More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors

ChallengesThis is the second in a series of posts centered on the challenges faced by indie authors as we try to compete in the vast ocean of competitors/cohorts that is filled with sharks and other predators. Here are more that I’ve come up with to get you thinking and to foster a discussion:

bad reputation speedometer illustration designThe Stigma of Self-Publishing

I refrain from calling what we do self-publishing. I am an independent author. My publisher is Amazon. Instead of having services provided to me by a traditional publisher, I outsource them to providers that fit within my budget and style.

I recall trying to join a local author group and being refused because I was “one of those self-publishers”. Truth be told, I had essentially published more books than the total of all of the authors in the group. Many of them were waiting for some big publisher to say yes. Of those that had been “fortunate” enough to land a publishing deal, my sales were much higher then any of them. The reviews I’ve received for my books were also very positive.

Yet, despite my “writing resume”, I was snobbishly turned away for being an indie.

So, what is the root cause of this stigma? Books published by indie authors range in quality from poorly constructed pamphlets and short books to masterpieces that stand together with any traditionally published author. The differentiation, besides stories that appeal to the masses, is often the quality of the work.

You’ve seen me repeatedly post on the benefit of having an editor, quality book cover, good formatting and other items that improve the overall professionalism of indie author books. These things are not free. If your book is traditionally published, you might think these services are fee, but they are not. They are deducted from the profit you might otherwise realize on your book. The results of these services are also usually beyond the total control of the author. In the indie publishing world, you control everything. This is one of the best and worst aspects of being an indie.

Cheap Vs Expensive See Saw Balance Comparing Prices CostsIt’s Cheaper, Right? Right?

If you landed on self-publishing thinking you can save money by editing yourself, creating your own book cover, and recording your own audiobook, well, you can.

You just might not sell many books (see the previous section on the stigma). You could be an English major with an impeccable understanding of every nuance of grammar and punctuation. You’ll probably make a great editor…of someone else’s books. There is scientific proof that when you read through something that you wrote, your brain will subconsciously skip over errors that are blatantly obvious to someone else looking it over.

A second set of eyes (and maybe a third, fourth and fifth) is an essential part of producing an independent work. Don’t trust yourself to edit. You will miss something.

If you insist, however, (I can see some of you rolling your eyes) put the manuscript aside for a couple of months without looking at it. When you read it, it will seem fresh to you and you may (emphasis on may) find the majority of your mistakes.

As for your cover, unless you are adept with programs like Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator, I would leave this to an outsourced expert. You can find experts in graphic design lining up to create an excellent cover for you on services like, and I’ve had good luck with these services. I’m especially proud of the latest cover for my book, Extra Innings. The cover designer hit my vision dead on.

If you create your cover on your own using the KDP tool from Amazon or your own software, be prepared to have your book skipped over. I’ve been able to have a great quality cover designed for under $50 for my books.

Am I Good Enough Question Speech Bubbles AdequacyAm I good enough to be published?

My initial answer to this is, who cares. Are people reading your books? Are you getting reviews and useful feedback? Do you feel good about what you produce?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, then I invite you to say ‘who cares’. The myth that only published authors are successful depends on how you measure success. If you made more than you spent, you are ahead of the game. Sure, traditionally published authors get advances (sometimes). Those advances, however, are not very large for most authors and aren’t earned until enough books sell to cover them. After the advance is covered, authors typically make 10-15% of the book’s cover price in royalties. If you sell a $20 book, you make $2-3. I’m no genius, but if I sell a $20 book on Amazon as an indie publisher, I make $14.

You might counter with, “I’m not going to sell that many books on Amazon as an indie published author.” Well, with that attitude, your not. Is there a magic formula for selling a million books. Not really, but it has happened for indie published authors.

Have you ever heard of Hugh Howie, Andy Weir or Mark Dawson. They are just three example of indie authors that have hit it big, really big. They are also some of the most generous in terms of passing along tactics that worked in their own success. Mark even has a podcast designed to help indie authors and a series of courses on marketing that are intricate and extremely useful.

The chance of success is out there for indie authors. You have to be in the right situation at the right time with the right book…pretty much like traditional publishing…except the potential rewards are much higher.

