Four Useful Resources for the Indie Author

June 3, 2012 in General Topics

Starting a publishing entity can be a bewildering process, at times far more complicated than actually writing and editing novels. I could have saved a lot of time up front if I had learned sooner who stood at the top of their game when it came to meeting my needs. If the average independent author’s experience is anything like mine, it involved sifting through (and participating in) a scad of discussion threads, tweets, and websites gleaming answers to obscure questions such as “Do I need an ISBN for each website I sell on?” and “Which service can I use to bundle tracked URLs so I can tell which outlet they came from?”. Read on to discover four useful resources for the independent author.

1. BudURL

There are many, many link shortening services that are compatible with Twitter, and which provide the all-important link tracking necessary to tell where your readers are coming from. Of these, my hands-down favorite is BudURL.

The service isn’t free. At $8 a month beyond the 21-day free trial, its cost is a factor that can’t be ignored. Even so, the quality of the product is beyond compare among other link shorteners and trackers. You can have multiple shortened links to the same content, organize these by label (great for those of you wanting to track hits to one source from multiple locations, such as ebooks or blogs), and you are even provided detailed analysis of each tracked link’s activity, including free daily or weekly reports. It’s simply more comprehensive than anything I’ve seen like it. And of course, you have the more mundane features, such as scheduled tweets.

2. Klout

Klout is a useful aggregator of overall social network effectiveness. Klout monitors your activity and interactions with your social media accounts across multiple sources, such as Twitter and Google+, to provide an overall “score” that indicates what kind of social media user you are, as well as how effective your social media platform is (or isn’t).

Klout is in Beta, which is good, because I do think it has a number of potential areas of improvement left. I don’t think it is particularly accurate when it comes to measuring the overall influence a user has — in Klout’s eyes, for example, a few mentions can produce a wild swing in one’s score, and since it seems to measure mentions as a ratio that includes a person’s total followers, this leads to skewed results when one’s total network size is lower than it will be later on. My Twitter followers continue to accelerate in number, which is terrific (I love you guys), but since the number of those mentioning or retweeting my posts is growing at a slower rate, Klout is actually dinging my score a little.

Still, it’s a nice tool and you should check it out.

3. Indie Author Services

I decided early into this process that I had enough capital set aside to get my initial projects off the ground without having to deal with the nuts and bolts of the ebook conversion process, cover design, or print layout. The problem I encountered was finding a good one-stop shop that could handle everything, had experience with ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks, and–most importantly–was helmed by someone who was a natural teacher and could provide some guidance in this brand-new territory.

Indie Author Services is one such company. The person I’ve worked with, Joy Sillesen, has been able to handle everything I’ve thrown at her, including all my esoteric questions, and provided excellent covers, conversion to multiple platforms, and expert handling of my often-stringent requirements. I had to wade through a slew of potential recommendations to find Joy and her company, and she continues to impress me with the quality of her work.

Tell her Jonathan C. Gillespie sent you.

4. Bowker

Bowker has a bizarre name. But that’s okay, because they also provide the ISBN services you will need if you want to get your book’s sales tracked by the major metric outlets, up to and including the bestseller lists. Simply put, without an ISBN number, you could be selling scads of copies, and a large chunk of the marketplace would be none the wiser.

Use Bowker. Get ISBN’s on all titles. For paperbacks, pay a little more and go ahead and grab their pre-generated barcodes for use on your titles. Their identifier management console makes it all very easy.

Remember that ISBN’s are another key piece to making your work professional. And anything done in the name of professionalism is a smart investment.

And to answer the earlier example question: you need an ISBN for each format (print or ebook), but the only vendor I am aware of that requires its own unique ISBN is Smashwords.

Keep an eye on this blog, because I’m currently setting up my print-on-demand services with Lightning Source, and I’ll let you all know how that goes. And there is a brand new website on the way, too.

In the meantime, your thoughts and other service recommendations are certainly welcome below.

Stay tuned.