Savvy Self-Publishing 2010


 

Once upon a time, indie fantasy author Lindsay Buroker blogged and published podcasts on this website, Savvy Self-Publishing.
At some point Lindsay Buroker let the domain registration of Savvy Self-Publishing expire. The new owners of the domain have chosen to keep some of the site's content hoping that it will help other authors in their pursuit of self publishing their work.
Good luck and thank you, Lindsay.

To learn more about Lindsay Buroker go to the website, Stark Reflections, where you can listen to a podcast about a 2018 interview with Lindsay: https://starkreflections.ca/2018/12/28/episode-54-personable-publishing-with-lindsay-buroker/

If you’re interested in more of her work, ylook for The Emperor’s Edge, Star Nomad, and Balanced on the Blade’s Edge.

    

 

About

Savvy Self-Publishing is run by indie fantasy author Lindsay Buroker. She e-published her first novel in December of 2010 and by August of 2011 she had three novels, two novellas, and a couple of short story collections out. She broke the $3,000/mo mark in earnings and decided to quit her day job, downsize her life, and head off to travel on a modest budget.

Lindsay started this blog because, though there were a lot of sites on self-publishing out there, a lot of them were full of “what to do” rather than “how to do it.” Since she tried just about everything in her early months of book promotion (and she’s still trying things!), she might just be a useful person to follow…

Also, before she “got serious” about writing, she made a living online, doing everything from “flipping” websites to blogging to search engine optimization to selling beef jerky on eBay (how she got her start). You could say she’s been around the virtual block, and she’s knowledgeable about various forms of internet marketing. Or you could say she has a restless spirit and doesn’t stick with anything for more than a year (writing fantasy being the one exception, as that’s been a passion since she was a kid). Either way, she enjoys teaching and hopes you’ll find this blog and podcast useful (neither of which are done in the third person, phew!).

 



Is There A Secret To Self-Publishing Success?

ADDED DEC 6, 2011, UNDER: TIPS AND TRICKS

I’m coming up on my one year anniversary for self-publishing. In that time, I’ve published four novels (I had two written coming into this, but I did manage to write two full novels this year as well), two novellas, and some shorter stories. I haven’t become a bestseller or some phenom that the traditional publishers are drooling over, but I believe I’ve done reasonably well.

May was the last month where I earned less than $1,000, and I’ve earned as much as $4,000 (November, thanks to the release of my most recent novel). Most recent months have been in the $2,500-$3,000 range (though October was quite a bit lower and showed me how quickly things can slow down if you haven’t had a new release for a while and you haven’t done any big promotional kicks).

This isn’t my sole source of income, but I find it encouraging to know that I could live off this income, if modestly done. Of course, I hope I’ll continue to acquire new fans and the sales numbers will grow as I write and release more books.

So, as I said, I’m not a huge success in the e-publishing world, but I know I’ve been fortunate enough to find what a lot of folks seek. What I hope is encouraging for many of you is that we’ve finally entered an age where it’s a) possible to make decent money self-publishing and b) possible to make that money without being a huge star.

The Secret to Success?

Every now and then someone asks me about “secrets.” As in, what’s the secret to making it as a self-published author?

This may be a disappointing answer, but the main thing I’ve figured out is that there’s no one thing. It’s a lot of plugging away and sticking with it.

I’ll list some of what I’ve learned here though. Please keep in mind that I’m still learning. At least one of the suggestions I have for you is something I failed to do myself (but will do when I’m ready to launch a new series).

