Part 1 – The Top 30 Websites for Authors to Learn About Self-Publishing


Are you the kind of person who doesn’t want to miss anything in the realm of self-publishing? If so, then the best way to stay ahead of the game is to subscribe to as many indie author sites as possible. There are a lot of sites out there. These blogs are educational, inspirational, entrepreneurial, or a mix of all the above. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve had your head in the sand for a while, here’s a list of the top 30 sites you can follow to learn more about self-publishing.

1. Author Marketing Institute


Sure, we may be a little biased, but we’ve been putting together some great resources for you on the Author Marketing Institute. In addition to the multiple articles we provide every week, we’ve also got the Author Marketing Podcast, the Author Marketing Academy, the Author Marketing Club, and we have tons of new resources coming in the future. Whether you like to learn through text, audio, or video, AMI has you covered.

2. The Sell More Books Show


This podcast, which is hosted by AMI founder Jim Kukral and author Bryan Cohen, is a 30-40 minute news program that covers the latest stories in the indie author world. Through the lens of their experience, Jim and Bryan cover a trio of tips authors can follow and five newsworthy items in order of importance. The hosts work tirelessly to provide you with the latest from the blogosphere to keep you from having to do the research yourself. The show is densely packed with up-to-date information that can help you make sure your author platform is up with the times.

3. The Creative Penn


Author Joanna Penn is a pure authorpreneur, and while she may not have invented that term, she may as well have been the originator. Joanna writes epic posts that are full of ways to apply the lessons of running a good business to your author career. Through these posts and her twice-monthly podcast of the same name, Joanna also discusses what she’s working on in both the fiction and non-fiction markets. Authors who are looking to sustain themselves on the “word trade” for a lifetime would do well to pour over the last few years of Joanna’s content.

4. The KBoards Writers’ Cafe,60.0.html


The Writers’ Cafe on KBoards is proof that you’re never alone as an indie author. Authors at all levels of the game post pressing questions and answers on the forum. KBoards gives you a wonderful opportunity to digitally network with other authors and learn a great deal about the new and the old of indie authorship. If you have yet to sign up for a free account, then today’s the day to stop by the Writers’ Cafe.

5. The Passive Voice


The Passive Voice, which is run by attorney David Vandagriff, is the mecca of self-publishing news. If you want to know the latest news for indies in real-time, then this is the blog to subscribe to. During the recent Hachette vs. Amazon conflict, The Passive Voice had the most comprehensive collection of stories from both sides of the debate. Check out the comments to see opinions from a collection of who’s who in the indie author sphere.

6. The Digital Reader


Nate Hoffelder’s The Digital Reader is very similar to the Passive Voice but with more opinion and a deeper industry focus. Want to know when Barnes & Noble will inevitably bite the dust? The Digital Reader will be the first to cover it. Want to get an expert’s take the day after Amazon releases a new tool? Nate’s your guy. This site features multiple news stories per day, and it’s one of the best ways to keep up with the dollars and cents side of self- and traditional-publishing.

7. Self Publishing Questions


Steve Scott is one of the most prolific non-fiction authors of the last five years. He’s been covering the business end of his success with quarterly posts on for some time, but his latest enterprise, The Self Publishing Questions Podcast, is a game-changer for beginner, intermediate, and advanced indie authors. The show’s format is simple. Steve plays a question from one of his readers. Then he uses his expertise to give a 10-minute answer. With over 50 episodes and five more scheduled each week, SPQ will become a massive repository of information for the indie community for years to come.

8. The Future of Ink


The Future of Ink is a go-to site for incredible guest posts about specific topics to help indies succeed. Founded by Denise Wakeman and Ellen Britt, The Future of Ink delivers comprehensive advice on everything from reviews, to blurbs, to pricing, and everything in between. This is a great site for helping you make the jump from knowledgeable author to expert.

9. Writer Unboxed


Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton started Writer Unboxed as a place where they could publish their thoughts on writing. Nine years later, the site has become much more than that. With over a dozen monthly contributors, the site hits writing and publishing from multiple angles. Writer Unboxed touches upon writing craft, indie authorship, marketing, and a whole bunch of other topics all in one place. When you get tired of dry, academic reading, Writer Unboxed will be there to tell it to you straight.

