Friday, 8 April 2011

A rough Guide to Indie Publishing.

Don't be scared by the length of this post. I have attached my whole indie printing / publishing strategy at the bottom of this post. (The actual manufacturing not the marketing)

INTRO: Now I am still new to all of this; been in the publishing world for less than a year - and I am still somewhat befuddled by the strident attitudes surrounding the whole indie / self published debate. What I have gleaned so far is that some people think that indie is a gimmicky phrase for self published. But then others seem to define self published as those writers who have gone to a self publishing company - either way there is too much negativity and ignorance woven through what are otherwise inspiring discussions about writer's getting their work out there.

SO WHAT AM I? I am truly indie - independent. I didn't do any kind of deal or buy a package to get my work out there. I wrote a manuscript, then edited it, then had a 'friend edit it', then a kindly book reviewer picked out last minute spelling type errors. I designed the book cover and with the help of my wonderfully ICT genius of a brother - in - law, we photoshoped it, having been in touch with the printers Biddles, (a printer of 'proper' books in the industry)I got all the measurements I needed to ensure the cover would wrap around the printed text.

After several attempts at getting the correct copies to them - and very patient ladies at Biddles, I sent it off. They printed it and then two weeks later, they arrived - all 150 of them.

MY INTENT. I wanted my book to be a convincing product that would stand up agianst the traditionally published. Twelve months ago I had no other experience of indie publishing other than the vanity press stigma. I knew that my book needed to break that mould. I wanted my paperback to be a convincing simularcum of a 'proper' book and so I was painstaking (and highly annoying) in asking printers questions like;

Do you print cream?

Do you print 80g Do you do Matt covers?

Do you print 18cm x 29cm -standard paperback book size?

Will my book have one of those telltale seam signs on the front cover?

I spent hours over the look of the 'thing' because I was determined to beat the prejudice. I also refused to buy into the companies that promised you the earth for a £1,000 package and then delivered a cheaply produced 'product' that screams 'vanity press'.

MY STRATEGY. (You may find this useful if you want to go truly indie)

1. Found an industry printer who was willing to do small print runs - No on demand but that was a trade off. Cost approx £450 for 150 copies all in.

2. Established own small press publishing company called Little Bird Publishing House and contacted Neilsen to purchase ISBN numbers. You have to buy in blocks of 10 for £100 but I intended on writing more books :) THIS AUTOMATICALLY ENSURES THAT YOU GET PICKED UP BY AMAZON and WATERSTONES and you go onto an international catalogue database for all independent bookshops. (DON'T let Self Publishing companies suggest to you that this is a special privilege of signing up with them - it's standard!)

3. Registered book details with Neilsen and had ISBN allocated for BOTH paperback and e-copy. (you need different ones for each form)

4. **MASSIVE TIP*** Altered my paper size on microsoft word document to the actual size of the printing paper 18x29approx and began type-setting - looked at loads of books for different styles.

5. Spent 3 days working out how to do the page numbering (More complicated than I thought)

6. Brought licensed images from a photostock company (beware when people are involved there are far more restrictions about the times you can use the image - as a result, my print copy front cover is different from my e-book) Rang printers and asked for spine size based on page numbers and 80g cream so that we could construct the cover. BE WARNED YOU MUST USE IMAGES 300DPI or more ( I went for 600DPI) - don't be tempted to buy smaller images that cost less.

7. Rang printers and asked about barcodes. They generated barcodes to match ISBN numbers for a flat fee of £25.

8. Paid £45 to have a laser printed proof copy of the front cover. So pleased I did this as I did request alteration and it looks so much better for it. DON'T be tempted cut this cost - it could be more costly in the long run.

9. Set my family the challenge of writing a blurb _ this was harder than writing the book. After a group writing session we settled on it. (It helps having non-writers involved in this as the majority of your market are not other writers)

10. Spent a whole evening with husband and brother-in-law stroking sample front-cover lamination options and different paper grades. Printers sent a booklet which was made up of all the different samples. Agreed Cream weave 80g was the closest to the industry standard.