In no particular order, a few “secrets”…

  • It helps to be everywhere a reader could possibly stumble over you — You can read my recent post on author branding to see all the places I’ve made myself and/or my work available.
  • Give something away for free — I’ve talked about this often before, but giving away a short story is the first thing I did that really made a difference. It starred the characters from the first novel I released, and I included an excerpt from the novel at the end. Lots of people have told me they went on to buy the novel after trying and enjoying the story. In all honesty, giving away an entire novel can work even better (especially a Book 1 in a series), but I wasn’t in a position to do that in the beginning (since I didn’t have other books in the series written yet).
  • Think like a publisher — This is something I failed to do. Because I was trying to save money, I struggled to get cover art I really liked (if it didn’t wow me, how was it supposed to wow potential readers?). Also, I didn’t spend enough time thinking up a cool title for Book 1 and a cool series name for the whole thing. The title for the first book (which ultimately became the series title) was my working title and I never came up with something better. I should have brainstormed more and thought up an awesome series title that would stick in people’s heads. Something brandable. In short, I didn’t really think about the packaging and the presentation the way a publisher would. (Nothing is set in stone with POD printing and e-publishing, though, and I may yet rename that series!)
  • Realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint — If you want to make a career out of self-publishing someday (or maybe you dream of leveraging your self-publishing success into a traditional publishing deal), you have to realize it’s something that will develop over years. Sure, I’ve done well in just one year, but I’ve also put out a lot of books. If I’d just had one or maybe two out after a year, I doubt I’d be selling more than a couple hundred books a month total. If you’re very prolific, you might be able to get things rolling more quickly than I have, but most people don’t write that fast. They’ve got day jobs and families. That doesn’t mean that they can’t succeed, just that it will take longer. Don’t get discouraged when you’re not a hit in the first month or even six months. In the year I’ve been doing this, I’ve chatted with many new authors on Twitter, and everyone starts out so excited and passionate when they first publish, but then I realize I haven’t heard from them in a while, and I check their tweets and their blog…and they’ve just faded away.
  • Play around with price points — I have a whole podcast where I ramble about paperback and ebook pricing strategies, so I’ll direct you to that for when you have some free time, but, in short, change things up. Don’t feel you have to charge 99 cents because you’re an unknown author (there are lots of authors at your local Barnes & Noble that are unknown to you until you stumble across their books and try them), but don’t be afraid to try 99 cents, or even free, as part of a greater strategy either.
  • Writing a series can help — I’ve always enjoyed reading series where you get to fall in love with characters and continue following their adventures, so I wasn’t thinking strategy when I started my series. I just always knew I wanted to do at least six books with my core set of characters. As it turns out, that has served me well. I see it serving a lot of other authors well too. Not everybody who picks up your first book is going to like it enough to go on to read the others, but some will, and some will enjoy things enough to go on and buy all the books in your series. Honestly, it’s not quite the same no-brainer for readers when you have unrelated books. Even if they liked the first, they may think the plot summaries of the others don’t sound as appealing. It’s characters that people get invested in. If you’re jumping around and writing in different genres, you’re really going to make it hard on yourself.
  • Start a newsletter (AKA get your fans’ email addresses!) — I’ve already blogged about why authors should start mailing lists, so I’ll refer you to that post for details, but it’s extremely helpful to be able to contact your fans directly once you have a new book out. When you’re an indie author, Amazon isn’t going to make a big splash every time you have a new release out, so you’re on your own for building buzz. Having a list of folks that you can contact all at once will make it so you don’t have to start over with your marketing efforts every time.
  • Write well and entertain folks — In the end, there’s only so much marketing we can do. You don’t have to please everyone, but you do have to please someone, and the more people who read your books and recommend them to others, the better you’re going to do in this business. Get your work professionally edited, but long before that, consider joining a writing workshop and taking classes or at least secure a good group of beta readers, folks who aren’t afraid to point out the boring parts. Ultimately, you have to put out a good product.

Thoughts? Any secrets you’d like to share?

