Sep 22, 2012

Indie Publishing - what you need to know

Make sure you have a critical eye review your work before you self-publish
The Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) put on a lot of great workshops and seminars, and today I attended 'Going Indie' hosted by a panel of experienced authors on the industry of self-pubblishing.

This was a great talk and there were a lot of tips, opportunities and concerns about the indie publishing industry raised. The speaker panel was made up with Sally Collings, author/editor/publisher, Graham Nunn, poet & blogger and Alan Baxter, author & karate instructor. There was a lot covered, but here's a short overview of the main points I picked up:

  • Indie publishing, generally means independent of big business.
  • The term self-publishing is not representative of the output professional writers produce. There is nothing 'self' about this process, the title suggests going it solo. I have to agree here. I fumbled through producing my own e-book, when I published the Australian edition of the paperback of My Zombie Dog, I utilised professional editors, graphic artists and printers. I consider Book Cover Cafe to be my go to team for the production of my books.
  • Indie publishing can offer a faster turn around time from manuscript to printed book. This does not mean the author should rush the process. It's tempting to get your work out there quickly, but quality is more important than speed.
  • Quality also costs. Think of your book as a start up business, you'll need capital. This is why some authors will persist with the traditional route, it is a relief to have someone else fund your idea, but then they will own a big chunk of your asset. The alternative is paying a professional team to assist you putting together your product and you pay for the printing. This does mean your share of the return will be higher.
  • Choose an editor you can trust and believe in. 
  • You are your own gatekeeper now. Just because you don't have a publishing house rejecting your work, doesn't mean you shouldn't reject it if it's not quite ready. Put out the best quality you can.
  • Becoming an indie author does not mean turning your back on traditional publishing, different projects may call for different avenues, you might self-publish one project and accept a contract on another. Readers care about the product and the author, not the publisher.
  • Having specific goals is important. Do you want to share samples of your poetry for free? Then maybe ebooks or photocopied pamphlets are the easiest, cheapest ways to do that. Set yourself goals to achieve, whether it's to produce a certain number of finished manuscripts in a year, or to build your connections in the industry or to learn more about publishing.
  • Don't be shy. Writing communities are extremely welcoming and supportive. Start connecting with other bloggers and writers, you'll learn a lot about the industry. Join a writers group or start one up yourself, and attend industry seminars and workshops at your local writers centre.
  • Contribute to the community you want to belong to. Buy and read in your genre, support other indie authors, read the publications that host the competitions you want to enter.
  • Devote time to your craft every day.
  • Get plenty of critical feedback.
  • Build a visible presence online. You need a good solid website as a landing place for readers to find you.
  • Once online, don't hard sell. If all you do is shout 'buy my book', you'll soon turn away your online buddies. Have something to offer back, even if it's just support for other authors.
  • Don't limit your format. Graham Nunn has had his Haikus published on cans of lemonade in Japan and on Chinese fortune cookie inserts.
The main problem raised for Australian indie authors was distribution. It's extremely difficult to get your book into book stores. But as the industry of indie publishing grows, so may the reception from retailers. Exciting times.


  1. Great summary. Thanks for sharing! And the one point I would highlight is "Choose an editor you can trust and believe in." So important!

  2. I enjoyed this and would be have loved to been at that conference. Sounds like a lot if info was garnered! Thank you for sharing:)

  3. Thanks for all the info. Not in Oz myself but feel like it's relevant for us all.


  4. Thanks for sharing. I have to agree on quality. Even if you decide to self-publish, you still need to have an editor and that costs.

  5. Thanks for sharing, really useful advice:))

  6. Wow, sounds like it was a great conference. Thanks for sharing this. Found it quite interesting that Graham Nunn had Haikus published on cans of lemonade and on Chinese fortune cookie inserts. Endless possibilities when you think outside of the box.

  7. Hi Charmaine. Looks like you learned at lot at this one. Thanks for sharing this with us. I like how you stress the importance of putting out the best possible product.

  8. Great post! I agree about quality. Never rush unless a piece is ready. Thanks for sharing this info. Take care!

  9. Excellent post! Will Tweet and FB.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  10. Great information and summary. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Great insights! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great insight into indie publishing. It definitely shouldn't mean solo and it's sadly obvious when an author does go solo.

  13. Great post! I like how you define indie publishing. It's definitely a lot of work and I give kudos to those who put in the time and effort then put themselves out there. Not easy! :)

  14. These are all fantastic tips. My favorite indie authors seem to follow these. I've read some awesome, high quality indie books--the time and consideration put into them are obvious.

  15. Good reminder that "self publishing" doesn't mean you do everything on your own. What is does mean, though, is that you are firmly in the driving seat.

    BTW - did you ever use the services of a book designer? Someone who advises on the cover-to-cover design of the book, from cover art to choice of fonts and layout styles?