Holidailies 3: (Short) Guide to writing and self publishing/indie publishing

Here we’ve got the second post of the day. This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while (don’t be surprised if you hear this a couple more times during Holidailies, I’ve got a backlist of ideas).

A lot of people feel lost when they start thinking about what to do after they finish a story, for some people this fear is even so big that they never finish a story for the fear of not being able to publish it.

Worry no longer, I’ll give you a quick guide in which I explain the steps to writing and publishing. This won’t just be my own work, I’ll also link to pages I’ve used myself in the past.

Just, take a breath, bookmark this page and start reading.

1. Plan your story
2. Write your story
3. Self-Editing
4. Professional Editing
5. Covers
6. Uploading to Sellers
7. Marketing

(any changed made to this page are outlined at the bottom of the page)

1. Plan your story

Yes, I’m starting at the beginning beginning, having a good start helps with all the later points.

I’m a plotter, which means I work with outlines and stuff like that. But even if you’re a pantser (one of those people who doesn’t plot their stories but writes and just looks where they’ll go) some of these links will be very useful. Being a pantser doesn’t mean you can’t do research.

At this point, don’t worry about “sellability” too much. Indie publishing is so popular because obscure sub genres even have their own place and sell well because traditional publishers (collectively often referred to as Big Six) don’t tap into the genres. The books might not sell millions, but that doesn’t mean it might not sell thousands of copies. Thousands of copies is still quite the income.

List of resources:

Holly Lisle (her website is a treasure trove of great articles that are written well and FREE). If you really want to know how good she is, I often use her books Create a Character Clinic, Create a Plot Clinic and Professional Plot Outline Course (great short book, only $0.99 so worth checking out). Her style is clear, to the point and helpful.

Another author that I really look up to is Simon Haynes, his website is full of little tidbits of information about writing.

Outline specific:

My own method of outlining: Large paper on the wall

Kaye Dacus: Seven Story beats of Romance

Holly Lisle: notecarding

Cassandra Marshall: 9 grid plan


2. Write your story

Sit in your chair and type or write by hand, there are people who like to do this while walking or other things. I prefer to sit down. This part is all about getting the words out, don’t worry too much about your language yet.

There are many ways to get your story down, I’ve got a couple of programs that I like a lot:

yWriter by Simon Haynes FREE outline program and writer in one

FocusWriter by Gott Code FREE small program that can go into full screen so you don’t get distracted.

Scrivener by Literature and Latte $40 (Mac and Windows) Outline program, writer and has formatting options for output.


And there is this trick that I use for writing: Timed writing, it has more than tripled my output without lessening quality, as a timer program I use yTimer2 but there are other timers out there.


And now onto the real reason most people will have started to read this post. From here on is the stuff people are often most scared of. Please don’t skip any of these steps, they are quite important to having a good finished product.

3. Self-Editing

Self-editing, rewriting, whatever you want to call it. The idea is the same, you make the book as good as you can make it yourself before you hand it to anyone else.

This is an important step, it can and will save you a lot of time and money later on.

There are a lot of books about self-editing available but I’ve not used any of them myself yet, so you’ve got to tread careful when you pick one up.

My own way of doing this looks a lot like Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revisions.

Mine goes like this:

Finish Story -> Let it rest for a while (weeks usually) -> print it all out -> put it into folder so I don’t lose them -> hunt down another folder to use -> grab a small stack of pages from your folder (I usually start at the beginning) -> use blue or black to correct anything I need to change, use red to circle around punctuation or capitalisation so they stand out more -> put corrected pages in the other folder so I know which ones I’ve finished -> finish whole manuscript -> put all the changes into the digital file (after I’ve copied the file so I’ve still got an unedited source file) -> put finished pages into new folder -> DONE!

That is basically it. I use an extra notebook to write things on that no longer fit in the margins or are too long to write on the opposite page. I use quite a few of these editing symbols. It makes a lot of changes a lot easier.

3b. Have a critique group or a set of beta-readers look at your work

I learned a lot from this step. Make sure that the people who look at your work are not just friends and family but people who are really really honest with you. Do this step at least once, you don’t even have to do a full manuscript, you’ll learn a LOT.

There are two websites that I’ve used in the past critters.org (mostly fantasy and SF) and Critique Circle(all genres). Both of these websites are based on the idea of helping other people out and getting helped out in return. Getting the critiques and writing them helps you with your own writing. Both websites are free.

I know there are a lot of  websites posing a critique websites which might actually get you in trouble with publishing houses. You might not care for them but this is something to keep in mind:

If you post your work to an open website (like Autonomy or FictionPress) you will have used your first publishing rights.

So the best websites to look for are those which are behind a log on wall. Both Critters and Critique Circle have this.

I don’t know much about beta-readers, I don’t have any…


4. Professional Editing

Probably the scariest thing for most people. For most people their writing is their baby and any negative feedback on it will make you want to protect it. Get over it! Now! Because you will get negative feedback, even Harry Potter has 1* reviews!

Finding a good editor is important, possibly one of the most important things you’ll have to do before you get your book out into the world.

