5 things I hate about being an indie author

Writers block

Image by nate at https://www.flickr.com/photos/okaycity/ licensed under creative commons.


Think indie publishing is all flowers and glitter? Think again. Here are the top 5 things I hate about indie publishing*:

*warning: there may be satire ahead

1 Up to the minute stats

They say ignorance is bliss, and in this case ‘they’ are right. How am I meant to be able to concentrate when the lure of the KDP stats screen is there to feed the procrastination monster. How I yearn for being in the dark about my sales, not knowing how my book’s performing until I receive my monthly / quarterly / annual statement. How much easier it would be to sit down and work on my manuscript without the stats screen singing my name, beckoning me to take just one look to see if anyone has bought in the last hour.

2 I’m forced to write exactly what I want

Part of the fun of being a writer is trying to guess exactly what trends commissioning agents are looking for from their submissions. It’s become a lot easier recently with these agents taking to social media and letting people know the type of books that turn them on, but as many authors know, by the time you’ve written one of those books, the trends have changed. What a great game this is! Being an indie author robs me of that fun. I can choose to write whatever I want, publish whatever I want and then let the paying customer choose if they want to buy it or not. Where’s the fun in that?

3 It’s too easy to update my book

The hardest part of writing is letting go, right? But when you work with a publisher you have a cut off point. Once a book is published, the text is set in stone. Not so with indie publishing. If I want, I can change anything I want post publication. I can change my cover, my blurb, I could even replace the whole text with a completely different version if I want to. And get it sent through to the reader’s kindles automatically. It’s too tempting. How am I ever going to start a new book when I can work on my old book forever?

4 Losing the anticipation of publication day

Another great thing with being traditionally published is that feeling of anticipation while you wait for your book’s scheduled slot to arrive. Anticipation is a very undervalued emotion. At it’s best, it’s nearly as good as the actual moment you’re anticipating. I’m sure the submissive in my readership would agree with me. But being an indie published author robs me of that moment. Where’s the fun of waiting for something when you’re the one doing the withholding? You can push that publish button whenever you like, and in your heart of hearts you know that sending yourself an email explaining that due to scheduling issues your book won’t be out for another six months is just fantasy.

5 I can’t blame anyone else

The book was marketed wrong, not marketed at all. The book was targeted at the wrong audience. The cover didn’t sell the book. They just care about . They made me change my story. The great thing about working with a traditional publisher is that when things go wrong, there is always someone else you can blame. But if my books aren’t selling well, I can’t blame anybody else because I made all the decisions. How nice it would be to have somebody I could pass on all responsibility to (or if it’s an editor, to whom I could pass all responsibility), but I can’t. I wrote the book, I made all the decisions and the buck stops with me. It’s not fair!


Joking aside, there are negatives to being an indie author but these aren’t them. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and nodded in agreement at any of these, then maybe indie publishing isn’t for you. Hopefully, however, they gave you a bit of a giggle.

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39 thoughts on “5 things I hate about being an indie author

  1. Terrific post as always, Dylan. But I’m afraid I’m not tempted by Number 3. The thing about working on your debut novel for Four. Whole. Years…. is that you never want to dabble within its pages, ever again!

  2. The nice thing about reading this sort of diatribe…er…emotional outpouring is sitting on the sidelines, gleefully procrastinating working on one’s own novel. We can put off forever having to deal with the pain you suffer now. Perhaps that will be some little comfort to you?

    • Emotional outpouring. I like it! It’s true, you can laugh at our misfortune support us without dipping your toe in the water, but I know of few authors who ever regret publishing.

  3. 1, yeh ok, I agree with that.
    2, no problem with that, got 12 planned books to write!
    Can’t say that I agree with no 3, can’t stand to read a book more then once even if it is my own book!
    4, every book publish i looked at as an achievement!
    5, There is always some one or something to blame if things go wrong!

      • Never blame the market, if it don’t sell so what, atlas you have written something!
        Remember, we write on computers and there as good a humans (hint, computers are idiots just like humans but don’t know how stupid they are!)

