Advice to a First-time Indie Author

Carrot Top Plastic Surgery
How tight does it need to be?

Last week I received an email – a cry for help – from a new Indie Author. He had a number of questions about how he should proceed with his manuscript. I told him he came to the right place – because, as you know – I’ve been doing this for a REALLY long time. Here are his questions, and my responses.

The only person other than me who’s read my very first book is my Mommy. I’m a little uncertain of my skills – should I get someone outside of my family to reassure me that the book is good BEFORE I publish it?

You’re kidding, right? Of course not! Your mom knows best, I’m sure. After all, she brought YOU into this world, right? Who better to christen your book’s journey into the marketplace than her? I’m sure she’s completely impartial, and who cares if she doesn’t have a knack for grammar, story lines, character development or punctuation? All that hub-bub you’ve been hearing about editors and Beta readers – that’s just designed to slow authors down. It’s a conspiracy developed by established authors who don’t want the competition of new authors entering THEIR arena. They want you to believe that Beta readers are the way to go. I say phooey to that! Who wants to be bothered with input from other people? Then you’re obligated to consider their suggestions and you might possibly be able to improve your story. There’s a lot of typing involved in that sort of thing. What an inconvenience. And editing? What a joke. They’ll catch little mistakes which make your book “yours,” know what I’m saying? They could also suggest things to make your story stronger, or to tighten things up. If you go that way, you might accidentally end up with a more solid book. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want something as tight as Carrot Top’s forehead. Loose – laden with errors – that’ll get attention. If you’re good with Photoshop, you could even make a little gold medallion for the cover of your book which says “Mommy Approved.” Who could resist that?

Okay, so can I just send my book to reviewers now?

Seriously, are you NUTS? Do you understand what reviewers DO? Those people – it’s their JOB to review a book. They’ll pick up on what some people consider to be bad stuff – they’ll notice if your grammar is bad, if your story doesn’t make sense, if your characters are annoying – and they’ll really get on you if things aren’t realistic. The input they give you might help you revise your book to make it better. THEN – get this – they’ll post that online where the universe can see it! These people – reviewers – they know stuff like punctuation and spelling – they’re smart. Don’t subject yourself to that. The best way to get reviews – don’t tell anyone I told you this – is to give it to someone who doesn’t usually read much. Make sure that person has a crush on you. If you want men to read the book, find a girl in a tight tee-shirt with big eyes to ask all flirty-like for you. You’ll probably end up with a review like “Wow, this was the best book I ever read in the bathroom! I kept reading and reading and next thing I knew time got away from me and I ended up with a big red ring on my butt!” Now THAT’S a review!

My neighbor’s five-year-old drew the cover art. Do you think that’s good enough?

Absolutely. Who can resist a five-year-old? I hope it was finger paint. That is just so youthful and refreshing. Make sure it has nothing to do with your story, of course. You wouldn’t want to clue anyone in on what the book is about. If you need some ideas about cover art – I wrote an article here that might be helpful to you.

I wrote my book in MS Word. I can just upload that as is, right?

Of course. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to read the Kindle Direct manual or the Smashwords style guide. Who has that kind of time? People like puzzles. The bigger and more complex the puzzle, the better, right? Some people complain that a poorly formatted book is too hard to read and makes their heads hurt. What a bunch of sissies. I think your book should just be 200 pages of text – no paragraphs, chapters or anything. Just continuous type. That’s making a statement, right there. You’re saying My book is so good I don’t need stinkin’ paragraphs. Damn straight.

I’ve heard about traditional publishing and having to query agents – I don’t really get what that’s about when you can just push a button and be published?

