Indie Top Ten List

top10‘Top Ten’ of the things an Indie writer needs to be doing today

So, you wrote a book. Now what?

  1. Target Market. Really, know who your target reader is. **Hint** it is not “Everyone”.
  2. Website. You must have one. If you do not, stop and get one now. It is that important. Everything below, points back to it!
  3. Blog. Was that an eye roll? Will you get thousands of book sales by building up the most successful blog ever? No. Not the goal, either. If you don’t blog, how will I know if I like your writing?
  4. Tweet. Another eye roll? If you haven’t tried it, stop judging. If you have, and think “it isn’t working” – I ask, are you blasting out links to your book every five minutes? Yes? Absolutely wrong.
  5. Guest blog. Reach new people – share the love in the blog-o-sphere. IF they are in your target market.
  6. Facebook. Your goal is simple, get on there, and talk to people. Friends, family, fans (you DO have an author page, don’t you?)
  7. Pin. On Pinterest yet? Fastest growing social media out there. Back to #1, what do your readers care about?
  8. Post Comments. Write a relevant comment, people will read it. Note that word “relevant”. Do not spam.
  9. Don’t Advertise. How often do you click on an ad? Save your hard earned cash for something that will impact sales, like hiring an awesome cover designer.
  10. Stop Marketing. Do not think of any of this as “MARKETING”. Networking, research, conversation, connecting. If you think of it as marketing, it will come across. People have an inherent distrust of being “marketed to”.





Twitter: @ksearsbooks

Katherine Sears is the Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Booktrope Publishing. Prior to Booktrope, her background was primarily in technology and online marketing in both Seattle and California, working at companies such as NetApp, ADIC and Siemens. Her life-long love of books, and a desire to bring a new type of focus to marketing them, had her join forces with some other bookish folks to create Booktrope. She is the co-author of How to Market a Book and has served on the University of Washington’s Digital Publishing Certificate Program advisory board. She has also worked as an actress, and a corporate trainer. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater from the University of Southern California. Katherine currently lives in Fall City, WA with her canine and human family members.

The Traveling Writer

photoI believe I’m living, breathing proof that writing doesn’t have to be done at a desk. Or in a den. Or even in an enclosed room at all. I’m fortunate in that my job allows me to travel.

Actually my job requires me to travel. Okay, okay…my job IS travel. And while the jet-setting lifestyle, the white sand beaches, the crystal clear pools, the gourmet food, and the cold drinks are nice, they sometimes get in the way of my real love, writing. 


Wait. Strike that. Those things ROCK. 

Truth be told, anything that gets in the way of writing is just an excuse. Writing can be done anywhere, anytime, any way a writer can. And in today’s 21st century, tech-filled world, that’s never been more true.

I’ve written some of my best work on an iPhone in a hotel lobby, and some of my worst work on my laptop in a dead-silent dining room. I’ve written some of my best work in Evernote on an iPad, and some of my worst in Scrivener on a Mac. The place and tools don’t matter. But I admit, the location does tend to stir my creative juices a bit.

A few weeks ago, I was on a cruise ship sailing out of the port of Taormina, Sicily, headed for Greece, and while my wife was getting ready for dinner, I sat on the upper deck with a bottle of Peroni, my laptop, and sunglasses. Three hours later, after Sicily had faded into the background and the open Med stared back at me, I had two complete chapters written. 

Yeah, maybe I won’t quit the day job anytime soon…it’s actually helping my writing endeavors…


Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.

Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. More information is at, and you can always find him on Twitter (@SteveUmstead).

Hello internet. It’s me!

announce-bullhorn“Hello internet.  It’s me!”

Now imagine me shouting that in Grand Central Station at rush hour one week before Christmas. Now imagine that every other person around me is also shouting hello. Some of them have bullhorns, some have flashing lights, many of them have their friends pointing to them and drawing attention to them.

That’s what social media feels like to me, a shouting cacophony.

