How to be a Successful Indie Author

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The Indie Revolution is here.

Everyday more people take up the mantle of Indie Author and decide to write and publish their stories for the world to read.

In fact, thousands of new books are published ever month. But the truth is that most of those books get read by virtually no one, and most indie authors are stressed and frustrated because they don’t know what the problem is.

You can’t write a book, upload it, and assume the world will find it. That’s not how it works.

So, what I hope to accomplish in this post is to show you what it REALLY takes to be a successful indie author. Hint: it’s not just writing.

Of course writing is the most central aspect of being an indie author. If there is no writing, there is no book; no book, no author. Authors who assume that writing is all it takes to be a successful indie author are doing themselves a major disservice. I did that with my first book, and quickly saw that it was a mistake.

For my second book, I niched down into a cultural subcategory, with my own personal touch, and that worked well. But I didn’t want to just write on that one topic, I want to write about a bunch of different things. So I learned, and worked, and by the time my third book came out I knew enough to be able to get that pretty orange tag that said it was a hot new release. That felt good.

Is it the best thing ever? No. But it is pretty cool, and I fully intend to implement all I’ve learned since then into making all of my next books each more successful than that last. I’ve got four lined up right now, and many more to come.

So, let’s take this point by point and go over some of the most important things you will have to do in order to hope to be successful.

  1. Write!
    I said it above, but you have to write! That isn’t easy for everyone. I understand that well. But it is doable. Most of the content of my books have been written in the early morning hours when the house is quiet, the kids are asleep, and I have some time to dive into the worlds I’ve created. Writing for me starts at 5am. Write according to your schedule. Write in the morning, in the evenings, over your lunch break. Buy some dictation software, or an app on your phone, and dictate your story during your commute to and from work like my friend Adam Lane Smith did.

    However you do it, you just have to do it. Once your book is complete there is still a lot of work to do, but none of it is helpful if you don’t have a book to publish. It’s not as if you can’t work on multiple aspects of your book at once, but often it helps to just get the book done first before you worry about the other things, especially if it’s your first book. Get it done, bask in the glory of a completed project, then get back to work.


  2. Keep writing – and make sure it’s something people want to read
    Writing is art. Most authors stop right there and then get frustrated when their books don’t sell. There are a lot of words I write that no one will want to read, but that I’m passionate about. That’s okay. No one sees the world the way I see it, and that is going to be the case forever. I can’t expect people to love what I have to say, just because it’s me saying it, or because it has artistic value. People want to read the things they enjoy. If you aren’t writing words that people want to read, then you aren’t going to be a successful indie author.

    If you’re goal is not to make money from your writing, then you have nothing to worry about. Some people will still probably see the art in what you’ve created and appreciate it immensely. I’m just saying that’s not how you become successful. Writing is a beautiful thing, but if no one is reading it then it is for your pleasure alone. Again, that’s okay – but it doesn’t make money.

    If you’re here to figure out how to make money, then you’ve got to write. A LOT. And you’ve got to make sure what you’re writing is something people are looking for; something people are actually wanting to read. Tropes are a thing for a reason, after all. Like I said above, don’t be discouraged if your first book doesn’t do well. Keep writing. Successful indie authors are prolific, always working, writing, publishing. Many of them have dozens of books published, some hundreds.

    So, be prepared to make writing something you do for the rest of your life. If that sounds daunting then consider if you actually want to write. If not, there are plenty of other ways to make money, and many other creative outlets.


  3. Read!
    Good writers are good readers. If you want to be a successful indie author, read books in your genre. Read all of them if you can. If not, focus on the successful ones and see what they did. Don’t ever copy another authors work, but do check their writing styles. How do they introduce characters? Or world-build? How do they write dialogue? Or action/fight scenes? What kind of vocabulary do they use? How do they create their story arcs? How do they resolve the plot? There are an infinite number of potential questions, but figure out what you want to want to know and then find the answers in the books you’re reading.

    Learn from the work of other authors. Many of them have social media presences and are more than happy to answer questions for fellow indie authors. In fact, I’m more than happy to help however I can. Drop your questions below, or hit me up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or send me an Email.


  4. Learn the skills or spend the money
    Successful indie authors don’t just write. After all, there is a lot more to a book than just the words. There is formatting, publishing, marketing, cover design, editing, etc… You can pay others to do all of this stuff for you. You can even pay some one else to write the entire book if you wanted to, but that kind of defeats the purpose of you telling your story. But many people don’t have the means to pay for professional cover design, formatting and editing services, publishing assistance, or social media marketing. If you’ve got the money, great!

    If not, however, you can still learn all those skills if you’re willing to invest the time and energy. I was and am willing to do this. Since writing my first book I have learned how to properly edit and format my books. I’ve painstakingly learned the process of publishing digital and physical versions of my books. I’ve learned graphic design. I’ve done all of my own book covers, and several for other authors as well at this point. I’ve put in a lot of hours learning these skills, and as a result I don’t need anyone else to be involved in my writing and publishing process.

    I have nothing against anyone who does involve others, and I work with other authors myself, but I personally enjoy the freedom of having complete autonomy and creative control over my writing projects. Either way, you’ve got to do one or the other.

So, it takes more than writing a book. You may spend just as long on all of the other steps as you do on putting the words down. Not continually of course, because you will absolutely get faster and more efficient with time and practice, but right at the beginning you should be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy on this thing. If it’s important to you like it is to me then I know you’ll power through and learn the things and do the work. If not, you don’t have to feel bad about yourself. There is undoubtedly something else that you could be spending your time on that will yield greater results for you.

This post is still rather basic. I plan on writing more about the specific steps written of above, such as a post on how to create your own book cover. If that sounds interesting then stick around by following me either here on the blog or on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook.

And consider joining my Email List where you can get a free copy of my first novel “Mouth Breather” (also available on Amazon). My email list gets exclusive access to free and advance content, so it’s definitely worth it.

Until next time,
JP

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