Five Tips for Reaching Your Indie Publishing Goals
With the dawn of a new year comes the opportunity to set new goals and achieve new heights as a Christian author in the indie publishing goals world. Here are a few tips that you may have heard time and again. Let 2023 be the year you implement some of the basics back into your writing.
Tip #1: Strategy for the Year
A dream without a plan is just a dream. Many Christian writers dream of writing a book, and some have even started writing one. Sadly, many never finish writing it, and even fewer publish their works. Having action steps that you complete will set you apart from the dreamers.
You’ve no doubt heard of SMART goals. I’ve been using this format for decades and find it the most effective way to achieve my goals. Here’s a synopsis. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
‘S’ stands for specific. If you write a nebulous goal instead of a specific one, your dream will likely continue swirling in your head rather than become a reality. If you say, “In 2023, I would like to write a Christian book”, so much remains unclear. Thinking it through and being specific with your goals will help you accomplish the first step in becoming an indie author. An example would be, “In 2023, I will write a Bible Study.” Now it is clear what type of book you will write.
‘M’ stands for measurable. How many pages or chapters will your book be? Add that to your specific statement. Your new statement should now read something like this, “In 2023, I will write a ten-week Bible study.”
‘A’ stands for achievable. Is your goal achievable? If you wrote a measurement such as writing a 500-page novel, you may need to adjust the page number since that might be too large a feat to accomplish. Additionally, a ten-week Bible study may be more than you want to write, or your audience wants to commit to. If so, adjust your goal accordingly: “In 2023, I will write a six-week Bible study.”
‘R’ stands for relevant. Relevance is a challenge for many writers in the self-publishing industry, as opportunities and topics are endless. Remember that indie authors have an audience, just like traditionally published authors do. Every writer needs to identify their specific audience and write what will help their readers. Perhaps you are called to speak into the lives of those struggling with a prodigal child. If so, tailor your goal to read something like this, “In 2023, I will write a six-week Bible study on the topic of praying for prodigal children.”
‘T’ stands for time-bound. Put a specific date of completion for your project. Think through how many words a day you will write and divide them out to apply to each day accordingly. Writing just 500 words a day will allow you to write 45,000 words in just three months. You might give yourself a few weeks of grace to allow for unforeseen circumstances and plan to finish by a specific day such as Memorial Day. Your goal would now read, “By Memorial Day of 2023, I will write a six-week Bible study on the topic of praying for prodigal children.” Just as traditional publishers give their authors deadlines, indie authors should self-impose deadlines to ensure maximum productivity.
See how specific the statement reads now compared to your original statement of “In 2023, I will write a Christian book”? Setting goals using the SMART formula shows wisdom and maturity indicative of successful Christian writers.
Tip #2: Publish the book
I always tell the authors I am coaching, “Indie publishing your book is easier than writing the book.” If that is the case, why do manuscripts sit like prisoners in digital files rather than become accessible to the intended reader? The answer often is the seeming complexity of cover design, editing, ISBN numbers, and publishing to a platform.
If you find the entire process either overwhelming or tedious, take heart. CIPA (Christian Indie Publishers Association) exists to help you succeed. Included with your annual membership are library resources free to members. You will find them here. Take the time to invest in the business side of authorship and learn the ins and outs of indie publishing.
The goal of an Indie author should be to produce a market-standard book equal to those released by traditional publishers. Read the blogs, watch the videos, take notes, and heed the sage advice given by those who’ve gone before you.
The wonderful thing about being an indie author is you can hire out the pieces of the publishing process that are beyond your skillset or desire. For example, editors can take your manuscript and work with you to turn it into a masterpiece.
Depending on your budget, another option for indie authors is to contract with a fee-based publishing house, such as those listed here. The manuscript and rights are yours, but the publishing house handles the entire process. Services include cover design, editing, formatting, and publishing. Some publishing houses offer book launch and marketing services, as well.
Tip #3: Attend Trade Shows
Trade show attendance is about networking. The more you showcase your book, the higher your book sales will be. Writing the book and getting it published is challenging, but it is all for naught if you do not invest in the marketing side of being an indie author. Attending a trade show with an organization such as CIPA is both fun and leverages the impact you can make on your own. Learn more here. Being on the trade show floor allows you to participate in book signings, giveaways, media signage, and general networking.
There are media interviews to participate in, and additional opportunities may come your way. Interviews require prep work before arriving at the show. Work on a standard centralized message you want to share with the listeners or viewers, so you are polished while on air. It would behoove you to create a question/answer sheet to hand to the interviewer. Practice your answers before going to the trade show.
Some opportunities will come to you after you leave the trade show. Media outlets collect kits from authors and call later to do the interview. As with interview preparation, you will need to invest time before the trade show to put together a professional press kit to take to the show.
Adequate preparation, clear goals of what you desire, the outcomes of the tradeshow, and being bold while there will yield benefits for months to come and should boost your book sales substantially. Once you are home from the trade show, be sure to follow up with each contact you made.
Tip #4: Podcast Tours
Scheduling a podcast tour will grow your indie audience and increase book sales. As a Christian indie book author, your mission is to reach as many people as possible with the message God has given you.
Whether you are about to launch a book or have a desire to breathe life into a former release, a podcast tour is an excellent way to create buzz about your book. In essence, a podcast tour is when you guest speak on several podcasts in a short amount of time, talking about the content of your book on each podcast.
Podcast hosts are looking for guests their listeners will identify with. Start within your network and ask your peers if your topic will appeal to an audience who may not have heard of you before. However, because they trust the host, you will immediately gain their respect. While on tour, listeners may hear you on more than one podcast, which builds credibility.
Podcast tours are wonderfully time efficient as there’s no travel time involved. A bonus is that there is also no associated expense like there is with in-person interviews. As listeners connect with you and your topic, you will convert some into buyers and others into website and social followers.
CIPA has a podcast tour course and a list of 125 radio and podcast media for you to query.
Tip #5: Marketing via Social
You may wonder why you need to market via social rather than emails or only maintain a website presence. The first reason is that your readers are using social media. I say this with confidence, knowing the average person spends hours a day on social media. Marketing on social media will increase your brand recognition. The social platform users are more receptive to marketing on social than other methods. This is especially true for potential readers from ages eighteen to thirty-four who are 95% more likely to follow something they’ve seen on social. Another reason for marketing on social media is you can target your audience and geographic region based on your specific audience.
If you think it odd to read the phrase ‘posting on social,’ chances are you need to educate yourself a bit more. Merely posting a cute picture on your social platform will not build followers or sell your books. If you have a good marketing strategy, the beauty of social platforms is that you can both engage with and influence your followers, turning them into buyers. Many Christian writers and speakers forget that marketing is a big part of being an indie author. As with writing and publishing, many conferences and resources are available to learn about the book marketing industry. As you begin to connect with your followers by posting relevant and engaging content, the marketing on social will start to take care of itself. For resources, content strategists write blogs and create videos to help you build your social platforms.
Reach Your Goals
Achieve your 2023 goals using the SMART formula, determining what path you want to take regarding publishing, finding conferences and trade shows to attend and purposefully engage in, setting up a podcast tour, and learning effective social media marketing techniques. Out of these five quick tips, implementation of just two or three will yield great results. And remember, developing a strategy to implement all five will propel your indie author journey forward.
About the Author
Mel Tavares is a 30-year veteran in the Christian Indie author and publishing world, has worked as a freelancer in all capacities and has penned several of her own books as well. She holds a Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Care and Counseling and serves on staff at her church. Her website is drmeltavares.com.