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3 Essential Skills for Indie Authors to Learn

Being an indie author involves a heck of a lot more than just writing.

While there is no substitute for being a great writer, even the best writers need to be able to carry out a large variety of tasks to succeed.

In truth, it’s often people other than the very best writers who experience the highest levels of success. 

Instead, it’s the people who can see the big picture when it comes to self-publishing and execute all the steps needed to make it happen.

If you consider yourself to be an indie author, you probably don’t need any encouragement when it comes to writing. The craft of writing is something you almost certainly love and work at regularly. 

Rather than focusing on writing, let’s take the time to consider some other skills that you should focus on to succeed at self-publishing.

Self-Publishing Project Planning 

Succeeding in the indie author game is as much down to your project management ability as it is your creative talents.

There are so many moving pieces to keep track of when planning a book. If you fail to ensure everything is planned properly, one wrong move can have a serious knock-on effect. This can either lead to a delay in your book launching, or a compromise in its success when it does. 

While it might sound intimidating to plan a book project at first thought, most authors already have experience in planning. 

How, exactly? Well, if you’ve ever outlined a full book, you have the skills needed to envision a project and plan ahead for it. 

Of course, planning the creation, release, and printing of a book is a little different to planning the book’s contents. You need to know all of the elements to include, such as the preface. But there is an element of planning being a transferable skill.

If you want to improve your project planning from a self-publishing standpoint, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Timings. How long will the various stages of your publishing project take? This becomes easier to estimate with experience, but if you’re just starting, be cautious and give yourself more time than you think you need.
  • Sequence. Do certain things need to happen before others in your self-publishing and book design project? For example, do you need a cover design before you can create promo graphics? Do you need formatting to be carried out before you can get early reviews? Think about the most logical sequence to carry out all the steps, and keep in mind that some things will need to be finished before others can begin.
  • Plan Bs. As much as we might wish it wasn’t so, things will inevitably go wrong during your book project. It’s always good to have a backup plan in place. For example, if your cover designer goes AWOL, who is your backup to call upon?

Proper planning, or lack of it, can make or break your book’s success. Being proactive about learning and growing in this area will help to ensure that each book you launch is more successful than the last. 

Perfecting Your Author Platform

Some authors are introverted. Others are fine with promoting their work, but aren’t sure how to do it in the right way!

Whatever your reason might be, if you’re not working hard on your author platform, you’re not making the most of the opportunity that being a self-published author represents.

Ultimately, no one is going to care about your book’s success as much as you do. That makes you the ideal person to go about building a lasting platform so you can make meaningful connections with readers and spread the word even further about your books.

It’s rare to find an author who is a natural marketer. If someone seems that way, they probably learned how to do it through trial and error, just like everyone else. So don’t feel discouraged, no matter how shy you might feel! It’s all about adjusting your mindset to a more empowering one. 

If you’re looking to invest time into building a better author platform, consider focusing on the following activities:

  • Beyond your book. There’s never a better time to promote your platform than in your book itself. Think of your book as part of a funnel that encourages readers to take action, such as signing up for your mailing list or following you on social media. If someone’s already taken action and purchased your book, they are more likely to engage with you in other ways.
  • Think efficiency. If you’re not careful, building your author platform can end up taking away precious time you’ve saved for writing and your other core work. Try and find efficient ways of growing your author platform, such as using social scheduling software or only replying to emails at certain times.
  • The right team. Eventually, you might find that you need help to manage your platform. Try and find people who not only have the skills you need, but who are familiar with your work and that you genuinely like as people. This will make the process more natural and anyone you do hire more in tune with the mindset your fans are likely to have.

Building an author platform can refer to a wide range of different activities. However, outside of publishing itself, building your platform is one of the best possible uses of your time. 

Converting Readers Into Fans

There’s never a harder time to be an indie author than when you’re just starting.

At this stage in your journey, everything takes longer because it’s all new. On top of that, you and your books are an unknown quantity. This means there is no eager group of people ready to buy your next book and leave a glowing review.

One of the most important things you can do to experience long-term success is to try and move people from being your readers to being your fans.

A single fan is worth a lot more than ten casual readers. The fan will promote your books to other people. They will leave the reviews you do desperately need. They will keep a look out for your next book and potentially even preorder it. 

Of course, not everyone who reads your books will become a true fan of yours. That’s to be expected.

There’s only so much you can control when it comes to encouraging readers to become fans. Here are some of the highest impact activities within your sphere of control:

  • In-person events. While a lot of modern life takes place online, there’s no replacing the joy and depth of an in-person connection. Try and speak at events your future fans might attend, and from as many meaningful connections as you can when you’re there.
  • From author to teacher. Every author has something valuable to teach. If you’re a fiction writer, you could teach the craft itself, or even important skills like book marketing. If you write nonfiction, you can teach on that topic. Consider releasing a course related to your books to form a deeper connection with readers.
  • Be vulnerable. While books may be dime a dozen, authentic authors putting themselves out there certainly aren’t. To cultivate true fans, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Put your true self out there and the right people will naturally gravitate towards you. 

As someone who loves books enough to create them, you know the feeling of immense joy that’s associated with being a true fan of someone’s work.

Think how much of a win/win it will be when you’re able to cultivate fans of your own. They will treasure your books, and you will truly value everything they do for you in return.

Above all else, always remember that there’s so much more to being a successful indie author than writing alone. 

Be sure to fill your working calendar with all of the above, and plenty more. After all, the work of a true indie writer is never really finished!

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