My first young adult novel, Aurora Undefined, has now been available online for a year and what a year its been! In that time, I’ve written and nearly completed a second novel and learned a whole heck of a lot about indie publishing. Don’t let anyone fool you. There are highs and lows to publishing a book by yourself. While I highly recommend going this route especially if you’ve been sitting on a polished manuscript for awhile, it is a serious project to undertake. As I debated the indie route for my second book, I realized this year has taught me a lot about the entire process. Here’s what I’ve learned during my first year as an indie author:

  • For an aspiring author there is nothing more exciting than seeing your book up for sale AND seeing that people are actually reading it. That is totally true for indie publishing and I am sure it is even more amazing to see your book in print!
  • Editing and good editing is crucial. I went through my book editing it very carefully but things still managed to escape my trained eye. I needed to upload several new editions with edits and corrections.
  • It is best to hold off a week or two before just jumping in. Have a plan before you press that publish button. I didn’t and that wasn’t smart.
  • Cover art is crucial. I picked a photo that I took that I loved as the cover of Aurora Undefined, but it really has nothing to do with the book. For this next book I’ve thought the cover art over, consulted with photographers, and skimmed through hundreds of photographs to determine what I want in a cover. And even at that I’m not sure it will be perfect.
  • Blogger outreach is a must. As a fashion and style blogger normally I know all about brands working with bloggers. An indie author needs to act like a brand and begin establishing connections with book bloggers. Those bloggers are the best thing that could happen to your book! They are amazing and talented bloggers, and they help promote your book in ways you could never imagine.
  • If possible, get involved in a blog hop. Aurora Undefined participated in one last summer and it was a great overall experience. I loved the chance to connect to bloggers in this way.
  • Pre-write blog posts for yourself and for other bloggers. Come up with catchy posts that others may be interested in posting to their blogs – plus for a blogger it makes their life that much easier. A pre-written post is sometimes an easy filler for one of their hectic weeks.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. This might seem odd, but for months I was totally mortified to tell people that I had published my first book. I could blog and tweet about it but couldn’t talk about it. But friends want to know and are very supportive when you do share. So, open up.
  • Set an ambitious but realistic timeline. I wanted my next book to be published in March, but I knew May was much more realistic. I tried for March but was ok with May. Sometimes life throws curves. Work with it.
  • Follow trends in your genre but don’t cave to those trends. Aurora Undefined is not really a trendy book in the YA genre. There are no vampires or make-believe places. It’s a story that could really happen, full of heart and life. My next book is more along the fantasy lines but it also has a very realistic vibe. And there are not vampires or werewolves – this time.
  • Read a lot of other indie works. As an indie author I like to support other indie authors. And I like to read what is working in YA literature. I’ve read so many indie titles on my iPhone I’m surprised my battery life is still excellent.
  • Come up with a marketing plan before you publish. My first book was a jump in the water and paddle as fast as you can to stay afloat type of thing. This next one has a plan, an excel spreadsheet, a timeline. It’s flexible but still structured.
  • Format the manuscript for ebook publishing. I’m still struggling with this one. Thank goodness there are so many tutorials on how to do this!! I think it’s the most challenging part of the whole process, but it is so important.


A version of this post first appeared on my book blog.

Katie Hinderer

Katie Hinderer is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism from Marquette University. Over the years she has transitioned from traditional publishing...