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

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

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 to support indie bookstores and give back to the community.

Is Hybrid Publishing Right For You?

Is Hybrid Publishing Right For You?

Is hybrid publishing right for you? In between self publishing and being traditionally published is the hidden gem of hybrid publishing. At in a previous Women In Publishing Summit, we sat down with Brooke Warner the founder of She Writes Press, a hybrid publishing house and asked her to explain some of the finer details of this publishing model.

What Is Hybrid Publishing?

Hybrid publishing has become a catch-all term for the type of publishing that is found in the gray zone between self publishing and being traditionally published. She Writes Press vets their projects, charges a publishing fee, offers higher royalties and has traditional distribution. Some hybrid publishing houses might not have traditional distribution or charge a fee. There are different models that fall within hybrid publishing, making it important to research and understand the publishing before you made a decision.

Who Is Hybrid Publishing For?

Hybrid publishing is a great fit for an author who has a great book but lacks the platform that most traditional publishing houses require. One of the things a traditional publishing house wants to know is that they’ll be able to sell your book and therefore consider your author platform when they decide if they’d like to work with you. The look to see if you’ve got a website, active social media channels with followers, an email list, a podcast or have a Ted Talk under your belt.

I mean, someone could easily come to us and say, ‘I have a really great book, I have no social media presence, no website, no anything’ and what we do is we assess the book, if in fact they do have a great book, then we also offer an opportunity to build platform, because a book builds a platform,” says Brooke.

What It Is Like To Work With A Hybrid Publishing House?

This is how the process of working with a hybrid house works at She Writes Press. Their submission process is different than a traditional house where a book is submitted to an editor or agent who has to consider the size of your author platform, if your book is right for their list or if they already have something similar. If you get a “no” from them, that’s it.

When a manuscript comes in, you’re assigned a project manager who shepherds the book through the process. They give their authors a one page assessment providing feedback; if it’s publish ready, if it needs a copy edit, if it needs developmental editing or coaching. When you work with a hybrid, you’ll receive a lot of support, feedback, education and perhaps even some hand holding if necessary.

A hybrid also handles the data and distribution of the book and will be able to advise you on how to handle publicity for your book. Some hybrids offer in house publicity and some do not, however they’ll be able to advise you on how to spend marketing dollars for your book (or not). “It really depends on if the book is a legacy project and what the author’s goals are. However, the more publicity you have behind your book, the more we can push distribution,” says Brooke.

What Is The Benefit To Hybrid Publishing Over Self Publishing?

One of the biggest benefits to working with a hybrid house is that they may have access to distribution the way that traditional publishing houses do, making it easier to get your book into bookstores.

Additionally, self-published authors don't qualify for traditional reviews published in places such as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal. These reviews really carry a lot of weight and a good review will contribute to sales, especially from libraries.  

What is The Benefit To Hybrid Publishing Over Traditional Publishing?

There are many benefits to choosing hybrid publishing over traditional, but we have three favorites. Remember that each hybrid house follows their own model so this may vary a bit depending on who you’re working with.

  1. You’re likely to have more creative control over your book and be able to be part of the decision process when it comes to book cover design and interior design.
  2. You don’t have to wait to build your author platform before you publish your book. You can work on both at the same time.
  3. You’ll receive feedback, education and experience more collaboration than working with a traditional house.

Hybrid publishing is a great next step for someone who has already self published a book and is ready to publish another, someone who doesn’t yet have an author platform but has a great book they’d like to publish or for someone who wants additional feedback or control in their book’s process. To learn more about which publishing model is right for you, check out the Publishers' Panel from the 2019 Women in Publishing Summit. 

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