Guest Post

From Zero to Published: an indie author’s journey – A Guest Post by Kellyn Roth

Happy Monday and first day of March, everyone! (Well, not everyone, that kind of depends on where you’re located on the globe… XD) Today I am here with my very first Guest Post! As part of Becoming Miss Knight‘s release celebration, Kell wrote this guest post and I think all of you, my dear readers, will love it as much as I do. So, without further ado, give a warm welcome to Kellyn Roth!

Hi there! Thank you so much for allowing me to come onto your blog and chat!

I’m Kellyn Roth, author of The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, and today I’m excited to be talking about how I get from the barest trace of an idea to a published novel as an indie author.

This post won’t delve in depth into every step, as that would take me far longer than a simple blog post, but I’ll give you an overview. Hopefully it’ll be helpful to you as a writer (or as a reader who’s curious about the indie publishing process)!

Step 1: Developing the Idea

The first step of writing a novel is creating a concept (or the basic idea for a novel).

This can look a bit different for every author, but for me, I start with the barest glint of an idea—usually either an interesting character (a twin whose brother is a duke & who keeps insisting they switch places) or a funny situation (dowagers matchmaking their poor unfortunate relatives) or a theme (what’s the correct way to search for a husband, if any?). Yes, I have played with all of those!

Often, once I have that basic idea, I’ll write down everything I know about a novel—and then try to fit it into a blurb format. A blurb format is basically “those little descriptions on Amazon” (or any other book seller) that tell you what the novel is about (though, of course, it doesn’t include reader opinions, awards, and so on).

Once I have a blurb I’m happy with, I’ll write a full plot summary or synopsis—just a few pages (under three is best!) summarizing the book start to finish. This is usually where I’ll set all the big pieces of the plot in place—beginning, inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, third plot point, and conclusion.

By this point, I’ve gotten the main plot hashed out, and it’s time for outlining!

Time Spent on This Stage: 2-3 Weeks (though sometimes these ideas will have been brewing at the back of my mind for months or years, which I feel is best!)

Total Time Spent: 2-3 Weeks

Step 2: Outlining and Research

I say “outlining AND research” because often I have enough general knowledge to get most of the research out of the way at this stage, but sometimes I’ll have to look up things during the first step. Especially if the era is new to me or if real-life events are playing a part of my story.

However, in general, much of my research happens while I’m in this stage.

I’ll also create my outline which, for me, is a scene-by-scene summary.

I write based entirely off of my outline (though this is not to say I don’t edit my outline after I’ve started writing!), and I honestly believe plotting is the way to go when it comes to writing process. It’s not for everyone, but I have found most people who are pantsers have never really tried outlining (or have only tried it once before they had any real knowledge of plot)—and they tend to write rougher first drafts over a longer period of time, too.

That said, do what gets the book written faster! That’s the key.

Time Spent on This Stage: 2 weeks

Total Time Spent: 4-6 Weeks

Step 3: Drafts One and Two

Draft one is for writing absolute nonsense and just getting it down. Draft two is for revising or rewriting a decent draft that can be edited.

Generally, I’ll write draft one in about a month. Then I’ll let it sit for a few weeks at least before diving into draft two.

Draft two can be frustrating because I’ll have a lot of random polishing mixed with whatever changes I realized I’d need while writing (but didn’t fix because the whole point of draft 1 is speed!).

Generally I’ll consider my book ready to move beyond draft 2 into alphas/betas when I’ve done two or three read-throughs and feel like there’s nothing obvious I can fix.

However, I make sure not to overthink it. If I’m unsure about things, I let my beta readers be the deciding vote.

Time Spent on This Stage: a month on draft 1, 2-3 months on draft 2

Total Time Spent: 4-6 months

Step 4: Alphas and Betas

I’ll do this a bit different with every draft, but in general, I just do beta readers after draft 2. However, I have had a book this year that I just needed alpha readers for! I wasn’t sure about too many elements to edit it without feedback.

If I need alpha readers (e.g. friends and other writers who read an early draft of your novel and give their thoughts), part of my draft 2 edits will be cut off midway as I’m generally doubting various elements and want general thoughts before I polish. Therefore, those two timelines will overlap a bit.

But like I said, beta readers (e.g. friends and other writers who read a later draft of your novel and give their thoughts) are my main helpers. They’ll give me tons of thoughts as readers and as writers … and basically be a huge blessing to me.

It can be hard to open yourself up to critique at first, but hopefully all your readers won’t like your novel. (Yes! I said it! It’s important to get negative feedback, both for improving your story and for developing a strong writer character.) Steel yourself and just do it if you’re wavering.

Time Spent on This Stage: if I have alphas and betas, about four months—if I just have betas, about two months

Total Time Spent: 6-10 months

Step 5: Editor

After I’ve applied all the thoughts left by my beta-readers, I hire an editor. This seems pretty straightforward (and I will say that it is quite necessary! DO NOT publish without hiring an editor! Ever! For any reason!), but there are several different kinds of editors.

I personally hire a copyeditor whose responsibility is to check for factual errors (including historical details), fix all my grammar and punctuation errors, tell me if I sound like an idiot or not, and give me one last professional opinion before I publish.

There are other types of editors, though. If I had the option, I might hire a developmental editor to give me thoughts on the plot, characters, theme, and other big picture elements in the second draft. There are also line editors, who do a bit more in-depth editing. (I often use my more over-achieving beta-readers like line editors although technically their primary purpose is to give a reader opinion.)

Time Spent on This Stage: about two months

Total Time Spent: 8-12 months

Step 6: Formatting & Proofreading

I give myself about a month to complete this step, but it actually requires a lot less.

Formatting my novel for paperback or ebook takes me about three days, then I order a proof copy (which takes a couple weeks to ship), then I read it in a couple days, add any changes, and I’m ready to click publish.

