In my previous article I discussed why all businesses should indie publish—including non-writing businesses.
Here are some guidelines for doing it right:
Clarify your goals
If you want to indie publish for a hobby, or to create a memento for loved ones, then you can just cut loose and publish however you want and give or sell the copies to whomever you want. (Try lulu.com or iuniverse.com for paperbacks; Smashwords.com for ebooks.) But if you want to make serious coin from your writing then you need to produce a saleable product, and market and sell the heck out of it. All that requires investment. I'm a professional writer, but still spent around $1,500 on a professional editor (who also did layout) and copy editor. I also spent $1,200 on a professional illustrator (who did an amazing job and really added appeal and meaning to the book), and around $5,000 on a designer who did my book cover (super important to sales!), Website, and other marketing.
And I currently invest at least 20 hours a week marketing and selling.
You can consider that the “bad news,” if you want. But most business people understand that you have to spend money (and time) to make money. All of the above expenses were an investment in myself and my future.
2) Plan Your Profit
Serious entrepreneurs also plan. I planned my project by doing a profit and loss (P&L) spreadsheet in which I outlined my projected expenses and revenues month-by-month for twelve months. In that P&L I committed to selling 30 paper copies and 60 ecopies of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific each month. (Three months post-publication, I'm not there yet, but well on my way, with sales increasing each month.) But I didn't just list the numbers; I had to tell exactly how I would achieve them—a marketing plan, in other words.
I also calculated the Breakeven Point (BEQ): the number of books I needed to sell to cover expenses. It was 344 paper books, and, in the three months since publication, I've already sold around 120. (For simplicity's sake I didn't include ebooks in the calculation.) Many were sold as “preorders” via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. (FYI, here's my Indiegogo pitch page: http://www.indiegogo.com/Preorder-Hillary-Rettigs-The-Seven-Secrets-of-the-Prolific-and-save.)
Those preorders helped me defray costs AND build my market.
Profit may be harder to come by for fiction writers, but those who do serious marketing and sales can make good money. Bestselling thriller writer Joe Konrath is the reigning guru of this: read his Newbie's Guide to Publishing and (co-authored with Barry Eisler) Be the Monkey for some insights.
3) Research Your Platforms
You can make glorious money through your site with the help of E-junkie. But, let's face it, most of the two billion or so people currently on the Internet* will make it to Amazon and iTunes and popular blogs and affiliate sites a lot sooner than they will make it to your site. So you'll want to get your book listed on as many of those high-traffic sites as possible. (But keep the prices on your site lowest so more people are motivated to buy from you directly!)
Smashwords is a great e-publishing choice for many writers: you feed it; a properly formatted Word file and it spits out files for all the major readers, including Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader, AND lists your book on iTunes, BN.com, and other major retailers. However, you can also work individually with each of those readers and platforms, and might keep a bigger chunk of the revenues by doing so.
Research your choices carefully, and especially study their revenue/royalty structures and their publishing or affiliate agreements. Remember that the agreements are legally binding, and could have a major effect on both your income and your overall publishing experience (and sanity!). Don't go with anyone who wants to take all the rights to your work, or whose right to publish your work extends past the point you decide to terminate the relationship.
4) Work on your Procrastination and Time Management Issues
Seriously, though, life's too short, and there's too much opportunity around. Procrastination and even serious blocks are solvable problems, so just start solving them. Sample chapters and plenty of other free info on my Website.
Sometimes, I look at my career and am amazed. Through my Website I can sell my ideas to a global audience, many of whom write me back to tell me how my work has helped them. And through wonderful e-Junkie I can have a $10/month shopping cart that, even a decade ago, would have probably cost me thousands, and a decade before that would have simply been out of the reach of anyone except big corporations.
It's a golden age for writers and entrepreneurs and all other seekers and dreamers. Get out there and live it – the indie way.