 



POSTS

 

A Little Self-Publishing Humor…

ADDED AUG 15, 2012,
I’m doing the final edits on my next novel, and once I send it off to my editor, I’ll record a couple of new shows (I’ve scribbled down some notes for talking about how to build a platform and also about how self-publishing can lead to a traditional publishing deal). Stay tuned, and in the meantime, a little humor&#
BY LINDSAY

 

Episode #8: Pros And Cons Of Writing A Series

ADDED AUG 7, 2012,
Another show that I recorded way back in January or so. I promise it’s all still relevant! The only change for me is that I now have four books out in my main series instead of three, and that I have even more readers on Facebook, Twitter, and the new fan forum who are asking for the next. Of course, [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Episode #7: My Big Ol’ List Of Promotional Activities That Helped (And Some That Didn’t)

ADDED JUL 28, 2012
Don’t fall out of your chair in surprise, but I’m uploading a new show. A mere six months after I recorded it. There’s some useful information (if I do say so myself) that should still be relevant today. Thanks for checking it out, and thank you to those who have stopped by and listened and commented over the last few [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

How To Generate Your First Professionally Formatted Mobi File

ADDED JAN 30, 2012
I’ll have a new podcast up for you guys in a couple of days (it’s already recorded — the next two are recorded in fact), but in the mean time, I have a guest post to help the new folks. The subject is formatting, and indie author Curtis Hox is here to give you some advice. These are the techniques [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Self-Publishing / E-Publishing Meetup For Seattle / Everett Authors

ADDED JAN 5, 2012
I know most of you guys are from all over the world, but I’m sure there are a few authors interested in e-publishing in my cloudy corner of it. For those in the Seattle/Everett area, I’m starting a digital publishing meetup. Seattle/Everett E-Publishing & Book Promotion Group If you’re not familiar with Meetup.com, it doesn’t cost anything to join, and [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Episode #6: Amazon KDP Select, E-Publishing News, And What’s Working For Me

ADDED DEC 29, 2011
E-publishing should have its biggest year yet in 2012. Are you prepared? Today I discuss what’s been happening, especially with Amazon and the KDP Select program, as well as what’s helped me have my best earnings months for the last two months. Show Notes: Lots of new e-readers for Christmas Discussing the Amazon KDP Select Lending Program. Should you do [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Is There A Secret To Self-Publishing Success?
ADDED DEC 6, 2011

I’m coming up on my one year anniversary for self-publishing. In that time, I’ve published four novels (I had two written coming into this, but I did manage to write two full novels this year as well), two novellas, and some shorter stories. I haven’t become a bestseller or some phenom that the traditional publishers are drooling over, but I [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Author Branding Questions?

ADDED DEC 2, 2011
I spent a good deal of time writing up a post on author branding over on my personal blog this week, so if you’re wondering, “What the Heck is Author Branding and How Do You Do It Anyway?” please check that article out. If you have any questions or comments on branding, feel free to ask me here or leave [&hellip
BY LINDSAY 

Creating Your Own Cover Art With Jenna E Johnson

ADDED NOV 28, 2011
When it came to cover art, I knew I didn’t have the artistic background to handle the project myself, so I hired someone. A lot of independent authors do seem to have artistic ability though, and they’re interested in doing their own cover art. Or maybe it’s just a matter of necessity because they can’t afford to hire someone yet. [&hellip
BY LINDSAY

Episode #5: Pricing Ebooks And Paperbacks When You Self-Publish

ADDED NOV 26, 2011
Today’s show discusses pricing for ebooks and the POD (print on demand) paperbacks most of us will be dealing with when we self-publish. Show notes: Paperback pricing Upfront costs are low with POD, so no need to pay for an entire print run or anything crazy. My POD publisher is CreateSpace, and I’ve been quite pleased with them (quality of [&hellip


 

Self-Publishing / E-Publishing Meetup For Seattle / Everett Authors

ADDED JAN 5, 2012, UNDER: E-PUBLISHING
I know most of you guys are from all over the world, but I’m sure there are a few authors interested in e-publishing in my cloudy corner of it. For those in the Seattle/Everett area, I’m starting a digital publishing meetup.