Time Spent on This Stage: about a month (though conceivably about two weeks, but we’ll say a month)

Total Time Spent: 9-13 months

Step 7: Marketing

Marketing happens from the moment you get the idea until the moment you publish and afterwards. It’s a part of the process that should not be put off to last minute. You need 9-13 months to get all the pieces in place!

Some important steps of marketing:

  • Hiring a professional (and yes, I mean PROFESSIONAL) cover designer to create a book cover that portrays your genre and story (needs to happen 2-3 months out, at least, though six would be better—then you can organize your cover reveal and preorder launch!)
  • Writing an awesome blurb for Amazon (needs to happen before your cover reveal and preorder launch)
  • Creating a professional website (not strictly necessary but it’s a good step for most authors—this can happen whenever)
  • Developing a form of outreach (whether it’s social media or something else entirely, it’s important to find out where your readers hang out and go there—needs to happen at least a year out from publishing day)
  • Developing a community (whether it’s in a Facebook group or an email list, which is what I recommend, developing a community who wants the novel you’re selling is vital! Same as above—the earlier the better!)
  • Creating a street team (also known as your super fans, this can be a segment of a reader list, a special group, or whatever else works for you, but they need to be willing to share about your book, review it, etc.)
  • All the other little things (setting up accounts, researching your genre and categories, reading books in your genre, creating connections with other authors and so on)

Time Spent on This Stage: about 9-13 months but all while completing the other steps; however, that time is still vital!

Total Time Spent: still 9-13 months

Step 8: Finally Hitting Publish

This one only takes a minute of time, and yet it’s a big courage moment!

It does take me more than a few minutes to get my information added onto Kindle Direct Publishing (where I upload my books), but usually I’ve done that already for the preorder launch. It’s just uploading a new document, checking the details, and hitting publish.

Time Spent on This Stage: about five minutes because my wifi is slow

Total Time Spent: 9-13 months (and five minutes)

Step 9: The Next Steps

No, it doesn’t stop after publication!

You’ve got to:

  • Make sure the launch goes off well
  • Keep reminding people the book exists
  • Write and publish your next book!

In conclusion, there’s a lot that goes into preparing a novel for publication … but it’s worth it to hold your finished work in your hands!

Thank you for letting me guest post — I certainly enjoyed it, and I hope you did, too!

About the Author

Kellyn Roth is a Christian historical women’s fiction & romance author from North-Eastern Oregon who has independently published multiple novels, the most notable being The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy series. You should definitely call her Kell.

Kell lives on family-owned property outside an unmemorable but historical town with her parents, two little brothers, arbitrary cat, precious border collies, a dozen cows, and lots of chickens. She also possesses a classic, vintage aesthetic which does not at all speak to her country girl side, but such is life.

When not writing, Kell likes to blog, teach writing to her various students, have day jobs which allow her to keep her car properly insured, and spend lavish amounts of money on Dairy Queen french fries. She also likes to talk about Keira Knightley and her own books way too much.

Author Links









About the book


Alice Knight’s debut is in less than a year, and everything has to be perfect. Of course, she’d rather be riding her horse or playing with her younger siblings than learning to curtsy. But, with her mother in France for a holiday, the care of the house falls to her—and what better time to learn what it really means to be a lady?

Ivy, her twin sister, has other things on her mind. Namely, the endless conundrum of why she promised to keep an eye on her younger siblings while her parents are gone. She’s the least-qualified person to take care of them, but, bound by her word, she’s determined to try.

Even with all the guidance and advice available, becoming Miss Knight isn’t proving to be easy for either of them. However, any amount of work is worth keeping a promise to their mother.

Thank you for such an awesome post! What did y’all think of Kell’s post? Did you learn anything new? If you’re a writer pursuing publishing, are you going traditional or indie?

Tell me in the comments! 😀


10 thoughts on “From Zero to Published: an indie author’s journey – A Guest Post by Kellyn Roth”

  1. This was such a great post, Kellyn! Though I am (currently) pursuing traditional publishing, I LOVE learning different people’s processes of getting books out there. It’s so fascinating how we all have our own methods! And learning from one another’s tips and tricks is my favorite. Your process sound fantastic!
    Thank you girls so much for sharing. I loved reading this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, I love this post so much! I enjoyed seeing another author’s process! It was really helpful in seeing what I plan to do when I start pursuing publishing! Even though I plan to be traditional, I could learn from this! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!!!!! This was soooo AWESOME!!!!! I just LOVE to read about other author’s writing process!!!! THANK YOU for sharing, Jen!!!!!!!!!!!!! This also gave me a lot of relief, ’cause I was worrying that every writer needed to have alpha readers and I was just wanting betas. So, yes, VERY relieved. 😉 Sooo I am pursuing publication, and at the moment, not really sure how I’m going to publish Into the Lamp. I started out pursuing traditional, but I’m not sure that’s what I really want. I’m just not really sure yet. *shrugs* But this post was INCREDIBLE, girl!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Kell’s post! I loved reading about her process too! Oh, no, you only need alphas if you want someone reading it as you write it or before you do any editing. 😉 Just having betas is fine! Oooh, if you do change your mind about pursuing traditional, I know a few Indie authors whose blogs you can check out and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you asked some questions. 🙂 I’m still kind of on the fence about publishing myself. I love how Indie publishing gives you complete control, but there are some perks to being Traditionally published as well. It’s something I’m still praying about.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Alrighty! *cracks knuckles* …I actually have quite a few to recommend, so, may I email you instead after I finish gathering all the links and such? (I asked some friends to help me create a list, and there are several indie authors on it.) Is the email you used for the Scavenger Hunt okay?

          Liked by 1 person

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