11. Converted Word document into Adobe PDF file and zipped the photoshop image to send to printer. I downloaded a free programme called 'Primo' and you just drag your word document into the icon on your desk top and magically it converts it into PDF.

12. Made website using a drag and drop system Weebly (I have very limited HTML) and then made linked (branded) images using a basic photoshop program.

13. Started social networking; made facebook page, myspace (Didn't work for me), Twitter (Love it!!!), joined goodreads (brilliant) and made this personal writing blog for contacts with my lovely writer friends and book bloggers.

14. Copied the word document onto standard A4 page document (recall I had altered to print size). Took out all fancy layout / typesetting and numbering. Used Page break function to divide the chapters. (YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT A PAGE ON WORD DOES NOT CONVERT TO AN E-BOOK PAGE. Think of it as one continous page like a roll of toilet paper)

15. Brought a BRILLIANT programme called wordcleaner £60 which converts your word documents into HTML for you. Dropped the word doc. into the icon on my desktop and then magic - job done.

16. Used Amazon.dtp and uploaded my HTML edition of my document.

Total cost around £700 but that includes a HTML programme that will allow me to convert documents for upload all the time.

But the biggest advantage is that it has given me complete autonomy and whether it is right or wrong, I know that the 'properness' of my book gives me a first impression advantage. Readers are open to it before they have already judged it, rather than waiting to have their vanity press stigma proven wrong by the contents.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Katie. It will be very useful when I'm finally ready! :-)

  2. This is a great post. I'm interested how we had the same goals: our work needs to stack up against authors who have signed publishing deals. My experiences were slightly different; I may well blog about them. Great to share this.

  3. Oh this rings bells, loud and clear. I've been through many of the same stages. Biddles are not only a green company, they are also very lovely and helpful people. I enquired the printing costs, too. Unfortunately, I can't afford to pay this much money upfront. I went with kindle and lulu. Though I'm now searching for another solution to print my books. It would be less money than yours as it's a collection of short stories, but still a lot of money upfront. But I will bet money on it: the quality is not to compare with Lulu or Createspace.

  4. I learnt the hard way that I should have pushed my kindle e-sales first and banked some capital.It's taken a lot of work to recoup my outlay costs. Next book #2 of The Knight Trilogy will be e-pubbed four months before the paperback release. Will get cheaper On demand printing for give away ARC paperback copies and then invest in Biddles again when going for printed.
    I also haven't invested enough time in pushing the paperback sales. This is my summer holiday project!!
    I raised the money by treating it like a fundraiser - carboots, e-bay and lose change jars - wasn't easy but set it as a goal.

  5. Good post, Katie! I have some background in web design and was appalled at the extra code both MSWord and Open Office use when uploading as a Kindle. I have to work my own tips and add it for people. You don't have to buy an html converter AT ALL - just use notepad or notepad++ HTML basic code is just that - basic! It's the extra codes people should know, so they can safely delete it. It dramatically reduces file/delivery size for your customers.

  6. I never knew about the negativity about Indie books till I started doing reviews (and started also reading more review blogs) always wondered why some said 'no indie books' Still don't totally get the stigma but ultimately those people are missing some real gems.

    This is such a detailed how-to, I would imagine a real help for writers (am not one, just a reader in awe at you all *g*)

  7. Great post! Hi from across "the pond."

  8. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform
    you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great
    post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.

  9. Thank you! I've been looking for this info! The spine printing info is so key! You're right about e-books first, that's how I was planning to do it but you just gave me confirmation. And Thanks for the tip about having a different isbn number for each format I hadn't read that any where yet.

    1. Hi Krystena,
      Thanks for your comments. So pleased that this 'guide' proved helpful. It's amazing how much of a learning curve I've been on in the last year. The pace of change in indie publishing is so rapid and there are so many sharks out there trying to make a fast buck out of the whole thing. Hope the writing is going well, and stay in touch if you want any further help or advice - I'm not an expert but I'm beginning to feel very much like an 'experienced' traveller. You can catch up with me at my Twitter handle @KnightTrilogy.
      Wishing you all the best.

  10. what to say i praise of this blog, which contains a lot of amazing information as well as the thoughtful writes.

    Promotional products oklahoma city