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Adventures in Technology: Indie Book Publishing & Marketing

I have always been a bootstrap, figure-it-out person. I have learned by observing how other people do things, asking questions, and experimenting. I have also sought out and been a mentor. (That's really key!) Throughout my life, I have found it incredibly useful to empower myself. I prefer to understand what I need and why - and if I really need it - rather than passively paying for services or buying things that aren't necessary. Along the way, I have discovered that I am capable of much more than I ever imagined. I also have a much better grasp of what I don't know how to do and why it is sometimes the very best decision to pay a professional.

Don't underestimate yourself and never stop learning!

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how and why I decided to independently publish my book The True Adventures of Gidon Lev. It was a great decision, and I have never looked back. That said, I was and continue to be amazed by the number of software platforms and resources I needed to learn to market my book. In a previous blog post, I talked about my current experiment with book marketing with the use of Tik Tok.

In addition to being a writer, I am also an editor who helps writers polish their work and advises them about the landscape of the world of book marketing and, specifically, independent book publishing. To be able to provide this advice, I had to go through the process myself. Having navigated the world up independent publishing - the whole nine yards, from the technical aspects of ISBNs to where to find the best artists for cover art, to what on earth a BISAC code is, it became crystal clear to me that the learning curve for all of this stuff is steep and that it's definitely not for everybody to try to learn themselves.

Here is a short list of some of the technology or platforms I have experimented with, to help publish my book and to create and do other tasks for my writing and editing business.

Trello: (Project management, sanity saver.) I use Trello in my personal and professional life to organize my tasks, but I also use it for writing projects, so I can have an easy, visual Trello board for each aspect of my book (where I've submitted, additional articles and resources, my ISBN number and other details that I need to keep in one place. In addition, because of its visual nature, I think Trello is a great outlining tool. You can have boards for "character development" or boards for "completed chapters" or "ideas," etc. I love Trello; it's easy, intuitive, and I have used it for years.

Vimeo: (Video editing and sharing.) Vimeo is a somewhat sophisticated software platform that enables you to upload, edit, link to, or embed videos. I used it to make several Tik Toks for my Tik Tok account, and I use it as a resource to help me store and then link to various videos I might make, whether those are for clients or related to my book The True Adventures. I like Vimeo a lot, but I'm not convinced that I definitely need it because our next guest, Canva - is fantastic.

Canva: (Content creation.) Canva is the best. The absolute best. I have been using it for several years, so my take on it comes from experience. But I find it very user-friendly, very intuitive, and SO helpful and flexible. Canva adds new features all the time. You can use it to make videos and create presentations (it's what I use, for sure!), and you can take advantage of Canva to create a one-sheet of your book, your CV, a social media image for your book, etc. I cannot recommend Canva enough.

Query Tracker: (Submitting to literary agents.) Query Tracker is a MUST if you will be submitting your manuscript to literary agents. It's not the most user-friendly platform in the world in terms of "UX" (user experience), but that said, it's not too hard to figure out, either. There are tons of filters, and Query Tracker saves all of your searches and the data you'll need to keep track of, like how long ago you submitted your query and even the percentage of queries you have sent that were successful - or even replied to.

Vellum: (Formatting and design.) I am so glad I used Vellum to format my book. I used a professional, of course, and I highly recommend Andrew Chapman at Prepare to Publish. Andrew was a joy to work with. But I kept finding small things that I needed to change or add, and eventually, by purchasing Vellum, I was able to make small changes quickly and easily. I am so glad I have Vellum.

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing): Oh. My. Gosh. I wish I could say that using KDP and its dashboard to track my book sales and upload and do all of that was easy. It wasn't. Also, Ingram Spark. Trying to use Ingram Spark is like walking over hot asphalt covered with nails. I kid you not. I can barely use my Ingram Spark to see how my book sales are going. Maybe you are more tech-savvy than I am. That's likely, in fact. But reader, though I did wind up smashing my way through this process myself to learn and share my experience with other writers and clients - these aspects of indie publishing (dashboards, keywords, BISAC codes, uploading, downloading, the size of the book's thumbnail, an excellent author page) are NOT for the faint of heart. As I said, I did it because I needed to really "get" how it works, but I definitely had help from generous friends. The ALLI author member forum on Facebook has many very smart and helpful writers who can answer your questions. But if you have a panic attack even reading this, I highly recommend my friend Brian Schwartz, a tech genius who helps writers do ALL of this stuff for a very reasonable fee.

You'll notice that some of these tools (again, this is a shortlist!) are about content creation, and you may be thinking, hey, I'm going to go with a hybrid publisher, or I'm going to go for a traditional publisher - and that's all well and good. But you would be SO surprised how much content you still need to create to be an empowered writer and effective book marketer. You'll need content and images for social media, your website, and many other ancillary uses. I created a library request form for my book The True Adventures of Gidon Lev and indeed, several libraries now carry the book.

Another way to put this is that plenty of writers can and do use all of this technology and much, much more to market their books. So don't be left out in the cold. Experiment with some of these tools and find out where your comfort zone is. You might just surprise yourself.

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