10. The Book Designer


Joel Friedlander, who is literally a book designer, is also an expert on the publishing and self-publishing industries. His site contains several key areas for indies, including weekly collections of relevant articles from around the web, monthly cover design contests, and guest posts by other writing luminaries. The cover design contests are especially entertaining and can help you to determine how to make your own covers stand out from the crowd.

11. Kris Writes


Have you ever wanted to dive deep into the topics of indie authorship? Kristine Kathryn Rusch, an award winning sci-fi and fantasy writer, is more than worth following for her expertise on the publishing industry. But it’s her in-depth, complex posts on the business of writing that make this blog a must-follow.

12. Helen Sedwick’s Blog


Anything can be a little scary when you get the lawyers involved, self-publishing included. Helen Sedwick, an experienced business lawyer, has put out a blog to help indie authors deal with their most common concerns about contracts, copyrights, and other legal snafus. Sedwick’s blog is required reading for authors considering foreign sales, movie rights, or a traditional publishing deal.

13. Dean Wesley Smith’s Blog


Dean Wesley Smith, an author of over 100 published novels, would be inspiring enough for his productivity alone. His series on killing the sacred cows of traditional publishing and indie publishing are extremely important for authors who are new to either side of the industry. Between his posts and the posts of his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the two stars of self-publishing make an incredible indie writing power couple.

14. Hugh Howey’s Blog


Ever wanted to see how a million copy-selling author connects with his readers? Check out Hugh Howey’s blog to see his video blogs, thoughts on his books, and a series of posts on the publishing industry. Howey also goes into great depth about his influential study, the Author Earnings project, which has shown that many authors are able to earn a living wage from their book sales alone.

15. A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing


Are most indie author blogs too pollyanna for you? Joe Konrath’s blog is the exact opposite. A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing has dozens of guest posts, as well as thoughts about Konrath’s rise to success in the indie world, but that’s not all. The real treats of the blog are Konrath’s scathing takedowns of the traditional publishing industry. Who knows who he’ll fisk next?

50 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Author Platform


Most people learn by asking questions. When you request information from an intelligent individual, you’re likely to pick up some new advice or skill that will help you to advance your knowledge. But what if you already know a lot about a given subject like self-publishing, and you simply have yet to apply what you’ve learned? What do you do then?

The trick is to ask yourself the right questions. Using targeted self-publishing questions, you can evaluate yourself on what you still need to accomplish to become a more successful author. Here are 50 questions that’ll help you determine what else you need to do to improve your chances of self-publishing success:

  1. Have you set up an Author Central account on all the different language Amazon stores?
  2. Is your author page optimized with a picture, description, Twitter profile, and a video?
  3. Have you edited your book descriptions with the same precision as your books?
  4. Is your description compelling?
  5. Is it over 300 words so it can be properly indexed in search engines?
  6. Does it include your keywords?
  7. Do your book covers fit your genre?
  8. What would it take to make your covers fit in with your category’s bestsellers?
  9. If you write in a series, do your covers reflect that in their branding?
  10. Are your keywords optimized to either get you into a new category or increase your search rankings on Amazon?
  11. Have you applied those optimized keywords to the other retailers?
  12. Does your book’s front matter and back matter link to your email list?
  13. Would the offer you’re making to sign up be compelling enough for you to click through if you saw it in another author’s book?
  14. If not, how can you spice it up?
  15. How do you keep in touch with your readers?
  16. Would you classify them as excited to hear from you?
  17. How could you increase that excitement further?
  18. How do you connect with new readers?
  19. Is your website optimized to attract and accept new readers?

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  20. What could you do to make your site more inviting?
  21. Where do your readers hang out?
  22. Do you have a presence on those platforms?
  23. What could you do to make sure your time there is well-spent?
  24. Who are the biggest authors in your genre?
  25. What are they doing that makes them so successful?
  26. Have you ever reached out to any of them for advice?
  27. What do you think they would tell you to do first and foremost?
  28. How much time do you spend on marketing per week?
  29. How much of that time leads to quantifiable results?

