Friday, November 20, 2015

Four Things I Wish I 'd Known BEFORE I Started Indie Publishing

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

1. The Mysterious World of Editing
Many indie careers are launched in November, when The Office of Letters and Light (Nanowrimo) gives away the free Createspace proof copy to all of the winners. Createspace wisely gives you time (6 months, when I did it) to use the coupon code.

During those six months all first time indie authors need, desperately need, to hire an editor. (I may be projecting here.)

If you are writing your first book ever this November, then when you are done, I suggest you set the book aside and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Give yourself some space from the book, then dive into self edits. When you are done, hunt down a handful of talented and experienced writers.

My first suggestion, if this is your first novel, is to find a critique group and bring some pages for feedback. If you can’t, then you need line editors to tell you how well your words work together, beta readers to give you an idea of how well your story works, and finally a proofreader who can clean the whole document up before you publish. Where do you find these magic people? Word of mouth is the best, in my opinion. Ask your writer friends, hang out in some writer groups on Facebook and ask there. Basically, anywhere that writers hang out, start asking. Or Google, but your mileage may vary.

There are other important places to invest money as a new business person, but this is the first and the most.

2. The Mysterious World of Record Keeping
The second thing I wish I had known when I started as an indie author was how to keep records. This is perfectly simple to some people, I’m sure. But a lot of writers are sort of left-brained artsy types, so it’s not all that simple. I’m one of those. And around five years ago when I started my indie journey, I developed terrible habits that haunt me still.

Keeping track of your daily sales and ads is vitally important. That data helps you plot your marketing schemes. This is obvious, I suppose, but keeping a spread sheet and filling it in every day is not my strong point.

Another important thing to keep track of is business expenses. I don’t take these lightly, but that doesn’t mean I do it efficiently. Most of my business bucks are spent via Paypal, and it is simple enough to do all at once on a rainy Saturday. That said, it is a lot easier to take care of it like a grownup.

One simple way to keep track of your expenses if you aren’t the kind of person to record them on the spot, is to move every emailed receipt into a special folder called “receipts.” This million dollar idea just occurred to me today, so, yeah. I’m definitely not a naturally organized business person.

3.The Mysterious World of Taxes
Thinking of business expenses, I wish I had known more about taxes when I started. This is where I tell you to call a CPA and discuss the best way to set up your writing business. The odds of making money as an indie are pretty good, and if this is your second or third family income source you may well find yourself in a new tax bracket.

Think I’m being overly optimistic? A few surveys of indie writers have found that the real news of indie publishing is how very many people are making between $200 and $500 a month on their writing. No, it’s not quit your job money, but if you have a job, and your spouse has one too, then you may have tax consequences from an extra $6000 a year. (Source:

Talking to a CPA should answer all of your questions simply enough, but I found Limited Liability Companies for Dummies to be a valuable resource.

4. The Mysterious World of Time Management
And finally, I wish I had known how to tune out social media. My worst habit is to pop back online when I don’t know what happens next in a book/chapter/paragraph/sentence. (So, pop over to Facebook and say “hi!” I’m sure I’m there, right now!

Fortunately there are great plug-ins to help with this problem. Focal Filter is one. You can download it to your computer and set the sites you want it to blog and how long you want to block them. Another one, for Chrome users is StayFocused. It blocked Chrome so well for me that I started using Explorer to go online instead.

The most effective tool I’ve found, for me, is a simple word processor. That’s right. A little guy called Alphasmart. First designed for use in school, the Alpha smart has no proper screen. It plugs into my computer via USB and uploads my content directly to my word processing software when I am ready. You can buy them used on Amazon for around $40. (This is a business expense so save that receipt!)

These basics were foreign to me, and may be to you, as well. If so, I hope this little post helped! Sometimes the most valuable tool in starting a new venture is just chatting with someone who has been doing the same thing for a little while. And hey, I’m probably on Facebook right now, so feel free to come by for a chat!

4 Things I Wish I'd Known BEFORE I Began #IndiePublishing - @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Learn Some of the Mysteries of #IndiePub from expert @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet) 

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven Romantic Mysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at


  1. Thanks, Traci. Great article. I'm particularly poor with record keeping. I've found FaceBook advertising to be very effective. Nonetheless, I rely too much on the FB Advertising Manager and I don't "connect the dots" sufficiently to really understand what expenditures produce the best results. Excel is definitely a habit I need to employ. Thanks, again. - Joel

  2. Great reminders for all of us and you've nudged me to dust off my AlphaSmart and get those words written! Right after I catch up on the record keeping. ;-)

    1. lol! It's tug of war in my brain all the time: Finally catch up on the receipts or get some words on the page?

      Usually Facebook ends up winning... ;)

  3. Great ideas, Traci! Maybe I'll hire hubs to keep mine. I wonder if he'd agree.

  4. Thank you, Traci. Problem though. Christian writers don't hang around in my city in the center of the United States. Where do I find a critique group?

  5. My first thought to is join the ACFW and then connect with the local chapter! If you are in a big enough town there will be one near you. :D

    If not, you can still log in for Nanowrimo and connect with local writers that way! Getting together with other Christian authors is great and can really help with content and writing to market, but I have been very blessed through the years with my secular writers friends, too. So if you don't happen to find a Christian group right off, don't despair!

    Another place to check would be the bulletin boards at the library, coffee shops, book stores, and even community college/community centers. Somewhere, there is a group of writers who would love to have you come by!