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Copyright Ben Westerham 2018. All rights reserved.
The final two months of 2019 were a period in my life as an indie author that I’m unlikely to forget in a hurry. Having spent the previous seven years building my skills base while selling only a very small number of books, I launched a new series that saw my sales take off. Apart from feeling both stunned and excited, this experience helped to lift much of the sense of insecurity and embarrassment I would have felt before when considering that I, of all people, had something worth sharing. The truth was, I realised, that I’d reached the stage where I could feel confident in sharing my experience and knowledge with others. This part of my website is my attempt at doing just that.
Before we proceed further, a heads up: there are some affiliate links here, highlighted with an '*'. They aren’t ever going to earn me a fortune but I’m happy to pocket a few quid here and there to help pay the bills. And, to be clear, I’ve personally used all of the services listed on this page, have read all the books and listened to the podcasts. If I’m recommending something here it’s because I really have benefited from it myself and, in all likelihood, still do.
Software and Services
The best service of its kind around, as far as I am concerned. Love this service. Inexpensive and brilliant at doing what it sets out to do. Really, why would you want to spend time sending out books and other content yourself. And as for providing your readers with tech support when they need it, are you mad?
I started out using another company’s service and, whilst there was nothing much wrong with it, it was significantly more expensive and without providing me with any additional features that I actually needed. Mailerlite gives me everything I need at a very competitive price.
At the time of writing, I am in the early stages of using Scrivener, but it looks good so far. There are many authors out there who wouldn’t be without it and the alternatives are somewhat scarce.
An aggregator site, used to reach many retail outlets in one go. The website does look a bit dated now, but you reach a lot of markets with this service, many that you simply can’t access directly. There are other options out there, but this is the only one I’ve used to date and I’m happy enough with it.
The undisputed leader when it comes to websites, WordPress have as much as 20% of the global market. Whether you just want somewhere to run a blog or a fully featured website as your author base, WordPress offers an easy to use and cheap option that's been taken up by hordes of authors.
ALLi is a membership organisation that exists to represent the interests of indie authors and a fine job it does too. Membership also provides access to a fine array of support services, including a fantastically helpful and friendly Facebook group where I learned so much in my early days as an Indie.
This was the first time I laid out some serious money on a training course and I’ve never had any reason to be anything other than delighted with it. Lots and lots of step-by-step guidance to help you find readers. I learned loads from this course and continue to refer back to it. Brilliant. Click through to find out more and to access a free three-part training video.
These two are from the stable of Mark Dawson. I’ve not done the Self Publishing 101 course, as I’d already paid for Your First 10,000 Readers, however I have done the Ads for Authors course, which is excellent, though not really a surprise as Mark Dawson is a big fish in the world of Facebook advertising for authors. Worth every penny I spent.
The Craft of Writing
Fiction Writer’s Workshop, Josip Novakovich*
This was the first book I used when I started making a serious effort to develop my writing skills and I still refer back to it now. Stuffed full with practical advice and writing exercises, it covers the full range of writing skills.
Stages of a Fiction Writer, Dean Wesley Smith*
A fascinating and challenging guide to the developmental journey a fiction writer goes on, from someone well positioned to know.
The Tao of Writing, Ralph L Wahlstrom*
I’d never even heard of this book until I bumped into it on-line and downloaded a copy. I found it engrossing and irresistible from the start. It sets out a view of writing, and of life, based on the Tao that simply seemed to resonate with me. It is also a useful counter-point to the write fast, publish fast approach that proliferates on the internet.
Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline, Dean Wesley Smith*
Well, I had to include at least one book about writing without plotting since that’s precisely the way that I write. To plot or not to plot is an entirely personal thing, but if you want to understand the non-plotting option then read this excellent step-by-step guide to the how and why.
Successful Self Publishing, Joanna Penn
A thorough canter through what’s involved in self-publishing your book from someone who has been there, done it and got the t-shirt several times over.
Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should, David Gaughran*
An end-to-end guide to self-publishing. I love all David's books. This one, like the others, is informative, practical and done with a good deal of wit.
Self-publishing Unboxed, Patty Jansen*
This one pitches you a three-year plan to success by taking you through most of the activities you are going to need to get to grips with if you want to make a stab at becoming a successful indie author.
Honourable mentions go to The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, Mark Coker.
Being a Creative
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert*
To be honest, in part I bought this book because I loved the cover (gorgeous) and I wasn’t entirely sure the contents would resonate with me. I’m glad I spent the money. Gilbert brings us her own take on where inspiration comes from, how she works with it and how she deals with all those things that challenge our self-belief and confidence.
