Free for Indie Authors: Hell of a Course

Jim Musgrave
8 min readDec 18, 2021
Join the American Library Association Independent Author Project

Technology is changing fast. To keep up with the increasing competition from big publishing companies, I’m offering to show independent authors a way to establish a brand and deliver their products directly to their readers. Yes, I said “directly,” as this is what big publishing has difficulty doing with any great success. Why? Simply because they have neither the time nor money to spend on a system like this for most of their authors. Certainly, the Stephen Kings, J. K. Rowlings, and big celebrities will always be catered to and given the expensive book signings around the country and possibly the world. This is not the purpose of my course. My course will show independent authors, who have little or no money, or prestigious reputations, other than their work on the page that they want to deliver directly to their readers. In fact, this D2R (Direct to Reader) is one of the few advantages we independents have over big publishing and the “monetary dominance” they have over us.

How Big Publishers Play the Game Today

I have been working in independent publishing for over forty years. I was also a professor of English Composition and Literature for twenty-five years. The main practical lesson I’ve learned in both academic and publishing settings is this: to win at the game, one must learn how to go above and beyond what your competition is doing. For example, as an academic adjunct, without a contract at one university or college, I wanted to obtain grants to do my computer publication work. At the local college level in San Diego County, the Alvin Toffler phenomenon held true. This was the last stronghold of the “Feudal” management style. Since these colleges were controlled and run by “contract teachers,” for the most part, they were not about to give local money or grants to “mere adjunct employees” such as myself. So, to get a grant, I became a grant writer on my own and went above the local districts to the top: the California State Department of Education, as well as to private grants on the local, state, and national levels. I discovered that not only was there more opportunity to earn money in the form of grants, but these grants were also larger, more prestigious, and more practical than the local colleges offered.

I took this practical knowledge into the private sector when I retired.

Have you ever wondered, after reading one of the “new author” books, why they got so many reviews on Amazon, so many “super-hyped” accolades from the mainstream “author circuit,” and press, but, when you read the work, it seemed to be sub-par and pedestrian as far as quality? In some instances, you thought to yourself, my work is better than that. Why aren’t I able to get this kind of support?

Here’s what big publishers know (and these facts are satirized in the superb Hell of a Book, a Novel, by Jason Mott, which recently won the National Book Award):

· It costs them less to get a newly “discovered author,” hype his/her work with fancy covers, hyperbolic praise, algorithmically canned reviews, and a “grand signing tour,” than it is to put that time and effort into supporting the author’s career and understanding the importance of the work itself (as quality).

· It pays more to get the author “into the public eye” than it does to discuss what the actual book is about or what controversial topic it may contain. In fact, “controversy” has become a red flag in most of the big publishing houses, especially in the world of fiction (I had some of my biggest laughs and tears reading Mr. Mott’s novel about this aspect of big publishing.)

· While it may be the author’s main purpose to discuss the important and human issues in his/her work, this is only important to the publisher if it makes them money.

How Indies Must Play the Game

To compete with the above knowledge and practice, independent authors must concentrate on selling directly to their reader. I know. This sounds too simple to be true. Not if you’ve worked at Caltech/NASA/JPL it doesn’t. What I learned working there as the Supervisor of Management Development in the 1980s was this: the more complex the language and process becomes, the more chance there is for mistakes to be made. That’s the idea behind “Occam’s Razor.” The simplest answer is usually the best.

Therefore, after forty years in the indie game, I believe I’ve hit upon a method for independent success against the big publishers. I’m not necessarily talking about money success, although this can happen. I am talking about a practical method of setting up, delivering, and following methods that can return results for the specific author and what he/she must deliver to his/her end user (the reader). In other words, the independent author who can continue an ongoing relationship with the reader without spending too much “time and effort.”

So, here’s what I have learned, and what my course will teach you in the way of my forty years of experience failing and succeeding at the independent method of publication:

· Since an independent author cannot afford the hyperbolic and technical control over the playing field of distribution and marketing, he/she must work at putting together a quality book, first and foremost. Not a “hell of a book,” as Mr. Mott satirizes, but a book that contains a purpose and meaning that the reader can take to heart and from which they can learn something they didn’t know before they read it. I realize I’m stepping on a lot of toes here. Mainly, all the “escapist” literature out there. So be it. I still believe unless the author has an enduring work that can stand on its own as far as delivering something purposeful and intelligent for the reader, he/she will not last very long. Go ahead. Argue with me. That’s okay.

· There are “tools” to assist the independent author as he/she finally wants to deliver his/her quality book(s) directly to the reader. I will be showing you these tools and how you can use them to accomplish this D2R task.