Seattle/Everett E-Publishing & Book Promotion Group

If you’re not familiar with Meetup.com, it doesn’t cost anything to join, and it’s a site for scheduling in-person gatherings. This is my first time putting a group together, but I’ve gone to plenty of meetup events (they have everything from internet marketing and business meetups to groups for people who want to make play dates for their dogs). It should be educational if we can get some authors together for regular discussion of e-publishing and how best to take over the world with our ebooks (or at least sell more than three copies a month).

If you’re interested, just click the link above to sign up. Thanks!

 


 

A Little Self-Publishing Humor…

ADDED AUG 15, 2012, UNDER: BLOGGING
I’m doing the final edits on my next novel, and once I send it off to my editor, I’ll record a couple of new shows (I’ve scribbled down some notes for talking about how to build a platform and also about how self-publishing can lead to a traditional publishing deal). Stay tuned, and in the meantime, a little humor…

 


 

Creating Your Own Cover Art With Jenna E Johnson

ADDED NOV 28, 2011, UNDER: EDITING / ART / FORMATTING

When it came to cover art, I knew I didn’t have the artistic background to handle the project myself, so I hired someone. A lot of independent authors do seem to have artistic ability though, and they’re interested in doing their own cover art. Or maybe it’s just a matter of necessity because they can’t afford to hire someone yet. Either way, you may be interested in some tips from someone who’s “been there, done that.”

Jenna E Johnson is the author of The Oesscienne fantasy series for YA readers, and she’s graciously agreed to guest post today on the subject of cover art.

Jenna E Johnson on Creating Your Own Cover Art

I want to start out by thanking Lindsay for inviting me to write a guest blog for her website. I hope that my insight can provide some help for those of you interested in creating your own book cover images.

Creating your own book image may seem like a rather daunting task, but once you have the artwork or picture you wish to use, it becomes simply a matter of how creative or complex you want to get. So, if you cannot afford a fancy graphic art program, or paying a professional artist to create your book image is just not in your budget, you might want to consider doing it yourself. Not only will you have full control over the creation of your design, but you’ll also retain all the rights when you are done (if you draw the image or take the pictures yourself).

If you (or a family member or friend) happens to be artistically inclined, then you are in luck. Maybe you can’t draw or paint to save your life, but do you enjoy photography? I’ve used pictures in creating book covers as well (opening them in Adobe Photoshop Elements and playing around with the different special effects until I got an image I liked). Of course, you also have to consider the genre of the book you are writing and the audience you are writing for. My books, for example, are aimed towards the middle grade and young teen crowd. If they were for a more mature audience, my particular style of drawing probably wouldn’t work as well as perhaps one of my distorted photos.

Maybe the thought of trying to navigate through your different computer programs sounds like a major headache. I understand, but if you aren’t an expert, don’t worry. I’m by no means a computer wiz; I learned by trial and error, and if I can do it, so can you! The key here: have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe I’m crazy, but sometimes I enjoy creating my book covers and other marketing projects more than writing the books themselves. Just make sure you ALWAYS save back-up copies of the original images.

Now for the creative process . . .

The images I use for my Oescienne books are originally drawn on good art paper (torn out of my sketch book) and cut to a specific size (makes them all the same dimensions so I know they’ll be the same size when I upload them). I don’t use any fancy art tools, just a mechanical pencil (always stays sharp), a black pen and some colored pencils. Often times, it takes me quite a while to come up with the ‘perfect’ image and, in fact, I ended up recreating the cover art for my first book, The Finding, before I got the look just right. When I have an idea in mind, I start sketching until it looks the way I picture it, or as close to this image as possible.

 


I can’t really give you any tips on how to quickly come up with your own perfect cover image, but I can say it is similar to writing a new story: you just have to wait for inspiration to strike. For my Oescienne books, I decided on a common theme that included my main character along with one or more of the dragons from the books (I read on a blog once that dragons on book covers tend to attract more attention). The images on the back covers reflect scenes from the story itself, each cover portraying a specific scene from that particular book. Once my drawings are complete, I outline my pencil sketch in pen and then add the color, shading and layering until it looks just right.

