susan, we see a passionate author who seeks to disrupt stereotypes that have built up in the publishing world. But she also sheds light on the brutal truths that many idealists among us would dread to accept. Reading for love or money, helps us reconcile the passionate author in us with the commercial success seeker and mould ourselves into pragmatic career writers. If you are someone who has already launched a book or two and are aware of the basics of the Self Publishing journey, I recommend this a notch more than the book above. Click on the image below:

Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book in ebook and print (Books for Writers 1) by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn does not need an introduction. If Self Publishing were a religion, I am sure she’d be the all powerful Zeus! 😀  If you know the word Indie author, it is almost impossible that you have not heard about Joanna or have seen her in one of the literary meets, bubbling with enthusiasm to share her journey. Her positivism, I admit, is infectious. I could keep pessimism and despair zealously at bay, whenever I read her blog or listen to her podcasts. The book below is something which I wish I had read before I launched my debut novel Abhaya. Nevertheless my learning was acquired ‘hands on’ and I strongly suggest you need not face the hard stops I did. What more? The book below is free!

How To Market A Book: Third Edition (Books for Writers Book 2)

We are all aware about the famous quote that 50% of marketing works. We don’t know which 50%!  In this book, Joanna comes up with another great compendium of all the marketing techniques that an indie author can deploy. It is not just the author’s experience (which is no mean achievement!), but also summarises the best of what one could learn from the galaxy of successful Indie authors. The insights drawn, might be a bit skewed towards the Western markets and Indian Indie authors are advised to make their own conclusions with the local knowledge. But nevertheless a must read, not once but every time you have a book to launch!

Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should: Updated Second Edition (Let’s Get Publishing Book 1) by David Gaughran

Another hard hitting account of the world of publishing by this very successful author of 11 books. This book is more a pitch to Indie authors to digitally publish. While most of us go for a ‘digital first – print next’ model in a bid to test waters, given our budgetary constraints, Let’s get digital  increases an indie author’s confidence about digital publishing. Again, the readers might want to be wary that the information and data shared are largely US-centric.

Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books

This is one of the 6 books, I would again recommend in a stronger tone. While the first book details about the industry dynamics which is crucial, Let’s get Digital details out the way Amazon works, its algorithms, the mistakes that many authors commit and the pitfalls to be wary of. Those wanting to go wide might find the book very Amazon centric though there is a dedicated section about going wide. But I found the book very relevant to Indian Indie authors to who, Amazon is still the most preferred platform. The numbers and data cited to inch into the best seller lists is only relevant to the US store. But the good news is that Indian authors have far lesser numbers to achieve to get into similar top positions in the best seller and popularity lists. Don’t miss this book.

That’s all for now! Have you read a book that could help an Indie author’s career? Do let me know in the comments. 

An Indie author’s wishlist to Amazon [Working post]

(This is a working post and I shall take time to gather inputs, organize them and perhaps frame a petition to Jeff Bezos. If you are an indie author and/or have something that you want to bring to the notice of Amazon, please  feel free to leave a comment below.)

Dear Amazon,

It has been close to six months since my debut novel went live on Amazon. Needless to say, the self-publishing and selling experience has enriched me a lot. You made me feel empowered as an independent author and thank you for being there for me.

In the meantime, from my own experience and also based on my interactions with the indie author community, I realized that there are a lot of things that Amazon could do to make things easier for authors in helping them sell better. An author’s time is better spent in writing. While I believe that authors also need to spend time and efforts on marketing and selling, Amazon can do the following to make the eco-system long lasting.

  1. Give us the intelligence and insights – I would love to know how many landed up on the page of my book from which sources and how many such clicks converted (bought). Also, let me know how many added the book to their wish list. Mostly, people do that as they are waiting for the prices to reduce and that insight helps in my pricing decisions. Another  desirable insight that can be shared with the authors is about Kindle Unlimited. While I get the logic behind the number of pages, it would be great to know how many downloads translated into full reads and how many did not.
  2. Just because the reviewer is my ‘friend’ does not mean that his/her review is paid – Figure out a more intelligent way to weed out dishonest and paid reviews. Spying on social networks isn’t an intelligent way to do so. The only audience for an indie author is his or her social media connections and their word of mouth means a lot. Especially with Kindle and ebooks, it is simpler to figure out whether the said customer has read the book before reviewing it.
  3. Payments – Let me appreciate the monthly payment policy of Amazon as against the quarterly or bi-annual payment system followed by many publishers. But you are also a global firm, so behave like one – I am an Indian author whose book is live on all international portals of Amazon. But apparently, the company can process payments to my Indian Bank account only from those sales through the Indian and US Portals. Effectively, the sales that took place through the UK, French, Italian and Australian portals haven’t translated into payments and they won’t until the minimum amount accumulated in each country portal is 100$/100 GBP. Isn’t that unfair? If processing so many smaller amounts is an issue, is there no middle ground? Say, why can’t the company convert the smaller payments into Coupons that authors can use to buy books from Amazon itself?
  4. Returns Policy (especially the one on ebooks) – This is a problem that I did not personally encounter but many seem to be doing so. Amazon charges the author for ebook delivery to the customer. That eats into the royalty. When a customer returns an ebook, the author loses full money, as well as the delivery costs. Amazon seriously needs a different policy on ebook returns. Amazon has the technological capability to gauge till where the reader has read the book before returning it. (If they can count page reads on Kindle Unlimited, they can do it here too!). Also, 10% of the book is open for the customer to read and make a call before buying. It is rare that someone likes the sample three/four chapters put out and buys the book and then dislikes it. To give a fair chance to both sides, please rethink your returns policy. If a reader has read the full book and still dislikes it, the author can at least get the royalty equivalent to a single full-read on Kindle Unlimited.
  5. You have acquired Goodreads. Now integrate it – Goodreads is a great place to market the books. It offers a great deal of visibility too. In my experience, the ratings there are more honest and spontaneous reviews and ratings. Can Amazon look at integrating the ratings and reviews from Goodreads on the respective pages of the books? All it needs to do is segregate the verified purchases from others. This helps as we don’t have to ‘hound’ the known readers constantly to paste their reviews on both places.

Addressing the wishes I am sure would be to the advantage of authors, readers and Amazon itself. A vibrant ecosystem needs regular upgrades. The tech-gods at Amazon would agree with me.

Cheers and Regards

An Indie Author



Self Publishing at a glance

Thanks to the bubbly Richa Singh and her initiative #Blogchatter  which prodded me to write this post. I am to talk about Self Publishing in #Blogchatter’s Tweet-chat on Self Publishing tonight (8.30 PM IST).

On the process to be followed for Self-publishing our content, it is important to consider the process that traditional publishing houses follow. As much as some Self-published writers scorn their closeted tendencies, there is no denying that these traditional publishing houses have perfected the process of fine honing a manuscript and put a wonderful team together to package it as a great book.

For a better idea of the Publishing process, refer to this wonderful infographic  created by Floris Books. Now, it might look like a daunting process to take care of the multiple decision loops when we embark on a Self-Publishing journey. The good news about Self-publishing is that you, the creator of the content/manuscript make all the decisions. Only if you have your wits together while taking every leap. I gathered my insights and came up with this process chart which I hope would be helpful.Self Publishing process.png

Will try and update this post after tonight’s chat. I shall also keep modifying and be appending the chart and also look at publishing a post gathering various explanatory resources and blogs out there. Meanwhile, do send me your thoughts on where I can add or explain more.