· All these tools must be set-up in a specific and logical order for this “plan” to work. This will not only save the independent author time and effort, it will also pay-off in directly relations with your audience, which is the most important factor of success for the independent artist/creator.

How I Will Play This Game with You

Most of my time with you will be spent recording and demonstrating the tools you’ll need to distribute and market your quality product(s). These are the tools I’ll be covering in the final video demonstration portion of this free course:

· Mailchimp email list acquisition and delivery to your reader and how to use this list with the other tools.

· Bookfunnel independent book distribution platform to deliver directly to your reader’s email in all major eBook formats and access to print copies on Amazon and soon to be on Draft2Digital.

· Methods of generating new readership traffic, including Taboola, Facebook/Instagram, Google Ads, YouTube, and how they can be integrated into the above tools and my Embellisher platform.

But first, you must go through the portion of the course that is ultimately not “free,” but it will launch you into a new method of delivering D2R products that will make your work “cutting edge” and give you a way to gain instant attention from your readership. It will also expand your marketing dollar once you’ve established your brand using the tools and tutorials mentioned above.

When I say it’s not “free,” I mean once you’ve mastered the publication tools in my Embellisher Creator and eReader Admin platforms, you’ll be able to integrate them with the tools you’ve learned to use before, namely Mailchimp, Bookfunnel, and all the readership ad and traffic platforms. In other words, the best way to launch a new book or a series is to already have a mailing list of interested readers of at least a thousand in number. Then, when you can show them a new technology (such as the ePub3 multimedia book), they will be more inclined to believe you’re in it for the long haul, as you’re keeping up with the newest technological developments of delivery systems.

To begin, please register for a free account inside the Embellisher platform here. Go to the place (upper-right) where the arrow is pointing and login with your email and password. This gives you a basic account (non publisher), but you’ll still be able to access the Creator software here by putting in the same email/password combo. You can also reach the editing software by clicking on the little “pen icon” on the top navigation bar.

If some of you are already “antsy” about this new method of independent publishing, then you can sign-up for $1.00 per month (each platform) or $24.00 per year for both platforms. Once you pay, I will go into the admin section and give you full “Publisher rights and all eBooks free” status. This means that once you’ve mastered the following tutorials on how to use the EMRE platform, you can begin selling your ePub3 books right away! In addition, when I post the tutorials on using Mailchimp, Bookfunnel, etc. tools, you will also be able integrate them with your mastery of the Embellisher platforms, and I will move your status into the “Admin” category, where you can use the backend marketing section of my software (covered in my tutorial to follow). Please be aware that there are additional features that have been added to the Embellisher platform since these tutorials were created. These new features you will see when you access the Creator Studio with your free account. Among them are the following:

· Video Playlist (Vimeo or self-loaded) insert.

· YouTube Playlist insert.

In addition, when you purchase admin rights, you’ll also be able to add “custom categories” to your sales offerings. This means that instead of the default “book genres” listed in your free version on the reader’s desktop, you can type-in a list of your own categories for your specific customers. For example, say you’re running an online school. You can have course listed as categories from which your students may choose to enroll and access his/her books.

Tutorials on Using Embellisher ePub3 Creator Studio, Marketing Tools, and Admin Side of the eReader Platform

1. Tutorial #1 (How to load a Template in the Creator Studio)

2. Tutorial #2 (How to use the “insert story” feature in the Creator Studio)

3. Tutorial #3 (How to insert audio playlists in the Creator Studio)

4. Tutorial #4 (How to insert YouTube playlists in the Creator Studio)

5. Tutorial #5 (How to use the Forum inside the Embellisher eReader)

6. Tutorial #6 (How to use the social sharing Tweet in the Creator Studio)

7. Tutorial #7 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 1)*

8. Tutorial #8 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 2)*

9. Tutorial #9 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 3)*

10. Tutorial #10 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 4)*

11. Tutorial #11 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 5)*

12. Tutorial #12 (How to promote your book products to your specific audience Step 6)*

*These tutorials are for persons who’ve gained admin access to the marketing backend by purchasing an upgrade.


This concludes the first portion of my free online course. In the next blog post, I’ll be demonstrating how to use the tools mentioned (Mailchimp, Bookfunnel, and social ads/marketing distribution outlets).

Thanks for your attention, and best of luck with your own creation and marketing efforts. I hope I’ve assisted that effort in some way.



Jim Musgrave

Owner/Publisher/Author at EMRE Publishing, LLC, San Diego. Former professor at Caltech (English and Project Mangement). Developer of the Embellisher (TM) ePub3.