One extra piece of equipment you will need when you’re finished is a scanner (or a friend who has a scanner). Once your image is scanned and saved, you can edit it by trimming off whatever isn’t needed. I always save multiple copies just in case. Once this is done, it is really rather simple. Since I publish my paperback books through Create Space, my final product needs to be saved as a PDF file (check your publishing company and their requirements for size and file types accepted).

One extra piece of equipment you will need when you’re finished is a scanner (or a friend who has a scanner). Once your image is scanned and saved, you can edit it by trimming off whatever isn’t needed. I always save multiple copies just in case. Once this is done, it is really rather simple. Since I publish my paperback books through Create Space, my final product needs to be saved as a PDF file (check your publishing company and their requirements for size and file types accepted).

The basic template for my book cover is a new Microsoft Word document (I use Word 2007), the page size set to match the book cover dimensions, plus the bleed (again, you should be able to find this out from the publisher). Using a text box, I create the book’s spine (width will be based on the number of your book’s pages) and center it within the document. From there, I use it to gauge where everything else will eventually end up. I insert a large text box in the center of the front cover and copy and paste my artwork in there. You can do the same thing for your name, the book title and the book blurb on the back; just insert text boxes and adjust them to the desired sizes and move them to where you want them.

I’m always amazed at how versatile the Word program is. You can add special effects to your images, pick a nice font, change the page and font color . . . just get on there and play around to see what you can accomplish. Believe it or not, it’s not just for writing documents. If your goal is not to create a full cover but only a front cover for an ebook, then you don’t need to worry about spine width or a back cover image with a book blurb. Just open a new Word document and set it to the dimensions of your cover and add your image, name and title, then save it as a PDF or JPEG (again, check to see what the publisher’s requirements are).

Besides book covers, I’ve created many other marketing images and files for my books, including fliers, bookmarks, posters, car magnets and business cards. I had to use a secondary source to print out many of these things, but it gave me the freedom to meet my (picky) standards. Local copy stores and online companies offer reasonable prices for marketing and promotional items, but creating your own design and putting it together yourself might save you even more money and it gives you the extra bonus of having full creative control over the end product (something that I’m personally quite obsessive over). With a little extra work, and hopefully fun as well, you might find yourself creating functional, exceptional works of art for your own books.

I want to thank you Lindsay once again for inviting me as a guest blogger on your site. I hope my advice can prove helpful to other indie authors, and if anyone has any questions for me they can contact me at jejoescienne@yahoo.com. I also plan on writing a few more posts about some of the marketing ideas I mentioned above on my website, www.jennaelizabethjohnson.com, so feel free to drop by from time to time if you are looking for some economical ways to promote your books.

 


 

How To Generate Your First Professionally Formatted Mobi File

ADDED JAN 30, 2012

I’ll have a new podcast up for you guys in a couple of days (it’s already recorded — the next two are recorded in fact), but in the mean time, I have a guest post to help the new folks. The subject is formatting, and indie author Curtis Hoxp is here to give you some advice. These are the techniques he used to format his new sci-fi/fantasy novel, Bleedoverp. (If you’re inclined you thank him for his help, you can purchase his ebook for 99 cents at Amazon.)

How to Generate Your First Professionally Formatted Mobi File

When I first thought about publishing my work on Amazon, I had no idea what Smashwords was, what the technical differences were between a .mobi or an .epub file, how KDP Publishing functioned, etc. Like many writers, I just wanted to write and produce the best possible work I could. However, I have some technical experience as a new media project manager and have spent enough time with HTML and CSS to feel comfortable with it.

Workflow from composition to final e-book format

Please note, I’m not claiming my workflow is the best approach. In fact, I’ still searching for other writers/publishers who have suggestions on how to perfect this because there’s one piece of the process I’m still highly annoyed with (see below: i.e., managing more than one copy of a final edited/formatted document).

