Eighteen months after being introduced to nature photography, Mike MacDonald’s work was published in Outdoor Photographer and Chicago Wilderness. This is how he began both his love affair with the natural beauty of Chicago and his self-publishing journey.

“There are over 350 square miles of natural area within about an hour’s drive of downtown Chicago,” he says. “Unfortunately, most people don’t know it’s there. I’ve made it my mission to play matchmaker.”

To that end, MacDonald self-published the art book My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago. The book contains 205 full-color photographs, which made the production process rather laborious.

“There were many times during the process that I wished for a publisher to do all of the hard work for me,” he says. “But now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t trade the occasional bouts of post-traumatic publishing disorder for anything.”

And it seems that MacDonald’s hard work has indeed paid off. My Journey received a glowing review from Publishers Weekly, which called the work “impressive” and “celebratory, soulful, and poetic, evoking a strong affection for Chicago’s unchecked wilderness [with] ornate and thoughtful prose.”

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

Take Advice with a Grain of Salt

“Believe in yourself and don’t put your trust in ‘experts.’ Learn from them and then follow your heart. Experience can often narrow the mind and the possibilities. Here’s the best example: ‘Do an e-book, not a print book.’ That was the advice I received [and] I’m glad I didn’t listen.”

Don’t Be a Cheapskate

“Hire at least one editor, just like every great writer in history."

Pre-Sales Are a Must

“If your book is nonfiction, pre-sell it to companies and organizations who share your vision. And definitely do a GoFundMe campaign.”