I was one of those kids who liked to be the big fish in a little pond, purposefully never straying out of my comfort zone and keeping to things I was really good at, like writing, art and music. Then the internet exploded and I found out that the little pond was in fact an ocean the size of a planet and there are not only bigger fish. There are sharks.

It’s a little daunting, and it’s impossible to even attempt a website or a blog or a social media engine without a bit of ego on your side. After all, I wouldn’t be doing it, unless some part of me said, “Out of the millions of websites on the internet, you should look at mine. I’m worth reading.”

And this goes against everything about humility and fair play that I was ever taught as a kid. That little kid, who preferred to have everyone tell her. “Oooh! You’re so clever! I could never do that!”

It’s time to grow up, little kid and brace yourself. There’s a lot of sharks out there… sharks with megaphones.

Did I ever mention that metaphors aren’t my strong point?




Monica Marier is a caffeinated writer, artist, mother and eccentric. On weekdays, she’s busy working on her books, recording audio files, and composing short stories for her blog. On weekends she’s a co-founder of Tangent Artists.



Follow her on Twitter! @lil_monmon

Books: Available through Hunt Press

Our World out of Context

IMAGINATIONIt’s a commonality to assume that fantasy and science fiction writers write in the genre they do because they wish to escape the current state of the world. As an avid fantasy and science fiction reader, I can attest to that notion. They are genres that take readers to far places to explore odd creatures, new cultures, and fresh ideas. Yet, because I am also a fantasy writer, I realize that many of the themes in fantasy and science fiction have a hidden context to the real world, be it religion, politics, historical commonalities, etc. This happens in my novels whether I intend it or not. Of course, the worlds I create must have some coherence to the real world in order to maintain their believability to readers, but looking back on my past novels, I also see that burried within my worlds is a reflection of current events and personal questions.

The truth of the matter is, although I write to escape into a different land with different people, I can’t help but address the here and now. Writing and reading is an outlet for me (as I’m sure for many others) to process events and reflect on personal issues and questions in a safe and somewhat removed way. Oftentimes, these musings are not evident to me while I’m writing—the realization comes later.

Essentially what I find many fantasy and science fiction writers doing is not pulling readers into newly formed and unfamiliar places, but showing readers our own world (or aspects of our own world), taken out of context. Current events, social and historical contexts, politics, and religion are inescapable. The beauty of fantasy and science fiction is their ability as genres to show us our current world through a skewed perspective. And what better way to reflect on our own reality than to take it out of context?





Nicole Persun is a 17 year old student who signed her first book contract at 16. Her novel, A Kingdom’s Possession, was recently named a finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award at the American Library Association conference. In addition to writing, she loves to garden, cook, listen to music on high volume, practice photography, and spend time with her horse Goldie. Read more at and

Finding Time to Write

Writing123If you are a high school student and reading this right now, you are on summer vacation. So what to do with the oodles of time in your day? Well write, of course!
But I know it’s not quite that easy. There are summer camps, family vacations, and friends to hang out with. However, you do have some small gaps between these, and these gaps can be when your best ideas come to you. Jot ideas down in your phone or carry around a pen and paper.
Now we’ve got an idea for a story. Next comes the hard part – expanding upon it. An idea can sound great, but without a full plot, it won’t go anywhere. You need to think of secondary characters, backstory, and the range of emotions you want your readers to feel. Most of all, make this a book you would want to read. If you would read it, then others would want to read it.
So now you have a full plot arc. Now it’s time to write! Sit down at your computer and find some music fitting the mood of the scene you’re writing. When you have your music, let the words flow out of you.
The most important part of the writing process is not to let your outline rule you. If you want to end a chapter differently, then do it. Just don’t make any huge changes without first consulting your outline to make sure it fits. It is absolutely key to not lose sight of where your story is going.
Oh, did I mention have fun? Well have fun! You’re writing a story, and this is your story. Have a good time with it!
Zack Umstead is an honors high school student entering a busy sophomore year, but has still somehow found time to write and publish two stories. Shifter, the first in a young adult scifi novelette series, was published in June of 2011, and Entanglement, a quantum physics young adult novella, in April 2012. What little free time he has left, he’s spent earning his senior black belt in Kenpo Karate. Work is currently underway for the next in the Shifter series.