I found my editor on KBoards, which is a forum dedicated to the kindle but has a great author subforum. You can specifically look through this thread or search the forums yourself (not everyone is on the thread).


There are a few things you’ll have to look through while looking for an editor:

– price, you might not be able to pay them all

– the type of editing you need, you can usually find their guidelines on their websites

– if they accept your genre

– try to find some books they edited, check out the reviews to see if anyone complains about grammar, spelling, etc.

– their requirements for a sample, this is important, you will want to know how well they will fit with you. You don’t want to work with an editor you don’t like, that is no use.


Steps to choosing your editor:

1. make a list of editors who seem right for you (price, genre, type of editing, quality control, etc.). Try to find at least 5 or 6. Check availability and time it would take them to edit your piece (you might have to email them to ask this), sometimes they don’t have a slot for another 6 months, and if you need the editing done in 2 months that doesn’t work.

2. Send out samples and other info they require. Make sure you send the right things to the right editor and that they know what you require of them. Keep track of who you’ve send off to and when!

3. When you get the samples back look at the changes they made and the feedback they gave you. Are they correct, is the feedback useful? If you’re not sure you will be able to judge this, get a (reader/author) friend involved.

4. Choose your editor.

5. Enjoy!

A friendly reminder: You don’t need to accept all changes you editor makes, though make sure you understand why you don’t want to make certain changes.


5. Covers

People usually like this part the best about publishing. You can make a cover yourself (I’ve done this for Magical Roads and the Black Sheep books) you can also get someone else to make them for you. Finding a good looking cover is fun!

I don’t really have a guide or something to show for making a cover. Just make sure you’re aware of all the size requirements of different stores and get feedback from other people so see if you’re on the right path.

If you don’t want to do it yourself, you’ve got two options. You can have one made especially for you or you can buy one that someone already made. If you want someone to make you a cover it’s called a custom cover and if you want to buy one that is already made it’s called a pre-made.

There are two threads that I would advise to look at for artists:

List with custom and pre-made cover artists

List with pre-made covers only


6. Uploading to Sellers

Not everybody likes this part, a lot of people are scared of it. I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t. Formatting and uploading don’t require that much time and are pretty doable to be honest. The main ingredient is to keep breathing.

You can format your own book or you can have someone do it for you. If you don’t want to do it yourself check out my website 5 Times Formatting or look around the kboards for people who can do it for you.

If you want to do it yourself (I would advise to try this, you might find it’s easy and you can change things later very easily yourself, very handy) check out my guide on formatting it is based on the Smashwords formatting guide (but simpler).

I do have to add that these days I run my file through Calibre (free) to turn it into mobi and epub files before uploading. The trick to this is that when you “convert individually” (fill out all the information on the first page) you click on “Look and Feel” -> tick “remove spacing between paragraphs” and go to the drop down menu and click as many times on the down arrow until you get to “Indent size: no change”. This will keep the look intact that you had on the HTML file. Also under “Table of contents” I put “//h:h1” (without quotations) under Level1 TOC. This makes sure I get a TOC that I can use in the back of the book. This often includes more than just the TOC that I have in the front of the book and works better with the search function on the Kindle. You can play around in Calibre yourself to see what you prefer best.

6b. Free books

There are many tactics to using free ebooks, some use it for temporary promotion options and others put the first book in a series up for free so that they can get more fans. Whatever your reasons, putting a book for free in a great promotion tool.

Some stores make changing the price to free very easy and others make it harder. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.


6c. Pre-Orders

Pre-orders are something that has been coming up more and more this year. Almost all the stores allow pre-orders uploaded by indie authors these days. Which is great! Though not all stores work the same. While the iStore counts all the books ordered in the pre-order time as sales on the first day (so you get a huge boost), Amazon counts pre-orders on the day the pre-order is bought, so you can get into best seller lists before the actual release, the downside is that you don’t get an extra boost on the release day.

One of the handy uses of pre-orders is not immediately the extra books you can sell before the official release date but that you coordinate all the different platforms to release your books on the same day. That way you can be 100% (or 99.99%) sure that your book is live on the day it should be and you can send out buy links to bloggers and other places beforehand. You only need a 3 to 5 day pre-order for this to work.



Now to the actual uploading. The websites are pretty straight forward so I’m not explaining the actual uploading, I’ll just list the sites and any extra information. I would advise to upload to all of them to get as much reach as possible.

I’m not from the US, so my choice in stores that I can upload to myself is limited, I can’t upload to B&N myself because of this. I also think uploading to the iStore is too much hassle since I don’t have a Mac to do that with.
The B&N requirement counts for everyone who is non-US or from specific EU countries. For people in the US or the EU countries I would advise to upload to B&N yourself.

