Indie author D.E. Vollrath always wanted to try his hand at writing, but it wasn’t until his daughters started to read sci-fi and fantasy books that he seriously took a crack at it, “in part because there were so few books that had female lead characters. One day I started typing, without much of a plan, and most of a chapter came out.”

Since then, Vollrath has made a splash with his debut middle-grade novel, Silverwood. PW gave the book a star, with our reviewer calling it “page-turning” and saying that it “evok[es] a sense of wonder and joy.”

Reflecting on his self-publishing experience, Vollrath says he wishes he’d known earlier how easy it is to get a professionally designed cover: “I spent a few weeks trying to figure out how I would mock up and design my cover. That was a waste of time. There are so many great pros out there who can do it fast and for a reasonable price.”

Another challenge was promoting his book. Vollrath doesn’t have much of a social media presence or a coordinated marketing plan. And while writing isn’t his main income source, he understands the importance of marketing and plans to increase his efforts to promote the book.

“My kids have also demanded a follow-up book,” he says. “So when I can produce that we’ll try to push the pair of books more strongly.”

We asked Vollrath to share some tips for aspiring indie authors:

The More Readers, the Better

“You are never done copy-editing. Ever. I’m convinced that typos breed, and even though you think you’ve caught them all, new ones show up all the time. The more people that can read the book before you publish, the better. Even professional copy-editors miss stuff.”

Judge a Book by Its Cover

“Get a professional cover done. The difference between a poor self-made one and a professional one is enormous, and worth the investment.”

Marketing Is Hard Work

“There is a lot of grunt work to be done in marketing. Publishing the book is relatively easy – point and click – but marketing it involves a lot of what seems like banging your head against walls (which is why I’ve done such a poor job of it so far).”