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  30. What are some ways you could make your marketing more efficient right away?
  31. Is your catalogue selling as well as it should?
  32. Why or why not?
  33. What are five steps you could take to make your books sell better?
  34. Is your writing time as efficient as it could be?
  35. What about your writing process?
  36. What could you do to streamline both to create more work more effectively?
  37. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned this year about running a better author business?
  38. What’s holding you back from applying those lessons?
  39. How will you overcome those roadblocks?
  40. How much money have you invested in your author business?
  41. If you had more to spend, then what would you use it on?
  42. What would you need to do to save enough money to pull that off?
  43. What do you think is the best possible publishing path for you in the next year?
  44. How about the next five years?
  45. What goals would you have to set in the next few months to start down that path?
  46. How will you learn to become a better writer?
  47. What kind of skill level would you like to attain in your lifetime?
  48. What might you need to do to reach those heights?
  49. How hard are you willing to work to make your career a success?
  50. How can you best set yourself up for success in the years to come?

What other questions would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below or write in some answers to your favorite of the above 50.

25 Things Most People Don’t Know About Self-Publishing


The stigma of self-publishing is gone, but not all the myths have been forgotten. New authors learn about self-publishing in many different ways, but unfortunately, not all of those channels are accurate or legitimate. Additionally, many trad pub authors and members of the population at large are just as unaware of the realities of indie authorship. Check out these 25 self-publishing facts that 99 percent of people don’t know:

  1. You don’t need a copyright, trademark, or ISBN to publish. While it’s good practice to include a copyright page in your book, you don’t need to pay extra for any kind of documentation. According to the latest Author Earnings report, 30 percent of the top books sold on Amazon don’t have an ISBN. These days, it’s simply an unnecessary cost.

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  1. Many authors spend hundreds of dollars to make their books more professional. The most common argument against the validity of indie publishing is that all self-publishing books are unprofessional. Authors who believe in their craft will pay hundreds of dollars for an editor, several hundred more for a cover designer, and, depending on their patience, even more on formatting. They spend this money before making a single dime off that book. It’s a risk indie authors are willing to take.
  1. Self-publishers usually hire independent contractors for this work; not author services companies. There are many high-priced scammy companies out there that will charge thousands of dollars to produce a professional self-published product. There are many reported rip-offs from these organizations, so most authors steer clear of these all-in-one companies.
  1. Most indie authors don’t have agents, but some do for very specific reasons. Self-published authors with great success like Hugh Howey retain agents to handle things like selling foreign rights and negotiating movie deals. Unless your books are big hits, you probably don’t need to bother with an agent.
  1. Self-published authors produce books on their own schedules, and many finish several books in a single year. Production schedules for publishing houses rarely push more than one book by a single author in one calendar year. Some indies put out a novel every single month. This speed is more the norm for authors than you’d think.

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  1. Indie authors who write faster maintain strong quality regardless of the speed. With intelligent scheduling and top-notch editors, self-published authors usually don’t sacrifice quality despite seemingly epic quantity.
  1. Successful authors in the self-publishing world must consider creativity and business in equal measure. The term “authorpreneur” was born out of the need to define authors who run their career like an independent publishing house. These authors project earnings and use profit-loss statements as they develop characters and build worlds.
  1. The top selling self-published authors earn most of their money from ebooks sold on Amazon. Through Amazon’s KDP platform, indie authors push their books out to the most active reader marketplace in the world. This platform provides most authors with their biggest paychecks.
  1. A desire for diverse income streams and recent changes by Amazon has authors publishing their books to several other platforms. Hundreds of authors reported significant earning drops of thousands of dollars a month toward the end of 2014. This was blamed on everything from a saturated marketplace to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited borrowing program. Regardless of the reason, authors have sought serious income refuge on other platforms like Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Google Play.
  1. Self-published authors can earn a livable wage from book sales alone. The Author Earnings report has gone a long way to dispel the myth that only a handful of authors earn a decent income from self-publishing. While it’s still a minority, more writers than you think have quit clock-punching to take up full-time authorship.

