Laura Howard: 5 Areas of Publishing Every Indie Should Adopt


5 Areas of Publishing Every Indie Should Adopt

In my writing journey, I've been VERY fortunate in learning and working with some extremely wise and talented individuals. Today, one of my mentors ~Erin Reel~ is here to remind us, since we're taking the reigns on our publishing journey, we're responsible for the quality-control of our books!

There’s no disputing that self or “indie” publishing has opened doors that once remained shut to new and emerging authors. As a former literary agent who has heard the word “No” from editors more times than I care to count, I’ve long championed any author willing to take their publishing fate in their own hands and follow the path some of the most revolutionary writers in history have published their work themselves: Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and many more.

As a Gen X-er, I love the indie movement and I think a little rule bending and moxie is necessary for the growth of literature and publishing in general, but I also the honor the strength and excellence of tradition and the art of following a process. An author willing to step out and essentially become the publisher of their book must understand they are responsible for every piece of their book’s production and time on the shelf – an understanding on which traditional publishers have built their legacy.

Here are five areas of publishing responsibility traditional publishers provide their authors – five areas you, the indie author/publisher should adopt now.  

Editorial – Aside from genre and other preferences, there’s a reason why it’s hard to please editors at traditional publishing houses – their standards are high. They want a compelling piece of fiction or nonfiction and they want it well written. There’s absolutely no reason an indie author shouldn’t set the bar for themselves equally high. In traditional publishing, the large part of your book’s brilliance comes from you, but the other part of it comes from the careful craft of a seasoned editor. Whether you choose to hire a freelance editor or solely use the feedback you receive from your workshop peers to help guide your editing process, your work needs to be scrutinized to ensure the writing would meet the standards of the most critical of New York editors.  

Indexing and Appendices – If you’re self-publishing a work of nonfiction (reference, academic, cookbook, diet, self-help, etc.) chances are you’ll need an index and/or appendices. Publishers usually hire freelance professionals out of house who take on this especially tedious task. If you’re self-publishing a nonfiction book that would require an index/appendix if published traditionally, I strongly urge you to hire an editor or technical writer who specializes in this area; don’t overlook these important pieces of your book. 

Legal – Just as publishing houses have design, marketing and public relations departments, they also have a legal department where on-staff attorneys draw up contracts outlining the entire publishing agreement between the author, publisher and agent. This department also oversees issues pertaining to copyright, liability, libel and the overall protection of the publishing company. You need to know your rights and legal responsibilities as an indie author. Attorney Jeffrey Mehalic’s blog, The Write Lawyer is an especially insightful and helpful resource for indie and traditionally published authors.

Creative – In today’s overwhelmingly crowded indie book market, the book jacket plays a large role in the success of the book – we really do initially judge a book by its cover. Invest in the best cover art you can afford and don’t settle for a book jacket you’re not 100% in love with.

Marketing and Public Relations – Once the book passes through all phases of editorial and typically before the cover graphic is completed, an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is sent off to receive reviews and blurbs by the publishing house, by an independent book PR professional contracted by the author (optional) and/or by the author (if they have special connections to notable authors, experts, influential bloggers, celebrities, etc.). You cannot skimp on this step, indies. Either send out a PDF version of your manuscript or have printed your own ARCs (your copies can include the actual cover) at least three months prior to your book’s official launch so you can gather and add the great reviews and blurbs to the cover of your book and all other marketing materials you’ll use in support of your book’s launch and ongoing promotion. If you can budget to hire a book publicist who specializes in indie-pubbed books, I highly recommend the investment. For more insight and tips, check out veteran book marketing expert and author M.J. Rose’s blog Buzz, Balls and Hype for more useful information on how to successfully market and promote your book.

What part of the publishing process do you feel sometimes, even if it's unwittingly, gets swept under the rug by Indies?

Erin Reel is an internationally-known independent editorial and publishing consultant and coach. She is a frequent contributor to and is co-creator and co-curator of The Writers’ Kitchen with award-winning author Holiday Reinhorn on Rainn Wilson’s Erin is a former Los Angeles based literary agent who has enjoyed helping authors write and publish their work, traditionally and independently, for over a decade. She has contributed to Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, by Katharine Sands and Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman. You can follow her @TheLitCoach on Twitter.   


  1. Editorial can get swept under the rug by indies. Freelance editors are expensive, but crit partners can be enormously helpful and all writers should avail themselves of feedback!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Lauren. You're right, crit partners can be totally helpful in the revision process and you should absolutely seek their input if you can't afford an editor or just choose not to go that route.

  3. I think the PR professional and definitely the Legal issues are not addressed by most Indies. Especially the legal. I know there are liabilities and risks involved, because I come from the risk management field, and I've decided which risks and exposures I'll take or cover, but most people don't think of this at all.
    Thanks for your insights!
    Stephanie Queen


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.