Kindle Direct Publishing, this is the Amazon Kindle website.
Royalties: 70% $2.99-9.99, 35% for all other prices, non-Amazon store countries (even if royalties would be 70% otherwise) and India, Japan, Brazil and Mexico.
Upload: mobi or epub
Free: technically NO, practically, yes. If your book is free on other ebook stores (Nook, Kobo and iStore are the most important) Amazon can price-match your book to free. To do this people can “tell about a lower price” on the book page (listed under product details) or an author can contact Amazon through their KDP page under “contact” and ask the book to be price-matched. The best way to do this is to use both options.
Pre-order: YES. You can set a book to pre-order op to 90 days before release, every author can do this. To do this you need to upload a draft of the book you’re going to publish, the book cover, the blurb and all the other information you normally fill out. Then, 10 days before release you upload the final version (failing to do this disables the pre-order option for you for a year, so keep that in mind). If you set up the pre-order less than 10 days before release you immediately need to upload the final version.
Extra: you can go into KDP Select which means that for 90 days you’re not allowed to sell your books on other stores, which will give you 7 free or sale days (called Countdown) per 90 days and 70% royalties in India, Japan, Brazil and Mexico. If you’re not in Select you can upload to all the other stores that you want.


Nook Press, is the Barnes & Noble self-publishing arm, though they’ve also reached into Europe.
Royalties: 65% for $2.99-9.99, 40% outside of that range.
Upload: epub
Free: Sadly, at this moment I can’t find if you can put your book free from here. BUT, you can put a book for free through Smashwords and Draft 2 Digital.
Pre-order: also, not available.
Extra: Since a couple of months B&N/Nook Press branched out into a couple of European countries too, for now (Sep 2014) this is the list of countries that allow you to upload directly: US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium.


Royalties: 45% for $0.99-2.98, 70% for $2.99+
Upload: epub or mobi
Free: YES. Very simple, put the price to 0 on your pricing page and it’s done.
Pre-order: YES. When you get to the end of your uploading you can set a date in the future to publish and can then choose to hide the book until this date or enable pre-orders so people can buy the book.
Extra: they have almost worldwide coverage for their stores. Also, they have an option that you can open on  your pricing page where you can set up a sale with a starting and an ending date, so you set it up once but don’t need to check back later.


All Romance Ebooks/Omnilit
Royalties: 60% always
Upload: You need to upload all the files yourself, I upload PDF, mobi and epub
Free: YES. Just set your price to 0.
Pre-order: YES. Set the publishing date to a time in the future.
Extra: You need an EIN/ITIN to be able to sign up with them, get it before you sign!


Draft 2 Digital (no store, distributor only)
Royalties: Check out their pricing guide, you don’t get a flat rate but depends on what the other store gives you.
Upload: epub
Free: YES. Set price to 0 when uploading. For now only one of two ways to upload a free book to B&N.
Pre-order: YES. Setting the publishing date to a date in the future will automatically make this happen.
Extra: This is not a store, just a distributor, this means that they upload to other stores for you. I personally go with B&N and iStore through them. You can also let them upload to Kobo but those are so easy that I rather do those myself.
Available stores to upload: Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Scribd, Page Foundry.

I go through Draft 2 Digital for B&N and iStore because they’re a LOT faster than Smashwords in uploading and updating. Though there is a downside: Smashwords has a LOT more stores they distribute to, so I still upload with Smashwords too.


Smashwords (store and distributor)
Royalties: variable, depending on your price, but at 0.99 it’s 58% and at $2.99 it’s 74%. You will see how much exactly when you upload your book.
Upload: Word document that is formatted according to their guide.
Free: YES. You can set your price to free for their own store and any other store that accepts the free price through SW (this includes the iStore and Nook).
Pre-order: YES, they accept pre-order for iBooks, Nook and Kobo. With the pitfall that it’s best if you set the pre-order date about 4 to 5 weeks into the future, which is a lot in comparison to the other stores, but better than nothing.
Extra: They distribute to a LOT of stores and even libraries. They’re slow on telling you when you’ve had a sale, so it’s not worth to check each day. Depending on where you’ve also uploaded it’s smart to untick the distribution to some stores, you can find that under Channel Manager after you’ve uploaded a book. I LOVE Smashwords, not for their distribution per se but because of their sales and coupons. Multiple times per year Smashwords has sales where people can get books for 100%, 75%, 50% and 25% off, depending on what you’ve signed the book up for. I’ve sold and given away a LOT of copies from most of my books during these. And they’ve also got an option to give coupons to people. That way you can set the price or discount %. This is very handy when you want to give away free copies for reviews to people who need some other format than epub or mobi.
Available stores: Sony, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor Blio, Txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, and Scribd.


7. Marketing

I can talk a LOT about this but I’m just giving you some words to google because this guide is long enough as it is.

– blog tour (these you can organise yourself or have someone organise for you)

– social media for authors (also check out my Social Media management made Easy post)

– Goodreads

– Giveaways



Thank you for reading all this! I hope you’ve found it useful.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.





Recent changes:

Changes 07 Sep 2014
– Created TOC for page
– Added link to my formatting website 5 Times Formatting
– Added B&N to the stores list, now they also branched out into Europe
– Took out Amazon as option to publish to through D2D and took out text about not being allowed to publish a book as free
– Added text about pre-orders
– Added text about free books
– Added link to my social media for authors post


  1. This is a really good run through, you make it sound achievable!

    • Thank you for the compliment. It sounds achievable because it is. There is just so much stuff that people tell you to take care of that you no longer see the trees trough the forest.

      Good luck with your writing!

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