  1. I highly recommend all writers try Scrivenerp. It’s a writing environment that creates a database on your computer that stores all your information. Any research you do, you can drop into your Scrivener project file and it’s all right there when you open the project. Also, it saves immediately, so that’s one drawback to Word’s finicky saving requirement. There are many others. Try the free download for Mac and PC. I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed. (The full screen mode, alone, is worth the purchase price).
  2. For short stories, I use Scrivener to output .mobi (it also outputs to .epub). I use this function for short stories that don’t require any extra formatting. For my novels, I export my Scrivener project to an .html file.
  3. You can then open this cleanly formatted .html file (much cleaner than Word’s) in an editor of your choice. Sigilp is a tool used for generating .epub formatted documents. I haven’t had that need yet. Because I have only focused on Amazon, I open my clean .html file in Dreamweaver (any HTML editor will do). Here’s where the learning curve begins. Depending on how much web development experience you have, you’ll either be able to pick this up in a few hours or a few weeks. If you have no interest in learning to play around with html, I suggest hiring someone to do the work for you. If you have any inclination, keep reading. It’s not hard at all.
  4. Formatting
    The trick here is using basic CSS (formatting) so that your e-book looks professional. I always add a masthead as an image at the top or my .html file. You can create one easily in Photoshop or any of the many open source alternativesp. Just take a look at any paperback or professional e-book. You’ll see the title and author’s name in professional typesetting. Again, these are images that you insert in your html file; you don’t create the masthead with CSS. You then need to format your content. I use

    for all my chapter styles and section styles. I use

    ,

    , etc., for any subheaders that might be in epigrams or other structural elements. You can style these to be centered, or to have an indent, or whatever you choose. But, again, you should use simple CSS to do this. Another format element I employ is non-indenting the first line of paragraph that starts a new segment. You can also add a CSS style to increase the size of the first initial (See, John’s Blog on how to do thatp). Of course, you need to spend some time learning to make this works but it’s easy.

  5. Once you have a cleanly formatted .html file (that works in a browser as you expect), you can import it into Calibrep. This tool allows you to export your prepped document into a number of different e-book formats. In Calibre you add your cover, meta data, etc. It has plenty of tweaking tools for the creation of table of contents or even adjusting the look and feel of the e-book.
  6. I would also download the Kindle Previewerp (again, this is only helpful for Amazon’s .mobi format).  Caliber has built in viewers for the different formats, but Amazon’s application seems to work best. Once you’ve opened the Calibre-compiled .mobi, you can open it in the Kindle Previewer and see exactly what it will look like on a Kindle.
  7. At this point, you’re ready to upload to KDP. There are plenty of articles how to do this. It’s simple. If you get this far, you’re home free.

What to do about the master document?

My main problem with the process at this point is that the formatted .html file that I view in Dreamweaver now becomes my primary document and the one I must return to if I ever need to make content changes. I would rather be able to use Scrivener, of course, but it doesn’t output formatted .mobi with the level of sophistication I need. Having an .html file as the main file is a problem right now for anyone who wants to upload to Smashwords (it requires a striped down and properly styled Word .doc). I have been told Smashwords will begin accepting .epub in 2012, so that will make things easier. But, the bottom line, I don’t like writing content in Dreamweaver. (If anyone has a better solution on how to maintain one document that you can both write content in and format HTML and CSS I’d like to hear).

Bio:

Curtis Hox is an English professor by day and a science fiction writer by night. He launched his debut novel, Bleedover, in Nov. 2011 and is editing his YA Transhuman Warrior Series, which is scheduled to launch on Jun 1st, 2012. He’s also blogging his journey as a self-published author. He lives with his wife and two year old son, who often pretends to type on his keyboard and, at times, somehow inserts erroneous characters into his manuscripts.

 


 

SavvySelfPublishing.com