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  1. Even successful authors supplement their income by teaching classes, writing copy, and taking on other work to make ends meet. This is something that indies and trad pubs have in common. Even though self-publishing is a strong choice for new authors, it’s no gold rush, and the hardest workers tend to be the most successful.
  1. The hardest working, most prolific authors are often the most financially successful. To hear the hours kept by many indie authors, you’d think you were talking to a partner in a top law firm. While there are part-time success stories, there are more triumphant tales from authors who work 60-80 hours per week.
  1. Successful self-published authors tend to promote themselves more effectively than the average trad pub author. Publishers are good at what they do, but marketing isn’t part of the package. Trad pubs sell books to book stores; not to readers. As a result, many voracious readers have latched onto the personal attention that indies are willing to provide.
  1. Not all indies like marketing, but they understand it’s a necessary part of doing business. As the recent drops in author income have shown, authors can’t count on Amazon or any of the other retailers to send readers to every book every time. Self-published authors are learning the need for tools like a mailing list in which there’s no middleman between them and their readers.
  1. In the indie world, the gatekeepers are the readers. To become a traditionally-published author, you usually need at least an agent and an interested editor. Ninety-nine percent of authors who go this route are rejected by the gatekeepers. Self-published authors have gatekeepers as well. If readers don’t like a book, then they’ll let the authors hear it by leaving negative reviews and never buying one of the authors’ books again.

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  1. Negative reviews can quickly affect a self-published authors’ bottom line. A one-star review on Amazon will hurt any author’s feelings, but for indies, it can also lead to reduced book sales. Low reviews bring down the overall average for a book. When a book falls below the four-star average, it may make the book less appealing to readers and the all-important book advertisers. In other words, trolls can directly hurt authors with their negative reviews. On the other hand, a positive review can lift a book’s review average and encourage sales.
  1. For better or worse, many indies depend on their acceptance by selective book advertisers like BookBub. BookBub is a promotional service for authors with over two million email subscribers curated by their favorite genres. Authors will apply to BookBub every month for 99-cent or free book promotions, even though the company only accepts 10 to 15 percent of applicants. Indies and trad pubs alike will shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars to pull in 2,000-3,000 sales or 20,000-30,000 free downloads in a single day.
  1. Most self-published authors don’t feel that giving away free books devalues their work. In fact, many indies have used free books as a competitive advantage, funneling readers to their email lists. Some authors are willing to give away a full novel to get more readers invested in the start of a series.
  1. Many indies write series books instead of standalones for a variety of reasons. Beyond having the chance to delve deeper into a world or a character, self-published authors find that series books just plan sell better. These books are easier to promote, and when you hook a reader, you may be able to coax out the sales of every book in the series.
  1. Indies come in all ages, genres, and backgrounds. There are success stories for self-published authors in their teens as well as people born in the teens. While many top earners are in the romance genre, self-published authors have had success with thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, young adult books, and more. Some of the biggest indie authors first got their start in trad pub, while others never sent out a single query letter before hitting it big.
  1. Indies love helping other indies. There are countless self-publishing blogs and podcasts bent on helping indies improve their craft, their marketing, and their sales.
  1. Self-published authors are expanding into conferences throughout the world, with some indie-centric events hitting the big time like Author Marketing Live, PubSense Summit, and IndieRecon.
  1. Indie authors like H.M. Ward have made headlines for turning down six-figure self-publishing deals. Ward said she was particularly displeased with the trad pubs’ marketing plan.
  1. There’s been a big debate among indies lately about whether or not to go exclusive with Amazon. Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program gives authors the option to run free promotions or discounted Kindle Countdown Deals. The program also places books in the controversial Kindle Unlimited catalogue. Exclusivity runs for 90 days at a time and does not permit authors to put books on other platforms. Indies in KDP Select also can’t sell the books on their own websites.
  1. Drops in revenue from Kindle Unlimited and overall sales decreases have made some pundits say the golden age of self-publishing has come to a close. Others say the claims are short-sighted and that there are plenty of good times still to come for authors who are willing to work. Whichever side you find yourself on, self-publishing continues to be a valid path to publication for thousands of authors. As the industry continues to change, the indie author movement may find even more writers within its ranks.

How to Eke Out 2 Hours of Writing Per Day


You’ve probably heard the advice enough times to be sickened by it. The pundits say that if you can eke out two hours of writing time per day, you’ll have no problem publishing a few books every year. When most normal people try to find that extra time in their schedules, they can’t help but laugh. “Two hours per day,” they say, “I’m lucky if I can find 10 minutes.” That being said, if you want to make writing books a part of your life, then you’ll need to carve out regular time every day to put pen to paper.