Writing Today

gun-mirrorToday’s world demands a writer not only write, but also market their work on websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, interviews, book signings and other marketing opportunities…and also meet the responsibilities of life. One can lose sight of the key to success as a writer, which is to…write! A successful writer simply must write every day. There is no alternative to this rule. You can’t let the lack of time, rejections, harsh criticism and the evil writer’s block deter you from writing.

Writing is a job. Schedule your writing time and let those who love you know what that time is. Be firm on your schedule and don’t let it be altered unless absolutely necessary. This is sometimes hard to do, but essential.

Rejection and criticism are a part of being a writer. Not everyone is going to like your work. Instead of getting angry or emotionally upset about criticism, learn from it. If you see a common thread in the rejections or criticism, you have a problem and you need to fix it.

There is a way around writer’s block. Instead of giving up and walking away from the computer, start working on another story. We all have other stories milling around in our demented minds. While you’re working on the other story, your subconscious mind will be sorting out the writer’s block. This is a scientific fact.

When I believe the whole world is conspiring to prevent me from writing, I look in the mirror. The culprit is usually there.





Mike McNeff is a cop who writes about cops. During his 40 years in law enforcement Mike has worked patrol, criminal intelligence, narcotics, and he has been a SWAT team leader and commander as well as a hostage negotiator. He is also an experienced trial attorney in both criminal and civil cases. Writing is Mike’s third career and GOTU – A Robin Marlette Novel is his first published book. Find Mike’s writing here: // , Twitter: @Mike_Mcneff, and Facebook:

I am a Writer!

Typed_WriterI am a writer!

This might seem self-evident to anyone who’s read my bio, but I make this point for a reason – when do you start calling yourself “a writer”, as opposed to someone who dabbles in words around a day job?

I took the plunge when my first book was published in October 2011 – it seemed silly to call myself a dabbler in words when I was a published author. It still makes me smile every time I say it.

The main response I get? You must be rolling in it!” or “How big are your royalty cheques?”

I don’t imagine many nurses or teachers getting asked those questions. There seems to be something about authors that people think we’re as financially secure as Stephen King or Neil Gaiman.

I wish.

When I explain that, even now, I hold down another job in addition to the writing, as my first love doesn’t pay enough to live on. Having had the good fortune to make friends with a number of indie authors from across the globe, I know this is a common trait – but non-writers I tell this to look at me askance, as if I had grown a second head.

I can understand that that kind of attitude can put people off saying those magic words, but it shouldn’t – be proud of the fact that you are creative enough to put pen to paper, or finger to laptop.

Come on, now, say it with me; “I am a writer!”


MMUNSONMatthew Munson is an Englishman; born in a small seaside town, he finally moved away when he was 24 … to another seaside town, four miles away, and is still there now.

He wrote his first book at the age of 9, about a space-cowboy who was fleeing from the dinosaurs, and often worried if he had peaked too soon – until his first book was published in 2011.

Fall From Grace is his debut novel, published by a British publishing company called Inspired Quill, and he’s currently working on a sequel – albeit interspersed with the odd short story, column and blog.

Matthew is a proponent of autism studies and Deaf Awareness, which he writes about over at his blog ( and occasionally, if he is feeling particularly daring, makes the odd vlog here and there. He finds writing a solitary exercise sometimes, so go and say hi at his Facebook page –

Writing in the 21st Century

confused1There are volumes to be written on the difference between reading ebooks and paperbacks. Fortunately, the eventual form the book will take doesn’t yet affect the actual writing of it but it no doubt soon will. The writing is still that magical process of getting sucked into your imaginings and spending time outside the everyday world. But once you release the finished article, other processes take over – often as incomprehensible as the creative phase.

