In this article, we’ll show you how to write your first book as an indie author based on the first-hand knowledge of Owen Jones, the indie author of 50+ novels and 125 manuals in English over the last twelve years.
Writing your first book as an indie author is a great way to share your knowledge and experience with others. It’s also a good way to earn some money. Whether you earn more if you’re self-published or not is difficult to say. However, this guide will teach you how to start writing your first book today.
Fiction or Non-fiction.
The first consideration is whether it is your intention is to write fiction of non-fiction. Perhaps you already have an idea for a gripping novel, or a non-fiction topic that fascinates you. If you don’t already have an idea for a novel, which can also be non-fiction of course, it is difficult to just invent one on the spot. Unless, perhaps you go for the life and times of a local celebrity past or present.
Choose Your First Book as an Indie Author
However, if you love what you do, then you might enjoy writing about it. Furthermore, if you enjoy writing about something, the chances are that you’ll be happy about researching and learning more about it every day. So, choose a topic that interests you, and you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating toward it. Like ‘Making Wine from the Grapes In the Garden’.
To Plan Or Not To Plan?
Or in writers’ technical terms, are you a planner or a pantser? As in ‘flying by the seat of…’ I personally do a bit of both, however, I plan less in a novel that I do for a manual. After all, a manual is factual, so in our example, if you forget to talk about feeding your grapes it’s a pretty serious omission, but if I forget to tell you something about a character in a novel, the chances are that you’ll never know about it.
Still, before I start to write a book, I think about it for a few days and write down all relevant thoughts. With my novels, I usually know where I want to start and where I want to finish, but I’m not sure how to get there. It’s a lot like being in Cardiff and wanting to drive to Portsmouth with time being unimportant. You put those two points into a route planner and you get various routes. The way points are your initial chapter headings.
So, I now have my starting point, a few cities along the way and my destination, but that doesn’t mean that I have to go that way when I get into my car. I may have to divert because of roadworks, or I may fancy stopping off of in a pretty little village for lunch. It is the same with a work of fiction for me. Sometimes, the final destination changes too! And titles change all the time, especially if your characters talk to you as mine do.
How Long Is The Journey?
A popular saying amongst writers is that the book is finished when the story is over, but it’s not always as simple as that. In Daddy’s Hobby (above), the protagonist, Lek, would not stop talking to me…telling me what to write and how to say it. It was my first novel, but I had done some research and it told me that a first novel should not be much more than 100,000 words. I tried to stop several ties, but Lek would not keep quiet. When I got to 112,000 I just went on strike. However, she still kept talking to me, so I started a sequel. By the way, that series ran to over 800,000 words in seven volumes!
It is easier with non-fiction. When you have told the person’s factual story, or you have explained how to grow grapes and turn them into wine, the book is over.
Editing, Proofreading, Formatting and the Cover.
Now, you have a different set of decisions to make. Do you edit, proofread, format and publish the book yourself or farm it out? A lot of indie authors find this the boring bit, although there is worse to come, more on which later. I do it all myself, but it is not so easy. The way I look at it though is that it is better to discover your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes. I have learned that if I read through it immediately, I will miss most of my typos. It is a common phenomenon. Your brain remembers what it wanted to write, and that is what you see – even in a 100k-word novel! It is quite amazing
So, I wait a fortnight, but during that time, I design the book cover in my head, and write a title, subtitle, and description (blurb) for the book. Give your thoughts on the cover to a professional cover designer and let them get on with that, while you write, rewrite and perfect the blurb. If you have any of the fortnight left, create an author’s blog, and write as many different draft Tweets as you can.
Marketing Your First Book as an Indie Author
There are many, many opinions on this topic. Some say to start marketing as soon as you start writing, if not before! So, their theory is that you explain the journey, a sort of running commentary, as your book progresses. Some actually tell the (bones of) the story too. Others just talk about the nuts and bolts of writing or / and the emotions that it generates. I usually start my promo in the two weeks before editing starts.
TIP: as I write, I might mention something I am not sure about, say the date of a famous battle. I mark these uncertainties with ***, so I know to check them on the edit.
My routine is to start sending out Tweets and other promo material to social media now. I combine the editing and formatting and read through my book twice, which often takes a week. Then, I correct every mistake that I see as soon as I see it, and I eliminate the ***’s. Then, I scan the book fairly quickly to see if the formatting is regular. I find that this is more important than getting it ‘right’.
H1 for the title; H2 for chapter titles; all chapters start on a new right-hand page, etc, etc.
Then, I do a search the text for *** and eliminate any that remain.
Finally, I read through it again slowly for the last time. Everything has to be perfect in my eyes now, because that is it. Many authors will then send the completed product to beta readers, friends and family, who will point out even more errors. This can be embarrassing, but not as much as if you publish with them in the book.
Publishing Your First Book as an Indie Author
You don’t have a lot of options as an indie writer. You will become an indie publisher to, and the best way to start is at Amazon KDP. It’s pretty straight-forward to complete an ebook, paperback and hardback within a couple of hours. When you are done, your book will be published within 72 hours. Then real work of selling your first book as an indie author begins.
However, that is a whole other story – a sequel perhaps 🙂