It’s easy to get into a productivity rut. When life gets jam-packed with work and family obligations, 10-minute tasks can easily turn into half-hour endeavors. This problem is universal, but most people never squeeze out the necessary time to fit in creative work. You have to strive for better to be a writer. Here are five ways to carve out two hours of writing per day:

1. Cut Everything That’s Unnecessary

The most successful people in the world are absolutely ruthless with their time. If they have to choose between watching the big championship game and finishing a work project, then they’ll likely just catch the highlights the next day. These second-hand sticklers comb through all the activities on their schedule and cut out anything that isn’t necessary.

What activities could you live without and what could you change to take less time? Chop out the 15 minutes you spend reading the paper, and nix the half-hour you take for your daily Facebook newsfeed scroll. Make your gym workout twice as intense but half as long. Have your kids join an after-school program, and make a trade with your spouse to get a few extra scribbling hours per week. Every life is different, but time is time. Even the tiniest of changes can add up massively over the course of a year or two.

2. Sacrifice Some Social Time

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Most writing is done alone. If you can’t get enough alone time, then you’ll have a lot of trouble finishing that next manuscript. One of the biggest drains on solo writing time is an active social life. When you stay out late and sacrifice your sleep, keeping yourself on schedule the following day will be a major challenge.

This may seem like a recommendation that you become a hermit, which is at least partly true. Social interaction is a wonderful thing. It’s just not conducive to writing. Sometimes you need to make a choice: writing or entertainment. If you decide on writing, then you may not be as popular, but at least you’ll have something interesting to talk about on the occasions where you do leave the house.

3. Find and Fill The Gaps

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Just because you can’t find two continuous hours of writing doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze the full 120 minutes out of your day. Many authors use their morning commutes and lunch breaks to get words on the page. Others bring their computers and pads of paper to doctor’s offices, carpool pick-up lanes, and other non-traditional spaces to make the writing happen. When you can’t fit in the time otherwise, you need to find and fill the gaps in your schedule.

Look for instances when you have at least 10 minutes when you’re waiting for something to happen. This could range from waiting for your son to get out of school to the end of the laundry machine wash cycle. Figure out ways to insert writing into all of those fallow periods. Train yourself to be able to write in short powerful bursts. If you can string together enough of these tiny writing sessions, then you’ll be able to collect a cumulative 10-15 hours per week.

4. Work When Nobody Is Awake

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Writing in the middle of a crowded parking lot is great for squeezing in a few hundred words, but it’s not without its distractions. This is why one of the best practices for procuring writing time is to find times where you can work without interruption. The best way to do this is to write when nobody is awake.

This may seem like the nuclear option, but it’s been the secret to success for many an author. It’s a commitment to wake up an hour or two earlier or to burn the midnight oil, but this is time you need to get your work finished. It can’t be compromised, so you may as well compromise the hours you spend awake.

5. Life-Proof Your Time

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Your time is valuable, but you need to make sure the other people in your life understand that. Dedicated authors find ways to carve out writing time in which their spouse and children agree not to interrupt them. When you and your family are on the same page about your career, this is less difficult than you’d think.

The other way to life-proof your time is to relentlessly plan everything as many months out as possible. Set hard and fast deadlines for your writing projects and make it clear to everyone just how much time you’ll need to finish. Deal in absolutes when you share the amount of daily writing time you’ll require. If you can’t make the compromises you need, then try to do as much of your writing away from the house as you possibly can.

Time Is What You Make Of It


It’s incredible to hear the stories of people with multiple kids and full-time jobs that somehow finish book after book. These authors have been able to mine their schedules to set aside the time they need to get things done. In most cases, it wasn’t easy, but there’s no one-click path to becoming the author you want to be. Start making changes in your schedule today that’ll have you writing books well into the future.

5 Mindset Changes to Sell More Books


It’s tough to tell where you get all of your assumptions. Maybe you heard something about selling books during a writing conference presentation and it stuck deep within your brain. Perhaps you read something online and it seemed too true to be fake. No matter where you got your information, whether it’s correct or far off base, it’s pretty clear that your mindset makes a major impact on your ability to sell books.