I hope this post generates some discussion. Share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you. If any of you have done both the traditional and indie routes, I’d love to hear your stories.



57 thoughts on “More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors

  1. You touch on some important things here, Don. I think the perception of self-publishing really is changing, but I think it’s critical that authors really see themselves as professionals, and make sure that everything they do is their professional best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true Margot. I think there is a segment of indie authors that are hobbyists that just want the thrill of finishing a book. That’s admirable, but it is also a lasting legacy so the idea that we should all strive to do our best is important.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your post and I agree, what people used to think of self-published authors is widely changing. To remain focused and professional in how we do things is imperative to be taken seriously.

    Sharing my experiences as both an independently published author and one who worked with a publishing company, is something I am happy to do. A little long-winded perhaps, but the backstory has relevance.

    For my first two books, I worked with a publishing company. The first book went smoothly. I had free rein and the last word on each phase of publication. It was the reason I went with them again. The second book was a pillar to post fiasco that left me wondering if I should stop and not bother. But, the reality was, they already had my money and weren’t interested in returning much of it if I bowed out.

    I questioned the editing team about the errors I had found and they had no qualms about a 10% error factor — “that’s accepted” I was told.

    It was there I decided I wanted and needed further outside help, knowing full well I would most likely be paying for services I had already spent money on with the publishing company.

    I started with my local writers’ group. Giving anyone who was interested, the second opportunity to beta read what the publishers had proposed. From there I checked in with several social media writing groups for feedback, and editor references.

    I contacted several editors, and am happy to say I found one. She found over 80 points that she suggested I change. All had been part of the “acceptance percentage” of the publishing company.

    It was like I was starting from the beginning at a time when I should have been in the finals days of being published. My original go-live goal date was extended an additional five months. It was worth it.

    The experiences I had with a publishing company have been to my benefit. I was shown first hand the quirks one would not necessarily be privy to. This knowledge has been very useful in going forward.

    I have since published another book as an independent, and I have every intention of publishing future books the same way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You make a lot of valid points, Don. Sorry about the snobs in the writers’ group. I didn’t realise those attitudes still held such sway. I guess some as yet unpublished authors feel they need validation of a ‘real’ publisher before they believe in their own work.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a freelance professional proofreader. A five to ten percent error rate is absolutely appalling to me. But to be taken seriously, independently published books have to be a cut above average because of the mediocrity that has been part of the field in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an outstanding article; candid and very encouraging. I am an Indie author of an anthology entitled Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption. I like independent publishing because of the control that an author has. For instance, I am a blind individual and needed assistance with interior layout, editing and cover design, so I paid for all these services. My book is much better because of this decision. I hired an incredibly accommodating cover designer who took the time to read my book and discuss various ideas about what I hoped to convey. She created a cover of which I am immensely proud. I also took the time to have a professional audiobook made, an expensive venture but one which I wanted to do to make certain my anthology was available in accessible formats. Hiring of a professional editor is particularly important.

    All aspiring authors need to read this article. Great job!


      • Thank you. Of course, I’ve had to learn these lessons the hard way, but I think all authors do. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, so I am grateful for the lessons independent publishing has taught. Best wishes with your writing as well.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post. I’ve unfortunately been seeing a lot of books popping up in my FB feed (I’m a member of a fantasy book club) that have been indie pubbed and are just awful. The blurbs and cover art look as though they’ve been prepared by teenagers. It’s these sort of “books” that are giving indie pubbing a bad name. Shame too because I’ve also read some truly wonderful indie pubbed books. 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Pingback: More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors – Written By Don Massenzio – Writer's Treasure Chest

  9. Great post! I switched from being a traditionally published author to an indie author. It is true that there are quite a few people out there who only wish to use the middle man, the publisher, rather than talk to you, the author. And if you tell them that you are an indie author and that Amazon is your publisher, then they don’t want to do business with you at all. Even as a traditionally published author, I still had to do quite a bit of legwork that I do as an indie author. But, I receive a better return on my published work as an indie, then I did as a traditionally published author.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors — Author Don Massenzio | Author Jennifer N. Adams

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