6 Tips For Independent/Self-Published Authors
Written by
Heather Jacks
April 2014
Written by
Heather Jacks
April 2014

It’s a known fact that the publishing industry has gone through sizable changes in the past years.  Downsizing, eBooks, POD, Kindle, Amazon . . . with all that's occurred, a lot of people (of which I am one) now lack faith in the traditional publishing model. Let’s face it: they are definitely behind the times, and as a result, independent and self-published authors are discovering an entirely new, and ever-changing, landscape from which to espouse their words and wisdom.

If you are able to secure a traditional publishing contract, of course, you will get a couple of things that you won’t get as a self-published author: an advance (which has steadily been declining over the past years); and a means of getting into bookstores (which may not be as important as it once was now that we have fewer bookstores and more online sales.)

Having experience on both fronts, I embrace self-publishing. My current book is an oversized Art Style/Coffee Table book with a vinyl record included—a book that practically screamed out to be self-published. If you, like me, decide self-publishing is right for you, then I’d like to offer a few tips I’ve learned along the way that I hope you will find helpful.


EDIT, EDIT, EDIT and then EDIT again! Ultimately, to do self-publishing right, you need to do it professionally, which, to quote Dr. Phil, requires ‘getting real with yourself.’ You have to know what you do well and what you don’t. Then you have to hire experts to do those things that you don’t do well and embark upon a team publishing excursion. Editing is one of the most integral parts of creating a professional book and differentiates your work from the sea of ‘basic self-published books.’ It is also something you cannot do yourself.

There are a few types of editors. There are copyeditors, who will fix typos, misspellings, grammar, clean up your prose, and correct a fact; there are line editors, who will help you arrange your paragraphs; and then there is a most important type of editor, which I call a ‘planning editor’—that person who will partner with you on the project and tell you things you don’t want to hear, like you need to get rid of half of what you wrote or this isn’t a topic that warrants an entire book or this should be a screenplay, not a novel.

Your cover matters. More than you think it does. I hate to break it to you, but people do judge a book by its cover. The cover is the first thing people see. It invites them to peruse the contents and it is another opportunity to display professionalism. People get a feeling for the book from the cover—is it intense, sad, a romance? Plus, your cover can be displayed online with ease—and without it, you would only have a title page, which is no good. Speaking from personal experience, my cover has served me well. I have been invited to some swanky and private upscale functions to do book presentations, and that wouldn’t have happened if I'd had a substandard cover. You might have the skills to design your own cover, but, just like with editing, you should get a couple of opinions about it.

People like your book more if other people like it. You’re probably thinking, ‘Thank you Captain Obvious,’ because yes, this is obvious—but what I mean is that I have found that customer reviews and blog mentions have a more direct impact on sales and exposure than blurbs or even professional reviews. The professional reviews are great and lend credibility, but customer reviews are personal and come across as sincere. The best thing you can do is get real people talking about your book in real time . . . which brings me tweeting and Twitter.

TWITTER! I am going to assume that you, as an author, have a website, Facebook page, GoodReads, Amazon, Pinterest, etc . . . If you don’t, you must. I want to spend a moment on Twitter, because it has been so impactful for me as a writer.

Twitter can seem like a jumbled mess of icons and lingo that makes no sense. When I first explored Twitter, I was not a fan. I didn’t understand it and thought it was ridiculous. 140 characters (xtrs)? Come on! But I bought books about Twitter. I read them. And today, I am a convert. Twitter has been—(next to my personal email list)—my #1 vehicle for exposure and sales. In fact, I am guest posting here because of Twitter. I was also able to build my ‘publishing team of experts’ via Twitter. I found an InDesign expert, music industry folk, and marketing experts on Twitter. After your profile page, it all starts with a simple hashtag.

