Episode 88: Making Your Indie Book Stand out with Jen Craven

Jen Craven is a fiction writer. She writes contemporary women's fiction and is passionate about making sure her books stand out from the masses of other books. This conversation covers the broad spectrum of why it's important to get your books out there, while making sure you're creating a great product.

When Jen Craven, a passionate and determined author, made the pivot to self-publish her latest contemporary work, she faced a challenging learning curve and a battle between her ambition and her gut.

I'm always reminding myself of that and being proud of how far I've come and trying not to compare to other people. – Jen Craven

This is Jen Craven's story:

With her newfound freedom as an indie author, Jen reveled in the ability to oversee all aspects of her book, from its cover design to the timeline of its release. Yet, this path was not without its challenges. Jen had to quickly adapt to the steep learning curve of managing all aspects of her book's production, promotion, and sales. Despite the cons, she found joy in connecting with her audience on social media and building a community of supportive fellow authors. 


In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why Jen shifted from historical fiction to contemporary
  • Why it's okay to shift genres early on without worrying about having to rebuild an audience
  • Writing the story that calls to you rather than sticking to a genre
  • Traditional vs. self-publishing; why she shifted from trying to find an agent to self-publishing
  • Why your first book doesn't have to be perfect and your efforts should be on writing the story and improving your craft
  • Pros and cons of going the self-publishing route
  • Making sure you have a book cover that stands out while meeting expectations of the genre
  • Tips for making your book stand out as a self-published book
  • Time management for doing “all the things”


Making an Indie Book Stand Out

In a competitive market, making an indie book stand out from the crowd is essential for success. One approach is to engage and collaborate with your author community, requesting author blurbs for the book cover, collecting reviews, and participating in social media conversations. A professionally designed cover is also necessary, as it plays a significant role in capturing readers' attention and curiosity. Jen Craven emphasizes the importance of author blurbs on the book cover, especially in today's market. Reach out to fellow authors, whether or not they are personally acquainted, in order to secure those valuable endorsements. Continued growth and development are natural aspects of the writing journey. Focus on improving your craft and producing more books rather than craving perfection from the outset.

Key Takeaways

  • Research and design an eye-catching book cover that matches the genre and current market trends. If necessary, hire a professional book cover designer.
  • Reach out to authors in your genre and request blurbs for your book cover. Be professional and considerate in your approach.
  • Ensure your author headshot is professional, high-quality, and on a solid background with good lighting.
  • Build and engage with your author platform on social media, specifically focusing on the platforms your readers are on, like Instagram. Share reviews, reader responses, and create content like Instagram Reels.
  • Consider hiring professionals for services like formatting, marketing, and publicity if you don't have the necessary skills or time to do them yourself.
  • Focus on writing and improving your craft to continue producing quality work and growing your readership.

Memorable Moments:

00:04:20 – Traditional vs. Indie Publishing,
Jen shares her experience of querying literary agents and ultimately deciding to go the indie publishing route for her latest book. She cites control and timeline as two key pros of indie publishing, but also acknowledges that it comes with a steep learning curve.

00:09:09 – Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing,
Jen delves deeper into the pros and cons of indie publishing, highlighting the importance of cover design and author blurbs for making a book stand out in a crowded market. She also stresses the need for indie authors to be proficient in multiple skill sets or to hire professionals to ensure high-quality output. 

00:17:31 – Building Advanced Reader Teams,
Jen discusses the importance of building an ARC team and how she reached out to ten ARC readers for her book launch. She highlights how this is especially important for indie authors who have shorter launch periods.

00:19:15 – Connecting and Supporting Indie Bookstores,
Jen encourages readers to use bookshop.org to support indie bookstores and give back to the community.