Sales and Marketing
Discoverability, Kristine Kathryn Rusch*
For a really good, no punches pulled explanation of the way the publishing world works and what this means for selling your books this is the best I’ve found yet.
80/20 Sales and Marketing, Perry Marshall*
The concept of 80/20 is widely known and applied, with good reason. Here you learn from a real master how to apply it to sales and marketing, something any indie author has to get to grips with if they want to sell books. When I got to the end of the book for the first time, I went straight back to the beginning and read it all again. There’s so much practical stuff here to apply to selling your books that you’ll find yourself going back to it time and again.
BookBub Ads Expert, David Gaughran*
If there’s a better book around on the the subject of BookBub ads then I’ve yet to bump into it. If you want to use Bookbub’s ads facility (as opposed to its featured deals) to sell your books then read this book first. Loads and loads of practical advice as well as a clear explanation of the idiosyncrasies of BookBub ads.
Help my Facebook Ads Suck, Mal Cooper*
There is loads of material out there to help you get to grips with Facebook ads. For a succinct, practical and accessible guide to delivering ads that get you sales I couldn’t recommend this book any more strongly.
Newsletter Ninja, Tammi Labrecque*
Simply the best I’ve found and there are lots and lots of reviews and other comments out there to precisely the same effect. If you are looking to improve the way you engage with your mailing list readers then as far as I am concerned this is a must-read.
The Creative Entrepreneur
The master exponent of 80/20. The underlying principle is made to look so obvious you wonder how you hadn’t already noticed it. But what really knocks your socks off are the benefits this can bring to all aspects of your life, be that business, creative or personal; if you want it to.
The Curve, Nicholas Lovell*
This is really a book about 80/20 that looks specifically at how you can make money in a world where more and more often people expect something for nothing. The idea is that you need to focus on those people higher up the ‘curve’ who will pay almost anything if what you offer is special enough. Lots of real-life examples that can be applied by us creative entrepreneurs.
The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly*
If you want to get an idea of what the future might hold for us and how this could impact on your life as an author or other creative, then take a look at this one. Personally, I found some of what’s in here a bit scary, but it also opened my eyes to a flood of possible opportunities as well as threats. I still mull over some of these now, several years after reading the book.
Honourable mentions go to The Rhythm of Success by Emelio Estafan.*
Been around ages and still one of the best. A podcast hosted by author Joanna Penn that covers pretty much anything and everything to do with indie publishing, usually focused on interviews with people who’ve been there and got the t-shirt.
Podcast hosted by indie author giant, Mark Dawson, and co-host James Blatch. Available with moving images, if that’s what you prefer! Interview based show, covering all things indie.
Blog from indie author and guru David Gaughran. Esoteric, informed and entertaining. I’m a regular visitor.
This blog is actually one of several that Kristine Kathryn Rusch has available on her website and is focused on the business aspects of the publishing world from someone who has been published both as an indie and a traditional author.
One of the best known podcasts for indie authors, covering the full range of topics, including, funnily enough, how to sell more books.
On this YouTube channel, indie author, Chris Fox, discusses all things indie publishing. It also includes some open and honest discussions about his successes and failures with a number of writing challenges he set himself.
Podcast hosted by crime writer, Mark Billingham. This one primarily features interviews with top-flight creatives from the world of books, film, TV and beyond. Very well done.
Pure relaxation as crime authors Adam Croft and Robert Daws (actor also) spend 30 minutes or so discussing whatever takes their fancy in the world of crime fiction.
It’s easy to spend so much time doing something you love that you can forget to devote any time and attention to yourself. Life can be joyous and it can, sometimes, be challenging. It is important to spare some time to ensure you take good care of yourself, mentally, emotionally and physically. I share with you here some of the resources that have helped me to do just this.
Originally published as Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners. From Mr Mindfulness himself, this book explores what mindfulness is all about, why you should consider introducing it into your life, then shows you some practical ways in which you can do this. Every time I dip into this book, I am grateful to myself for taking a moment to do so.
Little Book of Mindfulness (10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace), Dr Patrizia Collard*
Exactly as it says on the cover, a little book, one that can be easily slipped into a coat pocket. It contains simple, short, 5 to 10 minute, mindfulness practices that can help bring a little peace into your life at any time of the day.
Interviews with people who talk about how failure has impinged on their lives and how they have come to both cope with and learn from such experience.
Interviews with people who talk about how they have learned to cope with some of the pressures of modern living.