A hashtag is simply a keyword marked with a # symbol. With the use of hashtags within tweets, people who want to follow a particular topic and join discussions can do so, without having to know specific keywords. Hashtags can help you reach and find readers, get help with specific things, connect with media, find the professionals needed to create your publishing team and so much more. Here are a few hashtags that might be helpful to you as authors. Definitely explore and find more:

#MustRead  #AmReading #FridayReads #BookGiveAway #GoodRead

Hashtags that are specific to what I write about as a music journalist are #Busking, #StreetMusic #SFGiants and #musicrevolution

There are hashtags for specific genres as well: #YAlit, #RomanceWriter, etc.

There's also #AskAgent #AskEditor #SelfPublishing

And one of my very favorites: #indiepubchat

If you don’t understand Twitter, you should definitely get a book and learn more.

Don’t try to sell your book to everyone. According to The Jenkins Group;

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

I do not share these statistics to discourage you or dissuade you. On the contrary; this is an opportunity to find, define, embrace and obsessively focus on your specific audience. Those people who want your particular book and who will buy your particular book. We should not focus on everyone, but rather our audience. There are a lot of books out there. We, as authors (indie authors in particular), must find our ‘champions’ and cultivate lifelong relationships with them. Those people may be the needles in the haystack, but, they are our needles.

Read Lots of Books: Studies have shown that reading more books can help you sleep better, keep your brain sharp, increase vocabulary, improve memory and relax. It will also help you become a better writer!


If you have stories, thoughts, tips or ideas, that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Let’s start a conversation and help each other prosper, grow and become fulfilled in 2014.

About The Author

Heather's Website / Twitter / Facebook

Heather Jacks was raised on an Indian reservation in southeastern Oregon, until age fifteen. Jacks was the first 'experimental exchange student' to Australia with an organization called YFU, Youth for Understanding, where she spent 10.5 months in 1982. Once she returned, she received her B.A. from USF and followed that with two years of study at UC Davis. She has worked in the music industry in various capacities, since the eighties; radio, production, A&R, booking and most recently as a music journalist. Heather has recently completed a multi-media project, inspired by her love for street music, busking and the people who make it.

Written by Heather Jacks and accompanied by an eleven-track vinyl record featuring the original music of a select number of participants, this 200-page art-style coffee table book measures 12’’ x 12’’ and weighs in at a whopping 8lbs. Putting the spotlight on the age-old profession of busking, Jacks also seeks to stem the tide of regulation intended to suffocate creative expression and take performers off the streets.

A limited-edition coffee table book, ‘The Noise Beneath the Apple®’, is a unique and vibrant study of the culture of street performance, its legitimacy in modern times and above all, an intimate look at thirty-five buskers throughout New York City. Released with an eleven-track vinyl record that was mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning mastering engineer Reuben Cohen, this book is a singular achievement and a one-of-a-kind tribute to the chaotic, beautiful and spirited world of busking.

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  • Stacey Aaronson

    Great article, Heather! I'm a book production professional—editor, cover and interior designer, publishing facilitator, and more!—who works with self-publishing authors to produce books of true excellence from cover to cover, and your advice is spot on! 

    I'm curious … how were you able to package your self-pub book with an album? That is SO cool! I have a client who wants to create a box set with her book, but I've been challenged by finding the right solution through self-publishing. Any tips?

    Congratulations on your book … I wish you MUCH success! :-)

  • Patricia Robertson

    Thank you! Very helpful.

  • Patty Lesser

    Thanks for the tips. You prove I'm on the right track. I also love Twitter and have made some great contacts. What book about Twitter would you recommend?

  • Becky Povich

    Six Great Tips! And I LOVE the idea of your coffee table book with an LP enclosed!...Especially in this day of CDs and MP3 Players, etc. I would love to win the giveaway and have just entered. Also, I've never liked Twitter, only because I don't "get it,"....and have never tried....but, Heather, after reading this....I'm determined to learn it! Thanks for a great She Writes post!

  • Suzy Soro

    I owe all my writing luck to Twitter. All the anthologies I'm in (4, with 2 coming out this Spring) and my book deal, radio interviews, blog interviews, a live show, all came from Twitter. Find the people who love you on there and keep a dialogue going. If you're not sure how to work that? Ask questions of people you like, RT or MT their tweets or star them. It takes commitment, just like everything else in life!