I know, right? Just ridiculous. Back in the olden days, there was no self-publishing. Authors had to go through a stringent process of querying agents in hopes of gaining representation to the publishing companies. Authors had to have perfect manuscripts – polished to a blinding sheen – to get noticed.  My manuscript was professionally edited and it still took me 10 years to get through that “velvet rope.”  So I’m really glad that now we don’t have to try so hard anymore, and we can just publish whatever we want. I’m big on writing ideas down on paper bags, backs of receipts and on cocktail napkins. I’m trying to figure out how I can just scan those, put them in order, and hit publish! I mean, why bother taking the inordinate amount of time to write an actual manuscript when I could just publish my notes? Bonus, right?

Well, this is all great news, because your advice coincides with exactly what I did. How excellent is that?

That’s totally excellent. It is, in fact, also awesome. I’m glad you took the time to ask me for my opinion and guidance when you’d already gone ahead and published your book. Isn’t self-publishing great? Now you just need to work on a backlist. Hey! I have an idea – why don’t you write a book about your self-publishing journey? See? Now you’re well on your way to being a multi-published author. Man, I’m just full of good ideas, aren’t I?

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

37 thoughts on “Advice to a First-time Indie Author”

  1. Oh my, that was a joy to read, Ms. Brooks. I’m especially taken with the idea of publishing shopping receipts as an existential commentary of the vaucity of our disposable world – and you know you can’t copyright ideas, yes? 🙂

    1. Shopping receipts? Why stop there? How about publishing your shopping lists? (I think the Evil Mastermind might have already suggested that, actually…) Scan a bunch of them and upload ’em to Kindle. “The Second Internet Dimension Shopper” – I foresee a smash hit.

    1. Plus a cat will never admit that your book is good because it’s beneath them(whether because of a superiority complex or literally beneath them)

    1. I just wish authors of all walks would at least pretend that they’re auditioning to a publisher or agent. I’m sure, even still, that you’ve seen some DOOZIES. I guess can wish all I want, right? Thanks for stopping by, Arline!

  2. LOL, I am actually writing a book on my self publishing journey- a self-help titled: Frustrated Indies Self-publishing Guide. Might be out next year if I feel like it. Still need to finish it and have it edited, but my author piggy bank is broke due to all the editing I’ve paid for this year alone. My editor has a new roof on her house because of me!

    1. Yeah, sorry about that. But that was how I felt when I found out I’d spent hours helping this author only to find out he’d already gone ahead and published his book.

      1. Carrot Top channeling the Joker–I won’t sleep tonight.
        I have decided to publish the things people wrote in my senior yearbook. A best seller for sure.
        You rock, madame!

        1. Ooh, that’s a great idea! Just make sure to include a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction. Those people may otherwise expect a cut of your profits. Bah humbug, I say! 🙂

  3. I think for the next post, Kat should post those incriminating photos from her youth to make up for Carrot Top.

  4. I agree with Brian and Rich. That said, I am totally going to add Mommy approved seals to all my books…wait, she doesn’t approve.

    Great post, Kat.

  5. Ouch! Wince. Cringe. Remind me to never, ever make you mad at me Ms Brooks. :p That was glorious and the comments had me hooting with laughter. This was great fun. 🙂

  6. Loved the fact that this was written unapologetically with sarcasm and didn’t let up either. Smiled when I realised that you weren’t going to. Became a tad scared, actually, started biting my thumbnail. The piece sounded like a mother, talking to her troublesome teenager, and I really hope that it does catch the attention of those who need a good stern talking to like this. I do think it is only a matter of time though, before budding writers come to realise that they need to learn the craft, it’s not a choice; that one cannot just dive into the deep end and expect to float. I already see signs of unrest among the reading public, as well as trained writers who do know how to navigate the ins and outs of this complex maze, and, increasingly, finding ways to separate themselves from the barnacle infestation clinging to the bottom end of a buoy. Thanks, enjoyed the frank and candid nature with which the piece was delivered. 😉

  7. ROFLMAO! KS this is awesome. My favorite line: “Absolutely. Who can resist a five-year-old? I hope it was finger paint.” I nearly peed myself. Thanks for brightening my day.

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