  4. Love this! Yes, stats are a monster time suck, but the control freak in me loves everything else. Except not being able to pin the blame on someone else. That’s a bummer.

    • Out of all of these, point 1 is probably the closest to being true for me. I’m a sucker for checking my stats. It’s like my writing version of a Tourettes suffer’s tick. I know I shouldn’t do it. I recognise it’s not a good thing. But I just can’t help it 🙂

  5. Brilliant stuff! I’m going to put a lot more effort into marketing Dead Heat because I believe in it far more than I believe in what I’ve published previously. Will it convert to sales? That remains to be seen…

    • There are no guarantees, but if you believe in what you’re doing, it comes across in everything you do and it makes people want to believe in it too. I can’t wait to read Dead Heat.

  6. I can’t imagine writing a book because it was what an agent or editor wanted (unless the writer wanted the same thing). How hard it would be to push on if the subject didn’t rouse or interest us. And as you say, the industry’s wants can change so quickly. Best to write what will keep us motivated and hope there’s someone out there who’ll share our passion.

  7. Regarding #2, I was following #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) yesterday, and not sure if that’s what you mean by “commissioning agent” but I think those folks are just saying, “Hey, this is what I’d like to see, send it my way if you have it” rather than “Go out and write this book now!”

    Anyway, I think the Tweets are interesting, even if they’re mostly requests for YA and MG (a new acronym I just learned!)

  8. I had an enforced deadline for my first book as I ran a crowdfunding campaign and promised all my pledgers they’d have a printed book for Xmas. Nothing like a deadline for making you burn the candle at both ends!
    Enjoyed the post 🙂

  9. I am only beginning to find my writing voice, but I love reading posts such as this, which are an insight into a world that I dream may be beckoning me. Really enjoyed your satire.

    • Thanks, Sue. I’m still going. In fact the end is in sight for book 3. Well, the first draft. I’m not even thinking about the edit.*

      *This is a lie. I’m almost continually thinking about the edit…

  10. I actually just told myself – update everything by the end of this year then leave it alone. So easy to go back and George Lucas everything every five minutes. Another thing not to like about the Indy scene is how hard it is to get an audience. No deep network to jump into like the traditional publishers have.

    • I love the use of George Lucas as a verb. I think I might steal that 😉
      To be fair, unlike the point you make, none of the things I’ve mentioned are negatives. Having up-to-date view on your sales so you can react quickly to what’s going on (if you wish), being able to easily correct errors, writing what you want, being in control of when you publish, being your own boss and making the decisions about what should or shouldn’t happen with your books are all great things. However, for some people of a particular mindset, these might be viewed very differently… 😉

  11. Brilliant post!!
    Number 1: I went the self-publishing route as well. I have limited myself to checking the stats once in the morning before I go to work and once at night. And get this – I didn’t check them at all last night.
    Number 2: I found all those tweets about what everyone is looking for so annoying and frustrating. It makes me think if William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway, or JD Salinger had written in our era, would they have written anything, and if they had would it have been a young adult dystopian trilogy? What if there are great works out there that no one is willing to pick up because it doesn’t fit into one of the trending categories and we are all missing out on some brilliant writing?
    Number 3: I kind of like being able to go in an update. After I published, I was horrified to find mistakes that I had passed over a million times before. I’m told by my friends and families, they find typos all the time even in books published by the well-known authors, but somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better. I do refrain from changing big things though, because once you start that it has a ripple effect.
    Number 4: Pushing the ‘Submit for publication’ button made me so incredibly nervous.
    Number 5: It is all on you. And that is really cool, but also incredibly frightening.

    • The one point I like to remember about point 2 is that nobody was looking for Harry Potter. Not a soul. I think it was William Goldman, talking about the film industry, who said, “nobody knows nothing”, and it’s just as true for the publishing industry. It contains a lot of very intelligent, passionate people who love books, can spot books that will sell, and know how to milk a trend for all it is worth, but when it comes to what’s the next big thing, who knows. Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  12. Pingback: The benefits of publishing through a publisher  | Suffolk Scribblings

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