There are dozens of tactics that can improve your sales, many of which we’ve covered elsewhere on the Author Marketing Institute, but it’s often a combination of tactics and what you believe that propels you to success. If you already know all the right things to do, then the last step may be to get your mind right. Here are five false beliefs about selling books that you should change to become more successful:

1. Writing Books Is Magic

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Creativity has a reputation as a sort of magical phenomenon that comes to successful writers in a burst of inspiration. In reality, there’s no fairy dust. The majority of authors cajole their creativity to function on a schedule so it shows up when they sit down to do the work.

The inspiration epiphany myth of creativity has been perpetuated by the top dogs of the industry for years. It’s allowed the most successful authors to position themselves as gifted magicians instead of the hard workers they truly are. Like counting beans, creativity is a job. The sooner you internalize that, the better it’ll be for your author career.

2. I’m Not a Salesperson

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Along the same wavelength, aspiring authors like to label themselves as artists, not salespeople. Well, there’s good news and bad news on that front. The bad news is that anybody who has a product for sale is a salesperson. That includes painters, musicians, and artists.

Here’s the good news: book sales improve as you become a better salesperson. Determining when to be an artist and when to concentrate on sales can be a tough balance to strike, but you can improve on both accounts throughout your author journey. Take classes and read books on craft, and listen to podcasts or sign up for webinars on marketing. When you concentrate on improving both aspects of your platform, you’re bound to sell more books over time.

3. It Should Be Easy

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This false belief really gets at the heart of why some potential authors hesitate when they get into the thick of things. Somewhere along the line they’ve been told that their true purpose in life should be easy. After working impossibly hard to finish a first draft or a short story, this prospective indie writer applies the “myth of easy” and thinks that writing may not be for them. It’s an unfortunate error in judgment that can have an impact on everything you do in life.

Who knows where this myth sprung up. Maybe the media portrayed prolific authors as gods and goddesses so many times that everybody started to believe it. Enough people thought the writing process was simple and easy for authors like James Patterson and Stephen King, so they figured writing should feel like a joy and a perfect fit if they’re meant to be part of the esteemed group.

Writing is hard for everybody. It gets easier when you’ve written a dozen novels, but it never becomes an uncontested slam-dunk. In fact, most things that are worth doing are difficult. When something makes you uncomfortable or afraid, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Sometimes, a task is hard because you simply haven’t done it enough times. Don’t give up when something gets hard. If you do, then you’ll pave the way for everyone who’s willing to fight hard for their dream job.

4. I Can Do This Alone

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Many writers are introverts. Some are hardcore introverts who’d rather hole up in a hotel for six weeks writing a novel than interact with even a minimal number of people. When this independent introvertedness is part of your very being, you may want to convince yourself that you can do this whole author thing without getting anyone else involved. This is an incorrect assumption.

First of all, there are the basic necessities of any indie author. You need an editor and a cover designer to make sure your book looks good inside and out. Beyond that, however, you’ll need to get in touch with plenty of people to ensure your book’s success.

Connecting with peers as part of a mastermind group or private forum can help you learn tips and tricks on both the marketing and writing sides. Banding together with other authors as part of group promotions like social media events and box sets can improve sales and lead to long-standing friendships. Additionally, you’ll need to connect with your fans through social media, podcasts, and email to develop a strong readership for your work.

Writing may be something that you do alone. Authorship requires a lot more people than you might think.

5. There’s a Formula

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Everybody’s always looking for a formula. They want to find the exact framework for the million-dollar outline, or they need to know the perfect keywords or blurb to shoot their books to top of the bestseller lists. The problem is that there’s no such thing as a formula that works every time. There are patterns that present themselves occasionally, but one person’s path to success won’t always work as a model for your books.

Instead of trying to copy the success of others, strive to create your own self-publishing path. Learn from the tactics of the best and brightest but leave time for experimentation too. There’s no “Easy” button for being an indie author, but through hard work, you can create a career path that’s both unique and rewarding.

Rage Against the Myth-Making Machine

The myths of self-publishing are starting to break down. Authors can write 12 books a year that are just as polished as trad pubs. Indies can earn money beyond Amazon alone. The less you’re willing to believe the myths of writing and authorship, the more likely you are to have a fruitful and truthful author career.