Is Being an Independent Author Right For You?

Self publishing is having something of a renaissance at the moment -- but is the right path for you?

Read journalBack to journals

After several years of terrible, unprofessional writers giving the whole industry a bad name, it’s now becoming clearer who are the proper authors and who’s just trying to scam a buck.

Technology is allowing authors to design and publish their writing faster and to more places. It’s allowing marketing to be largely automated and cover design to be reliably outsourced.

But is it the career you actually want? It certainly works extremely well for many authors, but if it’s the wrong choice for you it can lead to stress and financial hardship.

Here’s the reality, according to a group of successful independents:

The Pros

  • You own your work, outright, always. You’re never selling off your right to control and profit from what you’ve written.
  • It’s your business, not just your job. You get the chance to learn and do design, marketing, editing and publishing. You’re invested and involved in every step of the journey.
  • You get more control over your books. That’s less bending to editors and publishers who don’t quite get it. The finished product will be more you and less other people. (Always get someone to edit your work though.)
  • You have full control over your cover artwork, blurbs, marketing and products. You won’t just be submitting a manuscript, you’ll be creating a full product, and that can be a really fulfilling, joyous process.
  • You keep more money. No 10-15% royalty from a publisher. Selling on Amazon gets you 70% of the cover price. Or you can sell direct for 100% of it, minus any transaction fees.
  • Do it right, and it’s a low stress, independent, happy way of living your life. If you love writing and have an interest in creating the best books you can for your loyal fans, then it’s an amazing way to spend every day.

The Cons

  • The buck stops with you, entirely. Every financial, legal and editorial decision is yours, and demands careful thought and research.
  • You HAVE to do all parts of the business, or outsource them which cuts into your profits. If you neglect anything, your profits will stumble. You need to be willing to educate yourself in the running of a business and continually test the effectiveness of what you’re doing.
  • All this cuts into your writing time. If writing is all you want to do, maybe traditional publishing is a better route for you. Many independents getting a great deal of satisfaction from running the whole show, but if you don’t, look elsewhere.

The Reality of Independent Authorship

If you’re considering making writing your sole career, you need to be honest with yourself about what it means to you to be ‘making a living’. You can make a really good living writing and selling books, but it’s certainly no get-rich-quick scheme. Wannabe authors who dream of getting their first book picked up by a publisher and suddenly being world famous tend to burn out in the real world. It’s a slow, steady build to a life where your words give you a continuous, healthy income.

Write books people enjoy and they’ll happily come back to you for more.

If you write a book this year and stick it on Amazon you won’t make anything. Being an independent author is a business, and needs to be treated as one.

For a start, a single book won’t support you. You need to keep writing. Write books people enjoy and they’ll happily come back to you for more. You’ll need to build up your backlist — that’s what’s going to keep your income multiplying. Series of books are increasingly popular with readers these days (both in books and in long form TV dramas). Developing a series takes less development time than starting again for each book, and readers of Book One are much more likely to buy Books two through six (or however many) than a brand new book.

The Bottom Line

Being an independent author isn’t easy. You’ll have to learn a lot about marketing, publishing and self employment to make a career of it. But you can do it, you really can. Other writers are making a success of it right now. By joining The Writers’ Group, you’ve already shown a willingness to learn and an eagerness to grow. Those are massively important steps.

To keep your prospects in perspective, here are the two numbers you need to focus on achieving:

  • 1,000 loyal readers on your mailing list
  • 100 book sales a day

Writers who achieve those numbers can make north of £80k a year.

So, does being an independent author feel like how you want to spend your life? If so, you’re in the right place.