For instance, the whole world of selling and publishing baffles me. A book of mine won an award and you can buy it for $10.99 on Amazon USA. Surprisingly, you can also buy 12 new copies of the same book for from $9.15 to $39.17 on the same site. I’ve no idea what ‘added value’ (to use that grotesque marketing-speak term), you get for the extra money, but it must be significant.

Even more so for another of my books which will set you back £8.88 for a new copy on Amazon UK but £39.92 for a used copy. And, best of all, there’s another award winner of mine (forgive the immodesty) whose present cover price for a new paperback is $12.99 but, again on the same site, used copies are available at prices ranging from $98.53 (yes, almost the magic $100) to (and I swear this is true because I checked it again and again) $250.80.

The world of books is absurd and obviously far too complicated to be understood by mere writers.




Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Material Evidence, Rough Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC. His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories.

Writing as Jack Rosse, he’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery and, with another Jack alias, Jack Lefebre, he’s written a satire based on experiences in Second Life™ called Alternative Dimension.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

The Casual Writer

writers-blockI am a casual writer. …Meaning, writing is not how I make my living and I do not follow any schedule for writing and publishing. I do not have a goal of one published work per month and NaNoWriMo may as well take place on another planet for me. I admire people who tackle it, but I would never get into it myself. I publish about one original short story every two-three months, and I think it’s been over a year since I did a full-size book.

The only thing I write on a regular basis is a food page for a friend’s monthly web-zine. …Just a little something with recipes, step-by-step instructions and photos for people who are reticent about cooking.

I hold a full-time job with a large corporation (yes, one of the evil ones that everyone knows about). I work from home, but my work week still amounts to 60 hours. The nature of my job is such that I have to utilize my brain non-stop – that’s analytics for you.

I am a rampant multi-tasker, but original writing is an exception. I usually don’t have anything else going on when I write. Fortunately, once I get an idea for a story, the rest of it forms in my head and I can carry it around until I have time to write it down. I am verbose, in the best tradition of my Russian ancestors, so one story usually equals one Saturday’s or Sunday’s worth of writing time.

In addition to my own casual writing, I also translate books. Casually. I specialize in less-known works of Russian literature. Somehow, having to think in two languages at the same time does not preclude me from facilitating a conference call or pulling together a forecast report. Perhaps, it is because I am not making anything up – I am just interpreting what someone else has already made up.

The same goes for graphic design. I do all of my own book covers as well as design them for other writers. I can have code running on one computer, while I am selecting images for a cover on the other one, or I can be on a call using speaker phone, with my hands free to crop, resize, recolor, overlay, and export.

Somehow somewhere all that casual writing, translation and cover design spilled into illustration work – both for my own books and translations, and for those by other authors. It is not uncommon for me to pop in a movie – something I like but have watched many times and don’t have to follow – and sketch at the coffee table in my living room while having dinner. … Glass of wine in one hand, pencil in the other, and off we go into the drawing land. One two-hour movie usually yields an illustration and a half.

Interestingly, even casual writing requires full-time levels of promotion. Hootsuite is my best friend and I use it to plug relentlessly to three Facebook pages, twitter and LinkedIn. I keep a spreadsheet with a pivot table that summarizes, what I promote, when, and through which channel. I spend 2-3 hours every week scheduling Hootsuite posts, sneaking them in between loads of laundry, walking the dogs, conference calls, making dinners and vacuuming. I do my best to vary the tag lines, promo frequency and grouping to make sure that people don’t get bored or just plain annoyed. Very surreptitiously (and casually, of course), I post on average 120 – 150 promo links a month, not counting specials (like freebies, discounts and new publications).

