Becoming an Indie Author: The Lessons I Learned by Megan Rivers

This is a guest blog post by Megan Rivers. She is a self-published author who is currently working on her young adult series, Song for You, available on Amazon. Until MarchMegan is offering A Fateful Melody  for free for anyone who signs up for her email list at

Most people aspire to write a novel—one novel. I wrote three. They took me over fifteen years to write, revise, edit, and rewrite, but now they were ready to be sent out into the world. After writing dozens of query letters, getting rejections from agents, and only being offered a deal with a publisher if I put a few thousand dollars upfront, I was frustrated and thought I’d never get these books into print.

So I Did My Research

The way I saw it, I had three options:  One, I could keep sending out query letters and sit on my manuscripts for who knows how long. Two, if I tapped into my savings account and paid a publisher between $2,000 and $6,000, I could maybe break even with sales. Or, three, I could self-publish my books and put its success in my own hands. And I am always one for a challenge.

Why I Chose Amazon

There are many benefits to self-publishing with Amazon. What appealed to me was how I could control almost everything:  I chose the price of my book, the amount of royalties, the cover art, synopsis, layout, and the use of its promotional tools. An additional bonus: the ISBN for your eBook is free!

How To Build Your Book

So, you have a manuscript. Great! But before you publish it, there are some tweaks and tasks to complete before it goes live.


Don’t forget to add a copyright page, a title page, and optional Dedication, Acknowledgements, and About the Author pages in your manuscript. Amazon offers a Simplified Formatting Guide that helps your manuscript look its best. When you upload your manuscript to Amazon, you can download an electronic proof before you publish it. I highly recommend you read through your entire manuscript because sometimes the spacing and paragraphs are skewed.

Create Your Cover

Amazon has a Cover Creator Tool which I love. You have the creative freedom to transform a blank slate into your cover. I used Canva to create my cover and uploaded it to the Cover Creator Tool. I used a picture of my own as to not infringe on anyone’s copyright, though there are websites which offer royalty-free pictures.

Choose Your Genre

Sounds easy, right? Well, you have to do your research on this one. I have my book, “A Fateful Melody” listed in Teen &Young Adult>Romance> Contemporary and Teen & Young Adult>Media Tie-In. Since the Media Tie-In genre isn’t very popular, I get a higher ranking in the Kindle Store. For example, my book reached #2 in Media Tie-In, but (at best) reached #4,983 in the Kindle Store. A higher ranking means more downloads.

Create A Physical Book

If you want to publish your manuscript in the physical form, you can do so with Create Space which partners with Amazon. All books are paperback, but you choose the size, if you want the cover glossy or matte and if you want the pages cream or white. You don’t have to buy an ISBN, but it helps your book go further. The downside? A single ISBN costs at least $100-$125. Another downside (for me and my control issues, at least) is that I didn’t have total creative freedom with creating my cover jacket. I had to use one of their layouts and add my text and pictures. Once you complete your book you can review the digital proof and/or you can order physical proofs (for a relatively cheap price).

Promoting Your Book

This is when the real work starts. It’s nearly a full time job; I spent HOURS marketing and promoting my book. Here are some strategies that worked for me:

Amazon’s Promotional Tools

When you publish your book you can enroll it in Amazon’s KDP Select, which is The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. Basically, Kindle owners can read your book for free. The downside is that when you enroll, you’re letting your eBook be exclusively available through Amazon—you can’t sell it anywhere else.

Another great tool is making your book available to download for free. I chose to make my book available for only three days and I saw a HUGE demand for it.

Amazon also lets you set up giveaways for your book. You choose the strategy in which you want to give away (Random Number, Ratio, or First Come) and how many books you want to give away. The downside is that you have to pay for each book you give away. Amazon runs other promotions but many come with a fee.


There are many websites that will promote your book for a price. However, when you list your book for free, there are many websites that will promote your book for free! Some of my favorites are Armadillo Books, Ask David, Awesome Gang, and Contentmo.

Social Media

Hashtags will be your best friend. I opened  an Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and Youtube accounts and got the most support from Twitter and Instagram, using the right hashtags on my posts. Once I joined Facebook groups for writers and groups that promoted eBooks, I started getting a bigger response. I also created memes with excerpts from my book using Canva and set up scheduled posts on Facebook to draw interest (which I then posted on Instagram and pinned on Pinterest).

Book Trailer

I knew I wanted a book trailer. I remember sitting at my seven year old Mac, as it slowly started to open iMovie and I got frustrated with the lack of speed. I ended up dishing out $36 to someone on Fiverr to create it for me. It wasn’t done as well as I hoped, but that’s me and my control issues speaking.

What I Would Have Done Differently

Now that I self-published my first book, went through a whirlwind of marketing and promoting, there are several things I will do differently with the release of my future books.

Getting An Editor

I recently went to a writing workshop held by a young adult author. He raved about the importance of having a good editor. You can easily hire an editor on Fiverr or SEOClerks, but it was recommended to me that you find a published book in the same genre as yours and look at the Acknowledgements to see if you can inquire to that editor.

Buying An ISBN Number

Having your own ISBN number gets your book into Books in Print, which is the world’s largest catalogue of books. It will pop up in search engines, bookstores and libraries. When you are the registered owner of the ISBN it can be distributed at retailers.

Amazon Free Download

Yes, I took advantage of this with the release of my book, “A Fateful Melody,” but I opted for three days (Friday-Sunday), and would like to extend it next time. I don’t have to pay for these copies, and I don’t get commission on the downloads, but it’s getting my product known and exposed (and, hopefully, reviewed).

Getting Reviews

Before I publish my next book I would like to give a free copy to at least five people who will read it and be ready to post a review the day my book goes live. The more reviews, the higher the rating the book will be in the Kindle store and, therefore, the better odds of it being sold. I didn’t plan on this, but thankfully a kind soul who downloaded my book for free gave me my first review. There are some websites who will review your book for a price, but you can also submit it to others for free. The downside is that a review is not guaranteed. My favorite websites for free (not guaranteed) book reviews are Goodreads and Underground Book Reviews.

Networking And Building A Fan Base

I went into publishing cold. Yes, I wrote… but for myself… in private. My fanbase consisted of my two cousins and best friend. If I could do it all over again, I would have built a fanbase and a network. Before publishing, I would have joined and been active in writing groups on Facebook, set up social media accounts to build a following, and collected information for an emailing list. These will help boost my sales and ratings.

Good Luck

Best of luck on your publishing journey. There are many great tools on the Internet and doing your research before you publish will make your release much more successful. If you would like a comprehensive list of sites that will promote your book for free, and a list of websites that you could submit your book to for free reviews, sign up for my email list here.

cover2 A Fateful Melody: A Fictional Memoir

Dreading a life with her estranged father in Australia, fifteen year old Christie Kelly finds herself seated next to the young, sultry voice of world-renowned rock star, Galvin Kismet on the transpacific flight. In this time of uncertainty and distress, a friendship quickly blossoms as they share their anxieties about what is waiting for them in Australia.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.