Friday, January 20, 2017

Four things a first-time indie author really needs to know

I recently released my first novel, Heirs of Power, it was the realization of a life-long dream and one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done, and I knew from the start that I wanted to self-publish. But I was unaware of the sheer scale of what I had taken on board or exactly what the process involved- you write a book, whack a cover on and Amazon does the rest, right?
Wrong! So today I’m going to share the biggest lessons I learnt during my first indie adventure.

1 - Read and research.
Hopefully you’re already a big reader, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be an author if they aren’t…
But I’m talking about forum threads, articles and blog posts, and you aren’t looking for answers to your questions- you’re discovering the questions you didn’t even realise needed asking. Without the backing of a publisher, you’re going to have to become familiar with every aspect of the process of getting the story from your head into people’s hands, and be confident with making decisions that will affect how your book sells. What cover design works for your genre? Should you stay exclusive to one platform? What promotions are the best for you?
And don’t worry! There’s a chance you’ll miss something and be frantic about it at zero-hour. Covers and manuscripts can be updated, there’s always another promotion opportunity and if you are genuinely at your wits end, someone has been there before and will be able to advise you- I’ve found groups on Goodreads to be an amazing source of wisdom and encouragement. You’ll remember the lesson well and take it forward for the next book.

2 - Get a team.
After writing up a ‘to do’ list longer than a wedding planner’s, you’ll note that not everything on it falls under your expertise (how do you even begin building a website?). Self-published doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! Unless you are massively confident in your skills you should at least hire an editor and a cover designer, these are the two things that can break even the most incredible story.
Less obvious to me was how much I needed my support team, writing a book takes a long time and huge amounts of dedication and discipline. Indies need to conjure that up themselves- there are no deadlines or demands other than your own, so it helps to get them imposed by other people and ask them to make you accountable. The best decision I made was to send my sister each chapter as I wrote it, she knew it wasn’t an edited or finalised piece but she got invested in the story and constantly pressed me for more. And she isn’t someone who pulls punches, so she told me when things needed fixing too.

3 - Plan effectively.
This is your first book so odds are you have another job, and a family, and friends, and other commitments… So, where’s the time to write?
The only way is to make time. If you sit down whenever you suddenly find yourself with a free afternoon and you don’t have anything better to do, it will probably never happen. Set goals, dream big! Think about when you would like to have your first draft completed by, estimate a word count (search online for the average length for your genre) and then break it down into weekly chunks. At first you may not have a clue what a realistic target is for you, but the more you write the better you will understand what is achievable and you can adjust your goals.

4 - Love what you do!
It will spill out onto the page, I promise.
If you don’t adore your characters and think about your story constantly and just can’t get it out of your head, then maybe you’re writing the wrong book. There will, of course, be moments that you stare at a blank page for hours or can’t get that bit worded right- it won’t all be easy. But the ideas will creep back in and when they do it will be even more amazing because you persevered with something you cherish.
This is a big thing you’re taking on new author, an incredible thing, but all the research, planning and assistance won’t get you over the finish post- passion will.

Bio- Kay MacLeod is author of The Constellation Saga, an epic fantasy filled with magic, sarcasm and unpredictability.
Confession time, I’m a fantasy addict! For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the concept of magical worlds. I was the kid with dragons doodled around the edge of her school work, the one with her head constantly buried in a book. As a teen, I shunned partying to play Magic the Gathering and DM Dungeons and Dragons games.
I live with my husband and cat in Nottinghamshire in England. When I’m not writing (or planning something I’m writing) I’m usually working, reading, playing bass for my church’s worship team, playing computer games (World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Pokemon, Minecraft) or drinking tea.


  1. This was a great article, very good, I especially like the final point about love what you do and it will show through in what you write, very true.

  2. Thank you very much Barbara and Alex!