Dear Indie Annie, 

I’ve finished my first book and sent it off to my editor. While he’s ripping it apart, I’ve started looking into all the things I need to do to self-publish my book—and it’s… a lot. I’m so confused by what I need to do first. And I often find conflicting information. How do I not get overwhelmed by it all?


Floundering in Fairbanks

My Dear Floundering,

Welcome to the world of the Indie Author. In our world, you are the chef, the bottle washer, the maitre d’, and the guy with the sandwich board on the street corner. You’re the chief everything officer. 

Things can become overwhelming, and the best advice I can give you is to dig deep inside, grab your inner control freak and bring him or her kicking and screaming to the surface, for this is their time to shine!

You need to be organized. Above all, you need a checklist.

I love lists. I can spend hours, days, if not weeks, creating my list of things to do, embroidering it onto a sampler, and hanging it on the wall to gaze at in admiration whilst I sip my tea and think about my next book. But, here’s a big tip for you in Fairbanks—that doesn’t get the work done.

It gives me a beautiful list. I embroider. Others will create pretty journals, and the really disturbed procrastinators will devise intricate spreadsheets they can flip into graphs and pie charts. But I am not a fan of a pie I can’t eat. 

The important part is not the creation of the list, but the putting it into action. Effective action is all about prioritization. An endless list of “things to be done” is an energy suck. Far better to identify the top ten things you have to do and put them in order. “But, how,” I hear you cry, “how, dear Annie, do I know what should be in my top ten?”

I wish there was a simple answer to this, but so much depends on your end goal, your genre, your potential audience, and, above all, your budget. If you can afford to pay for others to do stuff for you, then you can achieve more with your first launch. The same applies if you have a long lead-in time to your launch. 

Consider Your Own Circumstances

Take stock of where you are and what you’ll need to get to your destination. Ask and answer questions designed to understand the full scope of what you’ll need. Are you planning to rapid-release? Are you planning to go wide because you have identified that most of your readers are on Kobo? Do you want to release paperbacks or ebooks first? Do you have money for ads? Have you booked in a developmental edit, or are you boot-strapping the entire show and are self-editing with the help of some free software? 

First Things First: Focus on the Basics

I’m sure it still feels overwhelming. Focus first on the things you must have. You will need an edited manuscript to upload to Amazon or Draft2Digital, etc. You will need a cover and some marketing materials and so on. There are a lot of tiny important stages to work through for even the softest launch. Focus on producing the very best version of your novel and cover, and then layer on the rest as you’re able to. 

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

The best thing you can do is to read the advice of some really successful indie authors and adapt their checklists to suit your needs. Their books will help you understand the rationale behind their release strategies, and all of them will tell you there’s no one right way. 

Break it all down in manageable chunks. 

This is your first book, and although I understand you want to get it all right the first time, you won’t. Learn things as you go. Back to my restaurant analogy (ooh, I do love a metaphor). You are an indie author and to make money at this game, you need to learn the business from the bottom up. One day you may be Gordon Ramsey, but even he started by learning how to chop vegetables. Start small, build upon successes, and soon what is hard now will be second nature. 

Happy writing,

Indie Annie 


Indie Annie’s suggested reading:

Craig Martelle’s Release Strategies: Plan your self-publishing schedule for maximum benefit

Joanna Penn’s Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book

Alice Biggs: Indie Route 101: A Simple Road Map to Publish Your Book

Or if you prefer a course – this one is aimed at total beginners:

David Gaughran’s Starting from Zero

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Indie Annie

Have questions about your own writing and publishing? Ask Indie Annie, our take on the advice column, penned by an irreverent and sassy avatar with a flair for fashionable scarves and a tipple in her teacup.

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