Journalist Mara Leveritt’s first two nonfiction books, Boys on the Tracks (1999) and Devil’s Knot (2003), were published traditionally by Thomas Dunne and Atria respectively. But when Devil’s Knot was made into a movie in 2014 starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, Leveritt recognized the positive impact the film and its wider audience would have on her career. And, as she had handled promotion for her first two titles, she decided to go indie for her latest book, Dark Spell, the second volume in her West Memphis Three trilogy). Publishers Weekly called the book “a powerful look at how the wrong agenda can thoroughly undermine the justice system” and said, “this book is bound to be of interest to true-crime readers.”

Prior to self-publishing, Leveritt did a lot of research, consulting online resources, weighing her options, and reading extensively about other authors’ experiences. Because of her extensive preparations—something she recommends all indie authors do before publishing—she said the process went very smoothly. In addition to her methodical approach to self-publishing, Leveritt is also passionate about her subject matter: “Crime by itself does not interest me. I focus on what happens after the crime, particularly the way public officials handle the case, especially if their behavior is odd or puzzling. In those cases, I want to look deeper to find out why these peculiar investigations and trials unfolded the way they did. I hope one day to be able to write that it has been resolved in a way that makes sense.”

Here are three tips from Leveritt for how indie authors can find success:

Calculate Carefully

“I was concerned about the challenges of distribution, and how long it would take me to recover my up-front costs. Remember that shipping costs could erode your small profit margin; calculate carefully.”

Savvy Marketing

“While I was pleased with the appearance of my first two books, I was disappointed that in both cases the publishers left promotion entirely up to me. Get somebody who’s savvy about social media and website design to help you promote, regardless of whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.”

Watch the Money

“All self-employed people need to realize up front that they must watch the money, keep good records, and stay straight with the IRS throughout the year—or hire someone to do it. The effort and/or expense will save aggravation and money in the long run.”