Day 5: Lessons Learned on the Indie Author Journey

PowerPack CollageThis is our last day with the authors of the Indie Author Power Pack. We thank them for a full week of insightful and tip-filled articles ideal for anyone who wants to self-publish. You can find more of their self-publishing and writing know how in The Indie Author Power Pack (a $.99 NOOK Book box set) and be sure to check out the other articles in this bootcamp series from the beginning. In their final post,  some key takeaways from their combined indie experiences.


Lessons Learned On The Indie Author Journey

Decide on your definition of success. From Joanna Penn

You need to decide what you consider to be successful and what you are aiming for in your author career. Many authors want some kind of validation and, for example, if you want to win a prestigious literary prize, you are far more likely to do so within the established traditional publishing environment because the literary critics will consider your book more easily.

On the other hand, if you want to make $10,000 per month and quit your day job to become a full-time author, you’re better off being an indie author and writing a lot of books in a popular genre like romance, mystery or sci-fi and fantasy. Check out for the top selling genres.

You can see that these two goals are pretty diverse and there are many options in between. Decide what you are aiming for, and then decide how you will get there.


You need to write faster. From David Gaughran.

I can hear the groans already, but you all know deep down that this game is easier if you can speed up (without sacrificing any quality). It’s not just in the obvious sense of having more books for readers to discover, more things to sell, and more ways to market your work. It helps in less obvious ways too. As I (gradually!) got faster and released more titles, I took more risks with my marketing and that has really paid off. It has also liberated me creatively. I don’t worry about this particular book being the masterpiece I’ll be remembered for and instead focus on writing a good story that will satisfy readers – part of a body of work that will hopefully be remembered fondly. And the funny thing is that the book turns out better without that internal pressure.


Never skimp on your cover. From Sean Platt

Unless you’re an artist, illustrator, or qualified graphic designer, under no circumstances should you ever make it yourself. Your cover will do much of the heavy lifting to nudge a potential reader to buy, and people will judge your work by a thumbnail.

Most readers don’t care if a book is self-published, but they do care if it looks that way. You could write the year’s best book, but few readers will give it a chance if your cover looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint.

Yes, a quality cover can be expensive, but it is far more costly to publish something subpar.


Treat your tribe like gold… because that’s what they are. From Johnny B. Truant

Our readers — and our Self Publishing Podcast listeners — are the best people in the world. They support what we do; they clamor for new releases; they defend us when people say the inevitable nasty things about us. We don’t care about appealing to everyone because we have solid relationships with the folks who are already in our fold, and we don’t take their trust and loyalty for granted. Supposedly it really only takes about 1000 true fans to make it as an artist. Believe me, I’m holding on to every one I can get.


Friends are everything. From David Gaughran.

It’s very important to get out of your shell and connect with your fellow writers. Those connections can lead to marketing opportunities, group promotions, strategic advice on your career, or tips to make your lead more compelling. Some of those connections will turn into friends, which is at least as important as the career stuff. Writers need a close circle they can bounce ideas off privately, people who understand what it’s like to get a crappy review or hit a wall with your writing. Everyone will have some kind of meltdown at some point, and it’s way better to do that on some little corner of the internet where it won’t be shared. Find your own private island and populate it with writers you can trust.


Its more than just the writing. This is a business. From Joanna Penn

Self-publishing for personal creative reasons is fantastic but if you want to make decent money, or even leave your day job, then you need to learn about more than just the writing side. An author these days is running a small business, so you need to be concerned with things like cash-flow, income and expenses, as well as production, sales and marketing and working with other professionals.

You don’t need to know all this when you’re just getting started, and you can learn along the way (as we have all done) but you will need to address it when you start getting serious about your author career. I’ve discovered that this entrepreneurial side of things is just as creative and fun as the writing!


Start with reasonable expectations. From Sean Platt.

It’s too easy to look at the self-publishing megastars and find your eyes filled with dollar signs. This is a mistake 100 percent of the time, and will get you focusing on the wrong things (sales) rather than what’s most important (reader relationships).

There are more authors who are struggling than not. It’s essential for indies to stay realistic. Yes, it’s possible for hardworking writers to build a sustainable writing income, with fiction or nonfiction, but it’s unreasonable to expect that to happen easily or fast.

Set yourself a series of small goals, and constantly work toward them. Don’t let pie-in-the-sky dreams take the place of consistent, tangible growth.


It’s harder than you think. From Johnny B. Truant

The idea of an “ebook gold rush” is absurd, and it’s such a shame that you know some people are being duped into believing it. When people ask about becoming a self-published author as a full-time gig, I usually try to discourage them to do it — not because I think they shouldn’t try, but because anyone who CAN be discouraged is facing a long road. You have to work when things aren’t happening as you’d like, keep going when there are no results, and be ready at a moment’s notice to change what you’re doing as the market changes.

But if you can gut your way thorough it anyway? It’s the best job in the world.



For more advice on writing, publishing and book marketing, check out the The Indie Author PowerPack, available now from Nook at just 99c. It contains Joanna Penn’s fully updated book, How To Market a Book, as well as the 2014 updated version of Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran and Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant.

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