To keep my support base strong, I don’t just promote my own work, but also that of other writers I collaborate with. Let’s face it, an indie writer’s closest pal is still another indie writer. I tweet a review of someone’s book, followed by a link to one of my own – they tweet out both to their followers. Everyone is happy. I do a book review combined with the author’s interview on my blog – they return the favor by doing the same for me. And then we can both use these blog posts later by posting them during subsequent months as part of our own promotion.

There are little things, of course, like tagging, liking, rating and reviewing books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In addition to written reviews, I also do an occasional video review and post it on YouTube. People like those – they lend a bit more of a personal air to the review process. Of course, I don’t just record and post the videos. Each one gets edited and supplemented with cover images and a soundtrack. A five-minute video review takes up to two-three hours of work before it looks good enough to share with the world.

All writing needs editing – be it my own stuff or the translated stuff. Editing is hard work. I value it highly and, whenever possible, compensate people who edit my work in some shape or form. English being my second language, I outsource my editing to the native speakers. Most of my short stories are edited by my husband, which is fair, considering I help him run his business and do all the promotion work for another business that he and I run together. I also review his books and articles, when he needs a sanity check. For my longer works, I work with my fellow writers. We either settle on a price with a reasonable payment plan, or we barter. For example, a friend of mine currently has one of my translations in for editing, and I have volunteered to help her out with beta reading.

At the end of the day, even with infrequent and irregular publications of my own, there is always something going on that is a) related to writing and publishing, and b) requires time and effort. Perhaps casual writing is not all that casual after all.




Maria K. is the pen name of Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova – a writer, translator, and blogger of Russian-Ukrainian decent. Maria came to the United States in 1994 as an impressionable 19-year old exchange student. She received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY).

Maria covers a wide range of topics from travel and fashion to politics and social issues. Her science fiction and fantasy works include Limited Time for Tomato Soup, The SHIELD, The Elemental Tales and others.

A non-fiction and science fiction writer in her own right, Maria is also a prolific translator of less-known works of Russian and Soviet literature into English. Her most prominent translations include her grandfather Vasily Kuznetsov’s Siege of Leningrad journals titled The Ring of Nine, and Thais of Athens – a historic novel by Ivan Yefremov. Both works quickly made their way into the top 100 Kindle publications in their respective categories and continue attracting consistent interest and acclaim from readers.


Write a Better Book

I read an interview recently where a writer mentioned how much emphasis is placed on marketing these days, as though marketing will sell your books. She went on to say that better writing was more important. There are a lot of people who are linking and tweeting and tagging their brains out, but haven’t written anything worth publishing. That doesn’t mean they’re not published, of course. It just means that what is published is unreadable, even if you know very little about writing.


Here’s the insane part: most people don’t know anything about writing well. They just know whether or not they liked the story. Maybe that’s all it’s about. Maybe writing isn’t about art, it isn’t about writing well. It’s about getting the blood pumping inside a teenaged girl’s heart, or teenaged boy’s adrenaline flowing, or some old pervert’s sex drive humming along.

I hear so many people (and read them online) complaining about writing versus marketing, vampire stories versus literary stories, Kindle versus print, large press versus small press. I want to scream, “Who the fuck cares?” I know we all want to make a living. I know we all think our shit (or writing) doesn’t stink. We think we have the next Twilight or Harry Potter or that we’re the next King, or Grisham, or that somehow God is shining His flashlight on us and that we should be next, next!

Well, get in line. Here’s the truth: marketing helps, but if you’ve written a book that no one wants to read, it isn’t going to sell. In case you haven’t been paying attention, anything goes…or doesn’t go, all dependent upon the moon’s phases, the stars lining up, your marketing genius, the number of hours you spend on twitter tweeting your fucking brains out, etc. I’m just saying, if you want readers to spread the word about your book, then you might want to consider writing a better book.



Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. His latest novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song just won a Silver IPPY Award, too. Terry’s website is: or you can find him on Amazon at: