Three Indie Author / Self-Publishing Ebooks – Reviewed

16 Aug 2011 | Publishing

A few months ago, I wrote about why I’m planning to self-publish my novel, Lycopolis, as both an ebook and a paperback. (More on that in a couple of months!)

The ebook world has moved incredibly fast over the past year, and there are more and more self-publishing success stories every day. It’s an exciting time – and also a rather bewildering one! There’s a lot of information out there in the blogosphere – some of it excellent, but much of it confusing or outdated.

I’ve bought and read three ebooks aimed at indie authors, in the hopes of getting to grips with this brave new publishing world. If you’re thinking about self-publishing a novel, then you’ll want to pick up at least one of these, if not all of them.

Note: the terms indie author, self-publisher and indie publisher are being used interchangeably here.

The links in this post are affiliate ones; if you buy using them, I make a few pennies.


Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author

Zoe Winters

Published February 2011

$5.49 on

£3.35 on

This was the first book on indie publishing that I picked up. I’d come across Zoe Winters on The Creative Penn, and I was keen to hear more from her.

Zoe starts off by helping you determine whether the indie route is right for you, and goes on to cover major aspects of the indie publishing process, such as:

  • Different formats – print, ebook and audio
  • Business and marketing plans
  • Editing your manuscript
  • Formatting for print and for ebook

All the information Zoe gives is solid, and this book is the only one of the three listed here that covers print as well as ebook publishing.

I found Zoe’s style a little hard to engage with: she spends a while trying to convince the reader that self-publishing is viable, but that they need to take it seriously. The tone came across as rather defensive at times, and I found this a bit wearing.

Having said that, if you’re new to the indie scene and need some encouragement and motivation along with solid advice, Zoe’s ebook may well be for you.

Buy it on

Buy it on


How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

John Locke

Published June 2011

$4.02 on

£2.49 on

(Also available as a paperback.)

I’d heard several bloggers mention this ebook, and I finally bought it after reading an interview with John Locke in the UK’s Writing Magazine.

John covers:

  • What didn’t work for him, when he self-published his books
  • Keys to success as an indie author
  • “The system” that he developed (this is the key selling point of the ebook)

If you’re looking for advice on the nuts-and-bolts of formatting or editing, this isn’t the ebook for you: the focus is on selling your book.

As with Zoe’s ebook, I found John’s style hard-going. He uses a lot of exclamation marks, and he spends rather too much time talking about his own books and his success. I can see that he needs to establish his credentials, but it comes across as rather self-promotional.

He’s from a marketing background, and it shows – there was a lot of language here that’s more at home in the internet marketing space than the indie author world.

I felt a little disappointed by this ebook; I picked up a few genuinely new ideas and tips, and I’d say that was worth the money … but there was nothing particularly ground-breaking. If you’re new to social media (blogs, Twitter, etc) then you’ll find this useful; if not, it’s still worth buying it and skimming it – but don’t expect too much.

Buy it on

Buy it on


Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, And Why You Should (July 2011)

David Gaughran

Published: July 2011

$2.80 on

£1.71 on

After the slight disappointment of the previous two ebooks, I was thrilled to find this one. David Gaughran was a new name to me – I picked this up by chance.

What I liked most is that David’s experience is very recent (he only started self-publishing in April) and that he’s not a self-proclaimed expert. That’s a good thing, because it means he’s done a ton of research – and it shows in the quality and depth of the finished ebook.

David covers:

  • The digital revolution and why ebooks are so powerful
  • Detailed figures on how large publishers’ royalties break down
  • The importance of producing a professional ebook (and how to do that)
  • Using blogs and social networks to promote your book

The third part of the ebook is made up of success stories from a number of self-published ebook authors. These stories aren’t the ones that hit the headlines – but they showed me just how many authors are doing very well from ebooks, without being Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath.

The tone throughout is calm, confident and encouraging. There was quite a bit of information in here (particularly facts and figures about the ebook industry) that I’d not come across before, too.

One minor gripe I had was that David covers blogging pretty briefly: he hasn’t had any experience of self-hosted WordPress (the best way to go, in my opinion!) However, this book isn’t aimed at bloggers – and he gives enough detail to help authors get going with a blog.

If you’re going to buy just one ebook aimed at indie authors, make it this one – it’s also the cheapest of the three!

Buy it on

Buy it on


Have you come across a great, up-to-date ebook aimed at self-publishing authors? Or would you like any more details on the ebooks above? If so, just let me know in the comments…





I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.


  1. Faun

    Ali, thanks for the reviews. David’s book sounds like the place to start. And while I’m somewhat familiar with John Locke and his success, I’ll probably wait a bit to read his ebook.
    Faun’s last blog post ..Scaredoo

    • Ali

      Thanks Faun! Yeah, start off with David. John Locke’s is probably worth a skim, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a must-have.

  2. Business ebook

    Hey ALi the ebook world is exploding which cool for self publishers as a way to get your work out there, I have published four so far but at this point i am not one of those success stories … fun to try though : )
    Business ebook’s last blog post ..Dealing With Difficult People

    • Ali

      Stick with it! 🙂

  3. Lorna Fergusson

    This is really useful, Ali. I suspected that John Locke’s book would be pretty self-promotional, so I’ll follow your recommendation of David Gaughran and see what he has to say.

    • Ali

      Will be interested to hear how you get on with it! 🙂

  4. Cally Jackson

    Thanks a bundle for these reviews, Ali. I’m considering self publishing and so it’s great to hear which books have valuable advice. I have a WordPress-hosted blog and have been considering moving across to self-hosted. I’d be interested to know what you think the benefits are of self hosting.

    Cally Jackson’s last blog post ..Amy Lunderman in the HOT SEAT

    • Ali

      Cheers Cally!

      I’ve never used WordPress-hosting myself … I feel that self-hosting is beneficial mainly because you have a lot more options for themes/plugins, and also because it’s less likely that your site could be taken offline due to some obscure violation of terms & conditions (I’ve not heard of this happening with WordPress, but I have heard of Blogger folks having problems).

  5. Sunil Bhatia

    I’ve read all three as well. Like his blog posts, David’s book is absolutely terrific and helped me understand what self publishing has to offer. His writing’s got depth and he often sees issues from multiple perspectives, giving readers enough to go by if this happens to be the only book they read. I can only see the book improving with updated editions as the publishing industry continues to evolve.

    • Ali

      I must check out David’s blog! And yes, he struck me as someone who’d really thought through the material involved.

  6. Jens E. Huebner

    Thanks for this posting. I’ll try David Gaughran’s book soon. Right now I am reading ‘How to Make, Market and Sell E-Books – All for Free’ by Jason Matthews and I already found a lot of new (and free) ideas. I’ve also ordered Joanna Penn’s book ‘From Book to Market’, she has such a great and helpful blog that I expect a lot fro her books too. Sorry for my bad English, it isn’t my first language.

    • Ali

      Thanks Jens — Joanna Penn is fantastic (and I must check out her ebook too!) I’d not come across Jason Matthews before — will take a look at that one.

  7. Jens E. Huebner

    Thanks for this posting. Never heared of David Gaughran before. I’ll try his book soon. Right now I am reading ‘How to Make, Market and Sell E-Books – All for Free’ by Jason Matthews and I already found a lot of new (and free) ideas. I’ve also ordered Joanna Penn’s book ‘From Book to Market’, she has such a great and helpful blog that I expect a lot from her books too. Sorry for my bad English, it isn’t my first language.

    Jens E. Huebner’s last blog post ..How John Locke made me try the impossible

  8. farouk

    sounds like a good book Ali
    thanks for letting us know about it 🙂

  9. Edward

    Thank you for the honesty in your reviews. You have stated the negative and positive side of these ebooks, which I think is fair. I am just a beginner and both books is worth a read.
    Edward’s last blog post dating book

  10. Billy Bob Buttons

    If you do self-publish your book, then do check out The Wishing Shelf Awards. It is a non-profit making award for independently published authors.

    many thanks


  11. Kindle Self Publishing

    You don’t have to be Amanda Hocking to make a living as an indie. Some indie authors will rise to the very top, some will languish at the bottom, and some will make a comfortable living doing what they love. In traditional publishing, the focus is on pre-selling to retailers and trying to launch the book as successfully and large as possible. For most books, that big push in the beginning is going to determine what happens to the book for the rest of its shelf-life.
    Kindle Self Publishing’s last blog post ..How to Promote Your Kindle Book for Maximum Sales

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